The Sauer Line Drawn

This weekend was a perfect weekend to get a new batch of sauerkraut going, especially since I recently recycled this beautiful 84 oz jar from a local restaurant. I had 2 heads of cabbage to shred and although the last time I made kraut I used 2 quart-sized mason jars, I wanted to do one big batch to ensure a consistent taste. (The picture of this jar does not do it justice. I tried to place the quart jar there for comparison, but I still think it lacks the scale.)

I began in the kitchen with 3 very large bowls and shredded all of the cabbage using a mandoline. I like different textures in my kraut, so I did cut up bigger pieces using a knife but shredded most of the cabbage with the 1/16 setting on the mandoline. I then ground sea salt over the cabbage and mixed and added more. I let the cabbage sweat for an hour and added shredded carrots because I really like the sweetness they add to the sauerkraut. Now it was time to work the brine out of the cabbage.

My family has been pretty patient and mostly supportive of this homesteading journey I have been on. Some things have been a battle, such as the topic of homemade bread – I have yet to find a recipe they will agree to have sandwiches on, but most things they roll with. My wonderful husband, Matt, has been especially supportive and has jumped on board with most of the crazy things I have done over the past year. However, this weekend he drew a line with me and that line was Sauer.

I realized that I had overextended the strength of my hands when I was looking at these three bowls of shredded cabbage and knew I needed some help. When I asked Matt to massage the cabbage for a minimum of 20 minutes he put his foot down and said, “Jen, I have gone along with the chickens and the essential oils and the ebola syrup {elderberry} and all of it, but I draw the line at massaging food. Food does not need to be massaged, I am not massaging my food.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. He had a right to be a bit exasperated. I have asked him to do a lot of weird stuff over the past 12 months in this homesteading journey and massaging cabbage does sound funny. Besides that, it was ok with me because there are other people in the house that can’t tell me no (kids, wink, wink). So after agreeing to a bit more game time that evening for my son Donnie, the cabbage was all massaged and ready to jar.

As I packed the cabbage in the jar, I used the meat tenderizer to pack down the cabbage as much as possible and that pushed the liquid out of the cabbage until we were at the top and the cabbage was below the liquid line. As you can see in the picture above, the jar had about 3 inches of room at the top. I left this space to give room to ferment and was hoping to avoid the overflow that you can get when fermenting (I did not avoid this after all). I made sure the cabbage was below the liquid to avoid mold and put the lid on the jar.

Now some people say that you should leave the lid off and have the cabbage covered with cheesecloth or something breathable. I do not do this because this has led to gnats every time I have tried that method. I consulted with some people with way more knowledge than me and they suggest to use the lid and “burp” the kraut daily to release the gases and built-up air. If you are not confident in this method, you can cover the kraut with one of the cabbage leaves, use a fermenting weight or you can use a fermenting kit such as the one found here. I am actually ordering this kit and hope to get it before I start my next ferment.

Then comes the wait. I think that is the fun part. You know that the sauerkraut is fermenting when you see bubbles. Bubbles are the sign that everything is working together as they should. Here is a pick of my batch on day 2 (notice how much room is in the jar now, the liquid is almost to the top). It takes about 20 days for the kraut to be ready to eat, keep it on the counter or in a place with no direct sunlight and out of direct heat. Anyone will tell you that kraut gets better with age, just taste it to see if you think it is ready before eating it. My last batch was the best at 2 months old, of course, it never got to see 3 months so I can’t tell you if that would be better!

Once the fermenting process is over, store in a cool dark place until you are ready to eat. The process was way easier than I expected it to be and there is nothing like homemade kraut. I am looking forward to having some of this in a few weeks with some homemade pierogies and smoked sausage.

Don’t overthink it and be confident it will be the best you’ve ever had. Good luck!

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Sauerkraut

Homemade sauerkraut is nothing like store-bought and is packed full of probiotics essential to good gut health. Bonus factors: it is super easy and cheap.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine fermented, German, Polish
Keyword Cabbage, Fermentation, Fermented, Homemade, Homemade Sauerkraut, Sauerkraut
Prep Time 45 minutes
Fermenting Time 20 days
Total Time 20 days 45 minutes
Servings 84 oz
Calories 27kcal
Cost $5

Equipment

  • Big Glass Jar (Or several smaller jars)
  • Mandoline

Ingredients

  • 2 heads Cabbage if you want to make less, use 1 head just half all ingredients
  • 6 Carrots
  • Sea Salt

Instructions

  • Peel away the top layers of cabbage, set aside to use on the top of the mixture
  • Shred the cabbage using a mandoline or chop as fine as you would like using a good knife.
  • Salt the cabbage, toss and salt again. Let sit for a half-hour.
  • Shred the carrots and add to the cabbage.
  • Massage the cabbage until it wilts and becomes watery, depending on your strength could be 20 minutes. You can also use a sauerkraut pounder or meat tenderizer or your fist to "beat up" the cabbage.
  • Add to jar, pushing down as you work so that the liquid from the cabbage stays above the cabbage itself. If you need to add more brine, use a mix of 1 tbsp salt to 1 cup water. Be careful not to fill the jar too much.
  • Place the cabbage leaves you set aside on top, forming a cover over the kraut.
  • You can add a weight on top to keep the cabbage weighed down below liquid. Cover and store in a cool place where you can get to it. (You don't want to forget about it.)
  • If you added a lid, don't screw tight and be sure to burp at least once a day, more if you think about it for at least the first 10 days.
  • After 20 days, it is good to eat. You can place in smaller jars and store in cool dark place, or your fridge until you are ready to eat.

Notes

You can add other things to your kraut, seasonings, onions, apples, etc. Be creative. 
If a white mold forms on top don’t panic. Scoop it away. It is still ok to eat. If black mold forms, throw it out. 
You will start to notice bubbles within the first 24 hours. The bubbles mean that fermentation is taking place and it is a good thing.