Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe & The Health Benefits

Sauerkraut Recipe

This year, like many other years, we grew cabbage in our garden. Cabbages are fairly simple to grow, and this year we ended up with nearly a dozen of them. And while cabbage is easy to grow, it isn’t always so easy to incorporate into our diet. I know there are several good ways to prepare cabbage (my grandmother always makes it into her famous slaw), but the way we feel we get the most out of it is to turn it into sauerkraut. Cabbage is good for you, no doubt, but when it’s fermented, in many ways it becomes even healthier.

Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

For a food that is traditionally used as little more than a hot dog topping, sauerkraut has some pretty amazing health benefits.

Sauerkraut is full of probiotics. We know that our intestines are full of beneficial bacteria, and taking supplements or eating certain foods (often fermented foods, such as sauerkraut) that are known to be high in probiotics can help digestion. Probiotic foods are especially helpful during and after antibiotic use, when many good bacteria are killed.

Sauerkraut contains isothiocyanate compounds to help fight cancer. Isothiocyanate compounds are known to “reduce activation of carcinogens and increase their detoxification.” (sourcesource) Diets high in sauerkraut have even been linked to lower cancer rates, though more research needs to be done to prove anything conclusively.

Sauerkraut has tons of Vitamin C. You know that Vitamin C is good for you – it helps with the production of collagen and connective tissue, and when you don’t get enough of it, you can come down with scurvy. You may not have known, however, that sauerkraut is absolutely full of the stuff. Fermented cabbage has been used throughout history as a reliable source of Vitamin C, with evidence of it being used as far back as the building of the great wall of China. (This article from Modern Farmer about the history of fermented cabbage is really interesting!)

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

Supplies & Ingredients

Sauerkraut Recipe 1

Sauerkraut Recipe 2

Process

Whether you’ve gotten your cabbages from your garden or bought them elsewhere, you’ll need to give them a good cleaning. Go ahead and make sure your crock is very clean too, since your food will be sitting in it for the next several weeks.

Core and quarter your cabbages, then slice them thinly. We used a food processor. Next, begin adding your cabbages to the crock. There are differing methods to this, but we like to salt, season, and tamp after two cabbages. This is how we did it:

1. Cover with 1 tsp of kosher salt

2. Place two sprigs of dill (optional)

Sauerkraut Recipe 3

3. Put plate down on top of cabbage and push down (Note: This requires a lot of pressure and pushing, so we actually used a smaller pot for tamping so that we didn’t break the plate. Don’t be afraid to use what you have!)

4. When a noticeable amount of juice has come out of the cabbage, remove the plate and add another layer of cabbage.

5. Repeat the process until you are finished, but be careful not to get the crock too full.

When you’re finished making your sauerkraut, you will need to cover it. Place the plate over it, then weigh the plate down with a heavy object. We usually use a container of water, but anything that is clean and heavy enough to hold the plate down will work. Finally, cover your crock with a pillowcase or another clean cloth. Sauerkraut needs access to air to ferment properly, but it also needs to be protected from insects and other contaminants.

Check on your sauerkraut every few days. A film will come to the top and it will need to be skimmed off periodically.

Sauerkraut takes approximately three weeks to ferment. When it’s finished, scoop it out of the crock and store it in mason jars in the refrigerator. Refrigerated sauerkraut should keep for several months.

What are your favorite ways to eat sauerkraut?

Do you eat it with other foods or by itself? Share below in the comments section!

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Comments

  1. Great article, beautiful photos and great health info. Thanks!

    I did find 2 things I’d like to correct. Fermentation is anaerobic and doesn’t need air; that’s why it HAS to be submerged in the brine, weighted down. I make mine, also weigheed down, in 5 gal food-grade poly buckets with rubber gasketed lids and a water/air lock (beer and wine making supplier).

    Secondly, fermentation time greatly depends on temperature and cabbage. Cooler the temp requires longer fermentation, and, I think, better flavor. In a cool basement it can take 6-8 weeks or more. And hot summer kitchens can ferment kraut in as little as 4 days. If you wash your cabbage too diligently with chlorinated tap water, or if you use conventional cabbage that was sprayed with pesticides, the needed natural micro-organisms (yeasts) are gone. I use only organic cabbage and add a little whey to kickstart fermentation. You need lactobacillus, so I drain a quart of plain yoghurt through a clean cloth (no fragrances or dryer sheets!) to yield Greek style yoghurt and whey, the clear yellowish liquid. Win-win!

