Making sauerkraut is easy

It's so easy and fun to make sauerkraut that there's really no good excuse to buy it from a store. Plus, home made sauerkraut is full of living microbes that might be good for you. (Read news reports that kimchi -- spicy korean sauerkraut -- could be a bird flu remedy.)

Store bought sauerkraut is often not even real sauerkraut -- it's just cabbage soaked in salty vinegar. Even store bought brands of sauerkraut made from lacto-fermentation have usually been cooked to the point that they're no longer alive.

I've been making my own sauerkraut for years, based on my grandmother's "recipe" (it's hard to call it a real recipe, when the only ingredients are cabbage and salt), which is pretty much the same recipe found in the wonderful book, Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz. This book shows you how to make a wide variety of fermented foods: beer, wine, mead, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, yogurt, cheese, and other more exotic foods. Katz, a long term HIV/AIDS survivor who lives on a queer intentional community in Tennessee, is a "fermentation fetishist." In the introduction to his book, he writes:

Wild fermentation is a way of incorporating the wild into your body, becoming one with the natural world. Wild foods, microbial cultures included, possess a great, unmediated life force, which can help us adapt to shifting conditions and lower our susceptibility to disease. These microorganisms are everywhere, and the techniques for fermenting with them are simple and flexible.

Wild fermentation involves creating conditions in which naturally occurring organisms thrive and proliferate. Fermentation can be low-tech. These are ancient rituals that humans have been performing for many generations. They are a powerful connection to the magic of the natural world, and to our ancestors, whose clever observations enable us to enjoy the benefits of these transformations.

Recently, I made a 3-quart batch of sauerkraut from two heads of purple cabbage, weighing about 2.5 lbs per head. Here's how I did it:

Tools and ingredients: Sharp knife, 1-gallon stoneware fermenting crock (I bought one online from Simply Natural Foods for $30.50), wooden lid for 1-gallon crock, scrubbed and boiled rock to weigh down wooden lid, large plastic bowl, cutting board, something to mash the cabbage down into the crock (I used a 1-quart mason jar, you can use your fist if you want), 2 heads of cabbage (5 lbs), 3 tablespoons of non-iodized salt (sea or kosher).

You don't need to buy a starter culture -- there are lactic acid bacteria floating around in the air ready to go to work on the cabbage. I find that amazing.

For the rest of the instructions and lots of pretty (and one gruesome) photos, click the link below.

Img 7444


1. Cut the cabbage into thin slices, then break apart and put into bowl. I usually cut a few slices, break them up, put them in the bowl, sprinkle in some salt, stir it up and repeat. Here's a photo of the salted cabbage:

Img 7451

2. Put the salted cabbage into the crock one handful at a time, mashing it down as you go along. It's important to pack it as tightly as you can, because that way the salt will draw out the water from the cabbage so fermentation can occur.

Img 7457

3. When all the cabbage has been packed into the crock, put the wood cover on it. If you don't have a cover, try a plate that fits, or a plastic bag filled with water.

Img 7464

4. Put a rock on top of the cover. The idea is to keep the sauerkraut submerged under the brine, because lacto-fermentation is anaerobic. If the cabbage is exposed to the air, scum will grow on it. Cover it with a cloth and put the crock somewhere out of the way. Once or twice a day, push on the rock to smash the cabbage down.

Img 7479

5. Unicorn chaser alert! About a week into the fermentation process, I removed the rock and was treated to this delightful sight. In Wild Fermentation, Katz writes: Many books refer to this mold as "scum," but I prefer to think of it as a bloom." I skimmed the stuff off, put the rock back on the wood disk, and covered it with the cloth. [UPDATE 5/25/2013: I've heard bad things about mycotoxins since I posted this a few years ago. Today I'd never eat anything that had mold on it like this.]

Img 7481

6. Another week went by, and I decided to try the sauerkraut. The wooden disc had become so waterlogged and swollen that I couldn't lift it out of the crock. I had to make hooks out of a clothes hanger, insert the hooks into the hole of the wooden disk, and tug it out. It took quite a bit of effort to get it out, but look at the pretty magenta tint it received from soaking in the brine for 2 weeks!

Img 7517

7. The sauerkraut fit into three 1-quart mason jars, which I put in the refrigerator. I have some at least once a day, and frequently I have three servings a day. It lasts a long time around here because my wife and kids won't touch it. They do like pickles, however. I think I'll have to make some sour cucumber pickles using lacto-fermentation so they can join me in being a fermentation fetishist.


  1. We did this in Biology class in high school! thanks for the refresher course, I’m definitely going to start making my own kraut. mmmmm, bratwursts

  2. OK, I must be stoopid, but if the sauerkraut can’t be exposed to air why are there 4 holes drilled in the wooden lid? Or did you have to drill them to hook the clothes hanger in to get it out? And, if so, did you just stir in the sawdust or skim it out like the bloom?

