Preserving Homegrown Cabbage—How to Make Sauerkraut

Published by: Nancy Meissner

There’s a lot of talk going on about probiotics!  Sauerkraut is one great source, and I’m not talking about the canned sauerkraut found on the shelf at your supermarket. Most stores also carry a refrigerated brand that tastes fresh and crunchy. Our local health food market that describes itself as “fresh, local, organic” carries some house-made varieties—but Ouch! Their prices are super high!  

I hope you’ll consider making your own homemade sauerkraut with organic cabbage fresh from your garden or farmer’s market!  It’s easy, cheap, and actually fun to make!  Did I mention they're really delicious too?!  

My favorite variety of cabbage for sauerkraut is called “Glory of Enkhuizen”. I get the seeds from Baker Creek Seeds, my favorite seed company. 

Harvest the cabbage mid-morning for the best flavor and make the sauerkraut as soon as possible after harvesting. Be sure to have on hand wide-mouth pint or quart-size jars, Saran Wrap, coarse sea salt, and regular-size canning lids. You’ll use the regular-size lids to gently weigh down the square of plastic wrap used to loosely cover each wide-mouth jar during the fermentation process as described below.

 Here’s the method I use:

Homemade Sauerkraut - Method:

Use firm cabbage.  Remove larger outer leaves and cut cabbage heads in half.  Remove core.  Sliver cabbage very fine, using a grater or a knife.  If using a knife, sliver into 1/8-inch slices.  Put shredded cabbage in a large bowl.  

Add 1 heaping Tablespoon of coarse sea salt for every 2 pounds of cabbage.  Massage salt gently into slivered cabbage with hands to distribute throughout.  

Pack cabbage into wide-mouth quart jars, pressing down very firmly as you pack it.  When full, the cabbage should be soaking in its own juice.  Liquid should always be at least 1” above cabbage (this is necessary for the preservation process).  Leave an inch of headspace above the liquid.  

Cover top of each jar with plastic wrap weighted down with a regular mouth-size canning lid so that the plastic wrap stays right on top of the liquid (the regular mouth size canning lid should fit nicely inside the top of the wide mouth jar).  Place jars in a towel-lined box, and cover the top of the box to keep sunlight out.  

Keep at room temperature for 3 - 5 days.  Check frequently and if you see that the liquid in a jar is just about to overflow, remove a tablespoon or two of liquid at a time from the jar.  After 5 days, move to a cool place. 

Taste the sauerkraut occasionally, and once the flavor is right (after several weeks) you can keep the jars in your refrigerator for several months.  If you don’t have enough room in your refrigerator, or to preserve for a longer time, you can process the jars of sauerkraut in a boiling water bath. 


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