    -Jungle Jeff

  2. Can’t wait to try the homemade sauerkraut recipe. My dad was German and came from the Lancaster, PA area. He was transferred to CT, but along with his transfer came along the wonderful dish that his
    mother used to make. Sauerkraut and pork. She used to go to market and buy the most wonderful pork ribs from the Amish. I make this dish for my husband and myself today. I try and find the most lean pork ribs I can, brown them in a large heavy pot in a little oil. When
    browned, I add an onion, and several cans of a good sauerkraut. Silverfloss was always a favorite of my mothers. Now you can get it in bags in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Probably a better choice than the cans. I add a little pepper, cover the pot and cook, gently for several hours, until the pork falls off the bones. A large bowl of mashed potatoes goes very well with this dish. Those are a treat, but a must with “Saurekraut and Pork”. ENJOY!!!

    • Bev,
      I love pork and sayerkraut too! Once you’ve tasted homemade kraut, you’ll never buy store-bought again… Flavor, texture (crunch!), live pro-biotics (pasteurized = dead) and so easy and inexpensive to make!

      If you do use home-made, cook half the kraut with the pork (for that yummy caramelization) but add the second half at the end to just warm through… This way you will be getting some of the live cultures that haven’t been destroyed by heat.

  3. I have grown up on home made sauerkraut. Dad made it every year and now I do too. I just made 60 lbs, I put it in freezer bags to store. I believe that freezing keeps it alive. It sure is yum, next time I will have to try the dill.

    • From the research I’ve done, I do believe that freezing sauerkraut will kill at least some of the good bacteria. I can’t find anything that is 100% conclusive, but I try to err on the side of caution :-) Of course, with 60 lbs of it, you’d have to do something to make sure it keeps for a long time, so I can see how that’s your best option!

  4. I actually eat it straight out of the can. But I also like it with Polish sausage-or make kapusta-brown bacon, remove bacon and add a little flour to the drippings, add the sauerkraut , crumble bacon. sometimes add a little applesauce to cut the sourness for the kids or hubby. yummy

  5. You are awesome to teach people how to do it. In our crazy world young people have no idea how to prepare healthy food.
    I am making it for over 35 years. We cut it on special huge mandoline (my hubby build) and mix in a huge container with salt and some spices, I ground thinly some carrots into it, it looks better with some color. Then we transfer it into big container and keep it covered in it. It must be moved poked with something like spoon handle after 24 hours so the gases get out. It is delicious and can be used in 100 ways :)) Very healthy:)

  6. Sauerkraut slaw is absolutely fablulous. Make it the same way as regular. Dressing is vinegar and sugar, boiled, cooled. Chill overnight.

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  8. My grandparents made and shared about 40 quarts each year. One difference; Grmma canned it in mason jars in a huge pot on the stove. It turned out softer and with a sweet, mild flavour. Have you any instructions on canning kraut?

    • Yes you can preserve your sauerkraut in jars. I can about 24 quarts a year and they turn out great!
      After fermentation; bring sauerkraut to a simmer (180F) in a large saucepot. Do not boil. Pack hot sauerkraut into hot jars, leaving 1/2- inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid ( brine 1 1/2 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water if needed) over sauerkraut leaving 1/2- inch headspace. I usually have ample hot liquid from the simmering. Remove air bubbles. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes in a boiling -water canner.

  9. How large of heads of cabbage did you use? The ones at our farmers’ markets vary greatly. I love sauerkraut. I’ve always made mine right in the jars. After the fermenting is done I keep it in the fridge although if space is a concern it can be canned easily.

  10. So can I make a much smaller batch? So as not have it all in the fridge and taking up space……….or how do we do it so we can put it on the shelf.

    Tina

  11. i have made my kraut for years in 4 gallon plastic buckets with lids. do everything the same as directed here but use the plastic bucket and lid this is great if you don’t want your house smelling like a kraut factory. i also ferment for 6-12 weeks and love the added flavor.

    • I also use food-grade plastic buckets with a rubber gasket seal (available free at many supermarkets) and add an air lock gizmo and gasket available at wine-making shops. This allows for a clean anaerobic environment. I too go for a 6-12 week fermentation in a COOL place.