  3. Indeed… good reminder. I’ve been too focused on canning the past few years and haven’t done any kraut.

    Also a good reminder I should bring my kombucha culture back from dormancy – speaking of delicious fremented stuff (do a search… I found several boingboing entries).

  4. @2: There is a layer of liquid over the sauerkraut, the holes are there to allow the water to cover the lid. As long as there is liquid over the kraut, it won’t spoil. I used to help my grandmother make this, except she had gigantic crock’s that could hold 15 gallons or more. I would have to go to her flower bed and find a rock to hold down a stone plate she had. We would wash and scrub the rock down. Good memories. She wouldn’t use a wooden lid because it would get stuck.

  5. I used to go to this slovenian deli where they had a guy who came in, once a week, to make their sauerkraut, and their stuff had some lard (probably salted) in it. Not a lot, but the little bits gave it a different texture and flavor.

  6. #2 GARYB50– The ‘lid’ is actually a disc (with holes pre-drilled) that fits down inside the crock. As the salted cabbage releases water, the lid (and rock) keeps the cabbage from floating above the water’s surface.

  7. #2: The weighed cover keeps the ‘kraut under the salted juices; that’s sufficiently anaerobic for the little beasties to do the job.

    I’m guessing the holes were there before the lid was put in place because Mark’s had trouble extracting a cover once or twice before. He can confirm or deny…

    Given the fact that you do get some bloom on the top surface, I find myself wondering what else you’re culturing along with the Lactobacilus. I presume the salt enviornment is considered enough to discourage most that would be of concern, but…

    If you want another “catch your own culture” project, try making your own sourdough starter sometimes. I never got around to trying that in my last place, and I really should have because it was downwind from several industrial bakeries so there was a particularly population of wild yeast floating around. (Anything with sugar would ferment given even half a chance.)

  8. I think the holes are there to make it easier for the disc to sink and stay in contact with the cabbage.

    I started a sourdough culture. No “catching” of wild yeast was necessary – it was already on the wheat berries themselves. It wasn’t that hard, but the constant feeding/refreshing is a pain and I eventually let it go.

    I’d like to home brew soy sauce. I wonder how hard that would be…

  9. I used to help my grandmother make sauerkraut when I was a kid; 20 or more gallons at a whack.

    I attended a lecture by Sandor Felix Katz at Bastyr last Spring here in Seattle; he talked for about 90 minutes about “kitchen fermentation”, some theories about where sauerkraut (or kimchee or “pickling”) originated and how it entered new cultures with time, etc.


    He was also very direct and air-clearing about health and safety in home fermentation – dispelling myths, etc. Extremely helpful and fun to listen to. And the sauerkraut some friends made after listening to his lecture was delicious.

  10. Easy, but the product is disgusting and inedible. Well, so’s the storebought. I’m sure home made is better, but it’s still sauerkraut. Yick.

  11. Haha… at first glance I saw the tile counter in this post’s photo as part of the floor and thought “now THAT’s a head of cabbage!”

  12. If you want to go even more ethnic, you can cut up peppers, carrots, and onions and toss them in — voila, you now have Hungarian csalamádé.

    I hadn’t heard of lactofermentation until sometime last year. My first batch of csalamádé was great, but the second got moldy because the water evaporated. Doing fermentation in the tropics has its own perils, it appears.

    I start it by draining whey off our homemade yogurt, by the way — it’s loads faster; we have edible kraut in three days.

    T3knomanser, unless you’ve had homemade kraut, you haven’t actually had kraut. The difference is roughly that between bakery bread and off-brand hot dog buns. It’s more like a crispy salad with salad dressing built in. And medically good for you, too!

  13. Re: The insightful wisdom of #8-Tamar

    Ah yes, this posting brings back such gold-hued memories of youth.

    My father,
    whipping up a huge batch of Sauerkraut and Weenies.

    My brother and I,
    sprinting from the house to avoid the horrible reeking stench. While my father called: “C’mon, I made enough for everyone!”

    *ack* …
    God, I can still smell it.

  14. Question for all the fermenters out there… I’ve been reading a lot about bread-baking, and aim to start baking regularly pretty soon. I’ve heard of homebrewers using yeasts from beers bottles ‘on the lees’ such as Delirium Tremens… Would cultivating yeasts from beer like this work for sourdough starters or other preferments?

  15. Jonny Bowden names real fermented sauerkraut on of the worlds 150 healthiest foods. I’m just sayin’.

    I’d like to try making it sometime.

  16. I used to watch my grandmother make sauerkraut when I was little. I learned a valuable and lifelong lesson from it. Namely, that I hate sauerkraut.

  17. #15:Hohum, I’m no expert, but I’ve made beer a few times, so have read a little around the topic. One of the things I did seem to have gleaned is that yeast is bred quite specifically to be optimal for specific purposes.

    So, beer yeast is unlikely to work quite as well as specifically prepared sourdough starters. Nevertheless, it should still work.

