Sauerkraut – how to make it yourself

Submitted by Kristin Urdiales of

Raw fermented sauerkraut is one of those foods that once you have it in your life you don’t want to live without it. As a powerful digestive tonic, it is the go to in our house for hiccups, upset tummies, indigestion, and a myriad of other ailments. With anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, sauerkraut juice is the first medicine I give my kids in times of diarrhea and vomiting.

We have taken it to the Dominican Republic, because going on vacation without it is unimaginable. For our upcoming family trip to Florida, my mother-in-law has already requested that I bring 4 jars, enough to get the entire family through a week of consuming uncommon fare.

It is also one of those foods that if you have it bought from the store, you may not agree with a word I have just said. Store bought raw sauerkraut is often not organic, expensive, mushy, and a faint caricature of the powerful medicine I am talking about.

Making it at home is by far the best way to bring one of the healthiest foods you can have into your family’s life. There are many methods and the truly adept can create sauerkraut with nothing more than a glass jar. I, however, count on my equipment to partially compensate for my lack of culinary skills and use a Harsch Pickling Crock. I have tasted many raw sauerkraut and the traditional crock method consistently produces some of the best. It has a crunch to it.

Equipment List:
• Harsch Pickling Crock, Glass Jar, or Pickl-It System (*If you are using the Pickl-It system they have recipes on their website.)
• Kitchen Scale
• Tablespoon
• Cutting Board and Good Knife
• Large Bowl
• Potato Masher
Ratios are based on a 7.5L crock. We use Harsch earthenware pickling crocks with a water reservoir. Harsch also makes a smaller 5L crock.
To prepare your crock, first wash with a natural dish soap and then rinse thoroughly. You do not want to use anything strong or harsh, as the crocks are porous and can take on the taste and odor. Also wash the crock weights in the dishwasher and then soak them in white vinegar while you are making the sauerkraut. This method has helped prevent any mold or yeast formation in our sauerkraut.

Ingredient List:
• 10-11 lbs of organic green or red cabbage. If the cabbage has a large core or is not tightly packed (has large air pockets), then less of it is usable and you will need closer to 11 lbs.
• Reserve 6-8 outer leaves of the cabbage
• Fine ground sea salt

Preparing your ingredients for mixing:
Wash the cabbage thoroughly. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve to place on top of the cabbage at the end of the process. Halve the cabbage and take out the core. Cut the cabbage into strands approximately the thickness of a dime.

In one pound increments, mix the following:
1. Put one pound of cut cabbage in a bowl with 1 TBSP of sea salt. Using the potato masher or clean hands, work the sea salt into the cabbage to release the cell sap. Continue kneading until moist, but do not overwork. Overworking will make the cabbage become limp and mushy.
2. Place the cabbage and sea salt mixture in the bottom of your crock.
3. Repeat the above process in one pound increments, layering the cabbage in the crock.
4. When you have finished the layering process and reached the top, wipe down any excess cabbage from the sides and the top of the crock to prevent mold and yeast formation.
5. Now layer the reserved cabbage leaves on top of the cabbage, so that none of it is exposed.
6. Place the crock weights on top of the cabbage leaves and press down until the liquid rises above the stones. Again wipe down any excess debris from the sides. At the end of the process you want the liquid released from the cabbage to rise above the stones, this allows the cabbage to ferment while being preserved and also helps prevent any mold or yeast formation.

Tip: At certain times of year the cabbage might be dryer or have a lower moisture content, which will not produce enough liquid to rise above the stones. To compensate for this you can make a brine consisting of 2TBSP of sea salt to 33oz of water. Mix until salt is completely dissolved and pour over the top of the cabbage. Layer cabbage leaves on top of cabbage and brine and push down until stones are completely submerged.

7. Put the lid on the crock and fill up the water well only half way. This water creates an air-tight barrier to prevent any dust or critters from getting into the sauerkraut. You may also hear that it is fermenting by the air bubbles that begin rising in the water.
8. Place the crock on two boards, or use something to elevate it, so that air can circulate under the crock. For the first 3 days, place the crock in an area of your home that is approximately 68-72 degrees. After three days, the temperature is less critical, but at that temperature it will take approximately three weeks to become sauerkraut. At cooler temperatures, the process may take three and a half to four weeks.
9. You will periodically need to fill up the water well as the water begins to evaporate. Take care not to fill it so full that it gets into your sauerkraut.
10. After approximately three weeks, remove the lid, weights, and outer cabbage leaves carefully, so as not to contaminate the sauerkraut underneath. Here is where you get to taste and see if it is ready. If it is still very crunchy, you may want to leave it in the crock a few more days.
11. Once ready, place into jars and refrigerate. If the jars are unopened, the sauerkraut will last for 3-6 months. Once you begin opening the jar, it will last a week or two.
12. Sometimes you will have a white yeast called Kahm’s yeast growing, this is a harmless yeast and you can simply skim off the top and rinse your stones in hot water before replacing. Making sure your stones are submerged and all excess pieces of cabbage are wiped off the crock. This will help prevent formation of Kahm’s yeast and other molds.

A picture of one of Kristin’s seminars on how to make this delicious and healthy fair.

If you have any questions about making sauerkraut, Kristin would be happy to answer them. You can e-mail her: kristin[at]

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