    Then again, I’m not entirely sure how viable the yeast in beer lees would be. Certainly, beer and wine yeast skimmed from the top during fermentation (barm) was used for bread once upon a time (before germ theory).

  18. #15:Hohum, beer yeast was the first non-sourdough yeast, and they aren’t adapted for the acidic environment of sourdough. The other thing you need is bacteria. You can make a starter with whatever yeast and it will collect bacteria, as well as better adapted yeast, with time. But it’s hit or miss whether the strains you have around you will leaven very well or taste fanstastic. I’ve been using “carl’s oregon trail sourdough starter.” Be prepared for experimentation! The reward is yummy bread from nothing but flour, water, and salt.

  19. @#16 It depends on the cabbage. If it’s good and fresh, it will have enough of its own juices. If the cabbage is old or dry, you may need to add some water. I wait until the next morning to see how much liquid has been brought out by the salt: if there’s more than an inch, I don’t add water. If I’m aging it extra long (yummy!) I might need to add some water to make up for evaporation.

    The contraption suggested will work very well, but it may be easier to get a food-grade plastic bucket with a dinner plate that fits inside. I weigh down my dinner plate with a gallon of water, and top the works off with a dishtowl to keep the contents clean.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion of using a large food service plastic bucket, plate, and gallon of liquid on top to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut. It seems like a simplified version of the crock/rock approach.

      The raw organic sauerkraut I’ve been buying is okay but not a delicious as some fresh-made I purchased at the abundant local farmer’s market in Santa Cruz CA., where I recently vacationed. The vendor, whose company name escapes me, sold three different kinds of sauerkraut, two other than traditional. One formula combined pippin apples and fennel seeds with the light cabbage, providing a delightfully sweeter version of sauerkraut; more tolerable for those whose taste buds tend to crave sweeter foods.

      I started ingesting sauerkraut when a friend with Candida said it helped her condition. Since I struggle with the same digestive difficulties, and am unable to eat dairy or yogurt products, I tried raw sauerkraut to provide pro-biotic digestive enzymes to my stomach/intestines; it seems to work well.

      Usually I have a spoon full at the beginning of a meal – like taking medicine. I highly recommend old fashioned sauerkraut – made without vinegar – for digestive and general health maintenance.

    2. I added some water to account for evaporation but I think the top got a little close and had some air contact at week 2.5 of 4 (when I was out of town). I added salt water when I returned but now I am curious. It was submerged 99% of the time, is this safe to eat?

  20. That looks yummy!

    That being said, I am incredibly skeeved out at the idea of using home microbes to do any food preparation. Yes, I know, store-bought yogurt and cheese and etc., but I choose to not think about it because I’m not seeing it happen before my eyes. Is there any real possibility that doing this lactofermentation magic could cause you to get sick?

    On a completely related note, I am absolutely TERRIFIED of biological warfare.

  21. #16… only if the cabbage is dry or old. Fresh cabbage is juicy enough on its own. If you age your kraut for a long time (yummy!) you may need to top off the brew with more water.

    A note on equipment: A food grade plastic bucket with a dinner plate that fits down inside works quite well for making sauerkraut. I use a gallon of water to weigh down my plate, and then top it off with a dishtowel to keep dust, etc, out of the bucket.

  22. > I start it by draining whey off our homemade yogurt, by the way — it’s loads faster; we have edible kraut in three days.

    That’s neat. I make yogurt, too, so I’ll give it a try.

    >Do you add any liquid at all, or just dump the rock on top of the dry, salty cabbage?

    I just put the rock on top of the dry, salty cabbage. The salt draws the water out of the cabbage. If the cabbage has a low water content to begin with, it’s OK to add a cup of briny water to the crock. I’ve done that on occasion.

  23. I saw Sandor at 3rd Root in brooklyn this weekend, I’m a huge fan of his book, and I have to say he is an amazing and engaging speaker. I think Oberlin college is the only other place on his tour, but if you get a chance, go see him!

  24. Mark, I had the same reaction to that photo as Stephen Luscher @12: I read the tiled counter as part of your floor, and momentarily thought you’d gotten hold of some cabbages the size of polar bears.

    If you have lots of good summer fruit, you can use the same kind of setup to make rumtopf. (Don’t use the same setup; it’s all sauerkrauty.)

    1. Work with one kind of fruit at a time: strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, any of the stone fruits, grapes, pineapple if you like pineapple. Apples are okay if you slice them well. Don’t use citrus, rhubarb, cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, pomegranates, kiwis, bananas, or melons. Avoid very soft fruit of any kind.

    2. Wash your fruit and remove any seeds, pits, stems, etc. Halve your apricots, quarter peaches and plums, and dissect pears according to their variety. Pineapple should be cored and cut up in the usual fashion.

    3. Mix the fruit with its own weight in sugar and let it sit for an hour, then transfer the fruit, sugar, and juices to your crock. Add enough rum or brandy to cover the fruit, and put a weighted lid on top. Store in a cool dark place.

    4. Add fruits as they come ripe, using the same procedure but only half their weight in sugar. Don’t mix the fruit. Lay it down in layers. Don’t mix rum with brandy, either. Make sure the fruit stays submerged.

    5. Repeat until your rumtopf is full or the fruit stops coming, then let it sit for another month or two. It should be ready for the holidays. Force yourself to finish it off so you can start a fresh one next year.

    Matt @16, I shouldn’t think you’d need any additional liquid, and it would dilute the brine.

  25. I wish I’d known about the plastic baggy of water as a lid trick when we made kraut last year. Luckily we didn’t have any scum and it was super delicious. We can’t eat that much kraut so we’ve been giving small jars as hostess gifts (only to our hippie friends though!)

  26. That doesn’t look like fermentation scum to me (in step 6). That’s plain old mold, and is a sign that fermentation has been slow to start. It probably won’t kill you, but it is potentially toxic and can have an adverse affect on flavor.

  27. The bloom on the cabbage is totally harmless, I believe it is called ‘kahm yeast’, but I cannot find the reference on that. Anyway, it’s a harmless aerobic organism (as opposed to the lactobacilli which are preserving the cabbage).

    The lactobacilli working on the cabbage are probably not from the air, but rather live on the cabbage leaves themselves. All plants, particularly those that grow low to the ground, harbor them, but cabbage has the most.

    I love this stuff and make sure to have some on hand at all times. I started with the recipes and techniques in Nourishing Traditions. It’s an excellent reference on how all this stuff works.

    I shred my cabbage in the food processor, transfer it to a bowl, and then beat it up with a meat tenderizer. This releases the juices. Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions, above) suggests using salt as the initial preservative, but vinegar works just as well (I grew up on a low-sodium diet, so the salt protected stuff is way to salty for me). I particularly like cider vinegar. I also add homemade whey to the mix. This acts as extra nutrients for the lactobacilli and speeds up the fermentation. Don’t use storebought stuff, it doesn’t help. I strain yogurt to get mine (see Nourishing Traditions, again).

    To avoid the blooms, I use mason jars. This packages the sauerkraut in nice, usable portions and keeps it airtight so just the fermentation happens. I leave them out on the counter for about three days, and then let them age for six months in the back of the fridge. On the other hand, the non-airtight method with blooms is traditional.

    The other suggestions above for adding carrots and whatnot are great. I usually add caraway seeds and juniper berries. Also, whole garlic cloves are a great treat. They’ll pickle right next to the cabbage.

    As far as adding liquid, I make sure to use fresh cabbage and only add the vinegar and whey. You actually want it to be pretty dry.

    This stuff is awesome, and ridiculously easy to make.

  28. I learned this method from Mark at the Machine Project picklefest last September. The results are unbelievable. I’m hooked. Just started a new batch recently and can’t wait.

    Adding a couple of garlic cloves and a jalapeno give it some awesome kick. Fresh thyme gives adds an interesting flavor as well.

    For those of you who have not tried homemade ‘kraut done this way, you would be shocked at how much better it is than the store-bought variety. It’s a whole different animal entirely.

  29. I made my own in a 5 gallon glass pickle jar that my local deli gave me. Held the kraut down with a glass that fit in the mouth of the jar and kept it weighted.

    Needed to top up the salt water every couple of days as it bubbled out a bit in the early days and evaporated later on.

    I used about 8 pounds of cabbage in the 5 gallon jar. Early on it needed no water at all until it bubbled over.

    That was the best kraut I ever ate.

    Made a killer Choucroute garnie as well:

  30. I have been making kimchee and sauerkraut for the last ten years using a ten litre Harsch stoneware sauerkraut.

    The lip of the crock has a gutter that makes an air-lock when filled with water and covered with the lid.

    This means NO SLIMY MOLD.

    (and cute farty bubble sounds as it ferments)

    Though it was not cheap (mine runs about $150 these days) I consider it to be one of the most important tools in my kitchen.

    Kathy’s Kustom Kimchee:
    2 large daikon cubed
    2 heads of napa cabbage chopped
    1 large carrot slivered
    1 bunch green onions slivered
    1 bulb garlic peeled and sliced
    palm sized piece of ginger peeled and sliced
    handful of hijiki
    handfull of arame
    1 cup of sea salt
    1 cup of Korean chile powder

    Mix thoroughly in a large bowl.
    Pack ingredients in crock.
    Cover with weights (these come with the crock).
    Cover weights with water.
    Fill gutter,cover crock and set aside for two weeks.
    Decant into glass jars and store in fridge.
    Serve with pot stickers, noodles, rice or squid pancakes.

  31. Threefjeff @35, I’m familiar with kahm yeast. Kahm yeast isn’t blue or fuzzy and it’s a yeast, not a mold. What’s growing in that picture isn’t kahm yeast. It’s a mold.

    As you point out even kahm yeast (which also affects flavor) can be avoided if the container is properly covered.

  32. That mold is normal? I tossed my last batch for looking like that. I don’t trust it, man.

    Anonymous @18 – always use kosher salt or sea salt — iodine is not good for our friends the bacteria. You can use iodized salt if that’s all that’s available (for instance, it’s illegal to sell non-iodized salt in Brazil) but it’s not going to work as well.

    Anonymous @24 – lactobacteria are non-skeeving. They take milk, which makes people sick, and magically turn it into yogurt, which makes people live to be three hundred. What more do you want? Seriously — if it skeeves you, get Dannon yogurt (anything with live culture) and drain the whey. That’s got all the live bacteria you’ll need to be sure which bacteria are digesting your kraut. The neat thing about lactobacteria is that they can withstand the salt in the brine, to the exclusion of other species of bacteria — it’s like they’re evolved to make food for us!

    Oh, wait. They are. Well, it’s still cool.

    Mark et al.: I’ve tried to let the cabbage make its own sufficient brine. It just doesn’t work for me. I always add water — bottled, so the chlorination doesn’t kill my bacteria.

  33. I’m surprised how easy it is to make lots of things found in the grocery store.. My girlfriend and I made some homemade vanilla extract over the holidays and it couldn’t have been easier.

  34. @ Hohum, that’s how I make sourdough bread. I make my own beer, so I use the lees off the last bottle I drank, rather than from a purchased ‘on lees’ bottle. It works pretty well.

  35. @44 Franka –

    Yeah, we’re all suckers. I just roasted almonds for the first time. Apparently 15 minutes at 325 accounts for the doubled price between raw and roasted at the local bulk grocer.

    As a bonus, the aroma gave me multiple scentgasms.

  36. Kimchi != kraut! There a million and one kinds of kimchi and, AFAIK, one primary sort of kraut. Lots of kimchi doesn’t even have cabbage, although the best-known kind, stateside, does :)

    I remember making a sort similar to 39anonymous, but for the more exotic stuff I had to go out into the hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Delicious.

  37. RIDL @46 – toss them lightly in a little good quality soy sauce, and you have tamari roasted almonds – triple the price now!

  38. Thanks so much for posting this Mark.

    The Wild Fermentation book is great and I love how Katz encourages the reader to experiment. I also love how he emphasizes the ecology of fermented food as opposed to the monoculture approach of more industrialized ‘fermented’ foods. Traditional sauerkraut fermentation typically has 3 different ambient cultures/phases.

    Adding apples to your sauerkraut is also traditional and very delicious.

  39. Sauerkraut failures can be pretty spectacular, though. I’ve only tried making the stuff once, a couple decades back. I made a 5-gallon plastic bucket worth, and maybe I didn’t do the right things with weighting it or whatever, or maybe out in the garage in summer in New Jersey was too hit, but unlike the Mark’s picture of some skimmable quantity of mold on top, mine was just rotted through. Fortunately, my compost heap was next to my garage, so I didn’t have to bring it into the house to dispose of it.

    That was probably a bit before I stopped eating meat, and while I like sauerkraut, the best method I’ve had for actually eating it is my wife’s family recipe, which is to cook it for a few hours with pork in it. It’s just not the same plain.

  40. “The first step in making traditional takuan is to hang daikon radish in the sun for a few weeks until it is easily bendable. Next, the supple daikon is placed in a wooden pickling crock and covered with a mix of salt, nuka (rice bran), sugar, daikon greens, kombu (kelp), and perhaps chilli pepper and/or dried persimmon peels. A weight is placed on top of the crock, and the daikon is allowed to sit for several months. The finished takuan is usually yellowish, although most mass produced takuan rely on food coloring for this effect.”

  41. The bloom is harmless and does not effect sauerkraut taste. I scrape off the bloom every few weeks, and re-sterilize my weight and cover. The bloom would probably taste terrible, but these are aerobic microbes, and help ensure that that anaerobes are left anaerobic.

  42. I substituted kimchi for sauerkraut in a tempeh ruben recently and it turned out awesome!

    I have a big love for Sandor Katz’s book. Years ago, I attempted to make pineapple vinegar, which came to a disastrous end when my housemate locked himself out of the house and climbed in through the kitchen window, knocking over a half-gallon jar filled with a nearly florescent-yellow fluid.

    A half-gallon of pineapple vinegar splashed vigorously does not make your kitchen smell good.

  43. I found an AMAZING site: Michael posted all kinds of info, including Sandor’s book, which I love. I bought these great half-gallon jars from Mike, although his site shows only the one gallon jars.

    So easy to make the MOST amazing sauerkraut and kimchi, and looking forward to summer to make pickles and other goodies. CHEAPER THAN BUYING AT STORES! Check out how much organic, raw fermented veggies cost — go to Whole Foods or other health stores.

    These jars are affordable and so easy to use! I chose half-gallon cos I put the jars into an empty kitchen cupboard and the smaller size fits so well.

    I put ingredients into a cheap yet big food processor. Releases the juices and you only need a tiny little bit of sea salt. I’ve also used a Green Life juicer and a champion, which release a lot of juice. But I use the food processor cos it’s chewier.

    I normally never use salt on food, but it does two things: helps break down the food and prevents the bad bacteria. I don’t do vinegars.

    Sandor wrote the Great Wall of China was built by men eating cabbage, and then threw extra into a container, which fermented. Genghis Khan’s men survived on sauerkraut, as did many sailors, not just lemons, which are not going to last as long as sauerkraut. When Confederate soldiers made their way up north to Amish country, they demanded sauerkraut. There were disappointed, cos it was summer, too early for canning.

    So everyone who won’t eat sauerkraut, you are missing out on one of the healthiest food. Cabbage alone is highly regarded, both internally and externally as a poultice (don’t ask, something to help skin problems).

    Just because big biz decides food has to be cooked and purchased, doesn’t negate hundreds of years of healthy eating by other cultures, even earlier American culture. (Sandor wrote a great riff about culture referring to food and people).

    Ok, this is a great post, cos it’s good food for thought.

  44. I live in a kraut country and would like to state that real sauerkraut is always made of white cabbage. Laurel and juniper berries are vital ingredients to sauerkraut.

    Your purple cabbage kraut is called “rotkraut” or “blaukraut”. Makes a great side dish if you cook it with some chopped apple.

  45. Very interesting – thanks!

    Since you’re fermenting in anaerobic conditions, I’d be a bit worried about botulinus, the fun bacteria that secretes nerve agents. How does the process avoid the possibility of poisoning through botulinus growth? You’re not acidifying the mixture, which I’d assumed would be a must. Perhaps the botulinum (which is pretty fragile, I understand) won’t grow in such a high concentration of salt? Or does natural acidification stop botulinum?

  46. Anaerobic?

    Actually there is a lot air of exposure. The rock is keeping the vegetable matter continually submerged under the vegetable juice / salt mixture, and the juice is continually exposed to the air.

    As well over time the mixture does acidify due to the yeast that is pulled from the air as well as from the vegetable matter that was added. In general ferments are a lot safer than canning.

    When Canning, you create anaerobic environments and then yes you have to be careful about contaminants and botulism.

  47. As the post indicates, lactic acid bacteria on the cabbage (and from the air) ferment sugars to lactate. This acidifies the mixture and prevents growth of harmful organisms (such as C. botulinum).

  48. “Anaerobic?
    Actually there is a lot air of exposure”

    Yes, but there are enough microbes at the surface to use up oxygen before it can diffuse into the kraut. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to push and squeeze down the kraut in the first few days… you want to limit air exposure through the mix and push out any gasses.

  49. > It’s so easy and fun to make sauerkraut that there’s really no good excuse to buy it from a store.

    Having seen the process, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

  50. Okay, I did an informal and totally unscientific survey of readers at the Swedish food site I co-run, many of whom make their own fermented vegetables (it’s traditional over here). None of them would eat sauerkraut if mold grew on it during fermentation. They were horrified by picture number 5.

    There’s bloom and there’s bloom. Kahm is harmless (and is a yeast), mold is potentially toxic. And that’s mold. I know what kahm looks like. I don’t think Mark is in any grave danger, but common sense says don’t eat moldy food unless you know it’s safe (cheese, for instance).

    Read this:
    An extract:

    -White scum appears during fermentation.
    Answer: Safe—the scum is a layer of yeast and/or mold but is not harmful.
    -Pickles or sauerkraut mold during fermentation.
    Answer: Unsafe—microorganisms are growing

    I’m all for home fermentation (and I’m a sourdough nut), but not if you’re ignorant about the risks and how to avoid them.

    Besserwisser in Stockholm

  51. OK ok, Im feelin your love for the cabbage but how can we make this taste like pizza??

    Come on people lets brainstorm this thang!

  52. Some very good friends of mine wrote a two part guide to the making and subsequent canning of sauerkraut.

    The start of the process:

    The finishing move (I would insert a Mortal Kombat “FATALITY” joke here if I were less circumspect):

    I would like to say that the mold had leached hallucinogenic compounds into the kraut before it was “skimmed” away, but sadly we did not trip balls after consuming the kraut. In fact, it was crunchy, slightly sweet, and generally delicious.

  53. I have one comment to make on the lid portion.
    We now use a plastic bag filled with water to cover the crock / cabbage rather than a wood cover. We get no scum and the sauerkraut turns out wonderful… We put up about 250 lbs a year.
    Sauerkraut maker in Saint Francis,WI

  54. Great to see all these recipes and variations. I hope people don’t get the impression that expensive crocks are necessary. For weighting down smaller containers, a sealed baggie full of water or brine is great because it kinda flows into place wherever there might be a gap. Filling the baggie with salted water of the right proportion works well because it’s a place to store some if you need to add more brine later, and no harm done to the kraut if the baggie leaks.

    And until the local library gets Wild Fermentation, see if they have The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

  55. Mmmmmm sauerkraut. I love sauerkraut.

    I used to do home-brewing fairly regularly. I was a mead maker, and my specialty was raspberry mead made with the raspberries from my back-yard. So I’m moderately familiar with the fermentation process from that.

    I’ve never brewed sauerkraut though. I think maybe this summer I will, my wife and I just joined a community farm vegetable share to increase the amount of veggies we eat, eat more seasonally, and hopefully force us to try new vegetables and recipes we normally wouldn’t. She doesn’t generally like sauerkraut, but maybe she will if we make it ourselves…

    It sounds like I should be fine using my good ol’ food-quality brewing buckets with the lid on and a fermentation lock, after getting my yeast in, rather than a weight and a cloth provided I keep the cabbage covered by the brine. Can someone confirm if that would work? It’s not that I mind the wild-yeasts, but I do mind the wild molds and such.

    If I wanted to pitch some yeast of my own, which I generally prefer, is using the whey from yogurt my best choice? Are there any yeast sellers out there who sell it? (My concern is that whey may not have very much live yeast in it compared to what I am used to pitching into wort when I make mead or beer.)

    -abs is intrigued by this idea, but as a brewer has a few questions he’d like to cover before starting to think terribly seriously about this

  56. I am from Nova Scotia,and as a child ,I always helped my father make ‘kraut in the fall.We always had our cellar filled with ones for fish,white ones for everyday,crocks filled with pickles’shelves filled with jams and jellies,and of course ,crocks filled with sauerkraut. Dad would always wait until the moon was on the rise to start his.I really miss that life.

  57. I’ve made my second batch of saurkraut now………and this time it is way too crunchy and salty?? I’ve rinsed it all and put it back in the crock……tried crushing it again as well……but after 6 weeks does anyone know if it will start up again and keep fermenting?
    thanks, c

  58. I have made a couple of batches of sauerkraut, and what I’ve found on other sites and recipes is that temperature control is key. I make mine in the back of the pantry cupboard where it is about 74 degrees (I like in Phoenix) and haven’t had a problem with mold. It takes about 3 weeks, here. I try to skim off any scum as it appears, so that it doesn’t have time to grow mold on the top layer. White cabbage makes a beautiful golden colored kraut that tastes waaaay better than most of the sauerkraut available at the store. I like mine with caraway. Good on you, fermentors!

  59. home made sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics which is good for many things along with vitamin d3 to fend off h1n1

  60. I tried your recipe with great success! The only thing that was missing was the “bloom” or “scum” on the top of the cabbage. Otherwise, the sauerkraut tastes fantastic!

  61. I’ve been making kraut (in crocks) since 1972 – 170lb a year – 1/2 cup of salt to every 10lbs of shredded cabbage. Packed down till juice forms … when crock is filled … place cheese cloth down then place plate (wrapped in plastic) over the top with weight. Water filled plastic milk cartons work.
    5 to 6 weeks later … the best kraut you can imagine.

  62. Well I have a kraut trying to ferment on my kitchen counter. I have used a large (very large) bean pot and for weight used a ziplock bag filled with water as it then just fills in all the little airpockets as it is being filled with water. opened it up today for a check and while it is beginning to smell like kraut it is very dry. I have added 2c of water with some more kosher salt and hope that it works. I guess time till tell.
    Anyone else had experience with kraut drying out in the ferment stage?

    1. Wow! A large ziploc bag fulla water!
      It doubles as an airtight seal AND a weight to squeeze the cabbage.
      Will try it!
      Just one comment- once the juices start flowing, the bag will be bouyed up as it is more or less the same specific gravity as the water coming out of the cabbage, so it will no longer provide a weight. But then, perhaps a weight is no longer needed?
      Any comments?

  63. Hello!
    I followed the instructions and had delicious results the first time…
    With my second batch though I got a white fluffy scum that covered the whole surface and smelled disgustingly sour. Do you have any idea what it is? I scooped it all off, but it keeps coming back. I added some vodka and put it in the fridge and finally it is gone. But I’m afraid to taste it!
    Do you have any ideas, info that can help?
    Thank you!

  64. I Use to gag everytime my parents served Sauerkraut. A few months ago I went to the local German fest we have every year and ate the sauerkraut. OMG I couldnt get enough. My question is, what is the shortest amount of time it takes to make sauerkraut? I would love to make some for company next week. Also what books/sites would you recomend for reading. I use to be very active, a skater, kickboxing, hiking and more. I started to experience some back problems and have gotten significantly sicker over the years adding 100 lbs to my weight. I swear the additives in food are killing us. I am starting somewhat of a raw food diet and using what nature has to heal so any help would be greatly appreciated. I am just winging it lol

  65. I just made my first batch of sauerkraut, and it seems a bit too salty. Can I rinse it a bit before I store it in jars in the ‘fridge?

  66. I love Sandor Katz’ book too. A must-read for any fermenter.
    Anyone ever try pickling jalapenos? Is it worth it?
    I have a good Preserved Lemons recipe up on my blog right now.

  67. I used iodized salt, not realizing I was supposed to use kosher salt. Will this be OK, or did I ruin it? I just started it today.

  68. I hae a batch of kraut working right now. I just bought a food processor, and I’m cutting everything! Yes you can pickle jalepenos. Just like pickles, or after watching alton brown say to keep the brine from your pickels, and just refill the jar, I took some of my home grown jalepenos, and shoved them into my leftover Claussen refrigerated pickes. I left them in the fridge for about a month befre I tried them. They are delicious. They have lasted for 6 mos now, and are almost gone! : (

  69. Hey – I am STILL so traumatized by a stuck wooden disk in my crock that I haven’t made ‘kraut since! I did everything you said, coathangers, etc, and it was only the superior brawn of my husband in the end – I could NEVER have done it! I will not use the disk again, but probably will use a good-grade plastic bag filled with water to keep the ‘kraut packed.

    Did YOU use your pink devil-disk again after that incident?? Thanks!

  70. I tried making the kraut in a Harsch fermenting crock and when I opened the lid after 5 weeks the stone I used had absorbed most of the water. There was a little bit of white scum and there is water but not as much as I had expected. The cabbage is still wet and crunchy. Can I add more salted water and let it sit for another week or is it supposed to be crunchy? It tastes like salty cabbage.

  71. Your “bloom” is definitely mold, not yeast bloom. Not saying it’s necessarily bad for you, but I personally would have thrown it out at that stage and tried again.

  72. You shouldn’t get those kind of molds, they definitely affect the flavor adversely. If you are fermenting in a crock like this you need to have atleast an inch of brine over the plate on top of the kraut, otherwise oxygen can leak in. Also keep the temp between 60-68 F.

  73. I am going to try to make my own kraut! As I understand it,

    All I need are:

    Large enough container to hold 5 lbs of cabbage
    3 Tablespoons of sea salt
    plate or bag of brine water to put on top.

    towel to cover all

    Am I missing anything?

  74. Hi–

    Thought you’d be interesting in learning about preserving–including pickled cabbage–in another country. Check out the Pickle Project ( to see how Ukrainians grow, gather, forage and preserve in seasonal, sustainable ways.

  75. HELP!
    Thanx- Just a question as to what I might be doing wrong:
    I sliced up 3 cabbages- a “solid” green one, a red one and a Savoy, layered on top of each other, with a TBspoon of pickling salt in between each layer.
    It’s all in a stainless-steel container with a plate (slightly smaller than diameter) sitting on the colslaw… and I have some saran-wrap over the top making it air-tight.

    It’s been two weeks now, and the stuff is still sitting there. Nothing has happened. What’s going wrong? Or should I say what is NOT going at all?

    Thanx. -Tony

  76. @ #96-Tony – I have the SAME problem and same setup. Indeed I am the same person as you.
    Some additional facts: The stuff is indeed weighted down, and it’s in the kitchen whose winter temp is currently 20C (that’s 68F to you folks).
    After 2 weeks,I’ve just added a cupful of warm brine to it. Will this somehow help to overcome Cole’s Law?

  77. Instead of all this trouble with having a lit to fit into the bucket, you guys should try to cover the cabbage with transparent plastic film filled with water. I invented this method because of all the trouble caused by using the lit method.

    This plastic film method is utterly amazing, you don’t need to care about a lit that fits the specific batch of cabbage, a piece of plastic is simply cut out.
    Also what is truely great about this is that it allows one to look directly into the sauerkraut, and thus making sure that no air bubbles are caught in the brine, and see how the process is going.

    I can only recommend this method!

  78. I didn’t push my cabbage down for the first few days and it started getting dark, then I pushed it up under the water and it took the dark away but the water is murkey. Should I throw it away at this point or will the salt kill the black mold still?

  79. Here’s an easy way to avoid the mold. Use a piece of wood or something that can have a fermentation lock stuck in it. (like wine making) No smell in the house, no mold and the kraut tastes fantastic. We just put thirty pounds in jars today. The Harsch crock is really expensive. The taped wooden lid with the fermentation lock accomplishes the exact same thing and it’s dirt cheap. No discoloured water, no brown bits floating. No fart smell in the house or the crock.

  80. Hello, here Paloma writing from Argentina, being a descent from Germans for the first time I prepared 3 days ago my own sauerkraut.

    Super interesting all the comments! even the scary green stuff growing on top of the pot, I did not know this could happen, thanks for informing about it.

    The other concern I have when I read all the recipes in 4 languages and nobody mentions ”how much salt” only if to little or to much is bad.

    I sprinkled coarse kosher salt on top of each layer, col, carrots apple dill a few allspice and black pepper.

    Do you think I will be alright?

    If you see a zeppelin flying on the usa sky, its me! hahaha


  81. Adding slices of fresh horseradish with the cabbage will substantially cut down, or prevent altogether, the formation of mold/bloom. It will add great taste also!

Comments are closed.