How to Make Sauerkraut at Home Using Lactic Acid Fermentation
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How to Make Sauerkraut
Using Lactic Acid Fermentation

Green Tea

Learn how to make sauerkraut so that you can enjoy the results of the lactic acid fermentation process. Lactic acid bacteria produce many benefits to the human digestive system. Here is a detailed description of how to make this tasty and healthful food.

How to Make Sauerkraut (Lactic-acid Fermented Cabbage)

Shred about 3 lbs of green, red or savoy cabbage. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, (don't use metal) add 1 Tbsp Celtic sea salt (regular salt has too much iodine), along with your choice of seasonings (eg caraway seeds, onion, or garlic). Mix well allowing the salt to draw juice out of the cabbage. You may need to knead it a little to get the juice out.

Pack tightly into jars until the juice covers over the vegetables. Avoid any large air bubbles. Add a few leaves of raspberry, black currant and/or grape leaves - these are rich in the Lactobacillus bacteria. Cover with a circle or two of cabbage cut from the outer leaves with a diameter such that they are a tight fit and help to hold the shredded cabbage under the brine. If the juice does not cover the leaves, add some 5.4% brine (3 Tbsp. Celtic sea salt to 1 quart of water.)

Close the jars using glass lids, rubber rings and a metal screw cap to hold everything tightly in place. You will need the deeper rings because of the thickness of the glass lids compared to the thin metal lids. It is a good idea to boil the lids and rings first to make sure they are really clean. They will also seal better if hot.

Note that you are not processing the filled jars in a hot water bath as you would when canning fruit or in a pressure canner as when canning vegetables. The ingredients are still raw and are preserved by the salt and the good bacteria that soon develops. Regular canning requires cooking to kill all the bacteria as well as anything beneficial such as the natural enzymes. You get safe and sterile but also very dead food.

Place the jars in the dark at about 20 - 22 degrees for a few days to begin the fermentation process. Then move to a cooler location for two to three weeks before using. Shredded carrots are a nice addition to this ferment.

Other Ferments

Now that you know how to make sauerkraut, experiment with some other veggies. Here are some possibilities:

beans, snap beets
cabbage carrots cauliflower
celery cucumbers daikon radish
eggplant, small garlic kohlrabi
leeks onions peppers
squash, summer Swiss chard stems tomatoes

Here are directions for a few of the above. The same basic procedure is used in most cases.

Green Beans
3 ½ cups fresh green beans ½ small onion, sliced
Dill, savoury, garlic
5.4% brine
Green beans are the only vegetable which must be cooked 5 minutes prior to
fermenting to destroy the protein phasing, which interferes with digestion. Fill the jar to 80%, add raspberry, currant or grape leaves, screw lid on tightly and store in the dark.

3 1/2 cups beets, sliced or ½ inch cubes
Seasonings - try mustard seeds, caraway, dill.
1 Tbsp fresh grated horseradish, garlic, onions
5.4% brine, raspberry, currant or grape leaves
Wash and peel beets before using.

3 cups fresh, washed cucumbers
Seasonings: try onion, garlic, dill, fresh horseradish root
5.4% brine
Remove blossom end to ensure cucumbers do not go soft in the fermentation
process. Fill the jar and cover the top with grape, raspberry or currant leaves. Top up with brine and seal tightly.

Carrots cauliflower etc (try mixing veggies)
3+ cups vegetables, cleaned and chopped, made into sticks etc.
Onions, garlic, bay leaf, horseradish root, mustard seeds, dill
5.4% brine. Carrots do not need to be peeled.

Other Notes About How to Make Sauerkraut and Other Ferments:

1. Containers: Never use metal! Use glass jars, glass lids, rubber rings and a metal screw lid or a proper crock for fermenting. Wash and sterilize jars (or at least clean them very thoroughly), glass lids and rubber rings with boiling water. Let jars cool before using. Keep lids with rings hot to help ensure a tight fit when sealed. Some people recommend against using any plastic but it seems to be okay to use a plastic spoon to serve your ferments when done.

2. Brine: 3 Tbsp. Celtic sea salt to 1 quart of water makes a 5.4% brine. Never use chlorinated water as chlorine kills microorganisms. Boil the water to remove the chlorine, then cool before using. Do not use iodized salt as iodine is anti-microbial. Do not cut back on the salt as salt act as a preservative until the lactic acid forms.

3. Vegetables: Use only fresh, organic. The best are those grown in your garden, picked, washed and used immediately. Chemicals do not aid the process of fermentation.

4. Seasonings: Experiment with amounts and combinations.

  1. Bay leaves
  2. Caraway seeds
  3. Cloves
  4. Coriander
  5. Dill
  6. Garlic
  7. Horseradish
  8. Juniper berries
  9. Onions
  10. Pimentos
  11. Summer Savory
  12. Red Pepper
  13. Rosemary

5. Filling the jars: Add vegetables and seasonings to 80% capacity in order to allow about 1/2 inch of brine over the vegetables. Pack vegetables in tightly to avoid air pockets. Cover the top of the vegetables with fresh raspberry leaves or black current leaves which are rich in lactic acid bacteria. Grape leaves may also be used to cover. This aids in keeping the vegetables under the brine. Pour brine over and screw metal lid on tightly.

You may also take an outer leaf of cabbage and cut it using a jar lid to the right size to put on top of the veggies and help hold them under the brine.

6. Storage: Ferments must be kept in the dark! To begin the fermentation process place in a temperature range of 15 - 18 degrees for three weeks before using. Then store at 0 to 10 degrees. The cooler the temperature the slower the ferment and the longer it will keep. (I place mine, immediately after making (except for cabbage) in the cold room in August at about 13 - 15 degrees and by the end of October the temperature has drop to about 7 degrees).

Miscellaneous Notes About How to Make Sauerkraut:

Bad Ferments:
The acidic environment created in the fermentation process is inhospitable to the bacteria which cause food poisoning. Only the top layer of the veggies has had contact with the microbial-rich air. When this layer is removed the ferment is fine. If the ferment looks or smells disgusting, or is soft and mushy, don't use it.

Concerns Over the Use of Salt:
Many people are watching their salt intake and might not even want to learn how to make sauerkraut because they question the use of salt in making ferments. Vegetables contain proteins which tend to spoil when they begin to break down. Salt is used to preserve the vegetables until sufficient lactic acid is produced in quantities large enough to have a preservative effect

The salt solution is only 5.4%. The amount of salt used in relation to the vegetables is 0.8 to 1.5% by weight. Most of the salt stays in the brine solution. You only eat a few ounces at most of the ferments per day. You do need some salt in your diet. Reduce it in other areas by cutting out processed foods which tend to be very high in salt. You're very unlikely to get an excessive amount of salt by eating ferments. When you understand the many benefits from lactic acid bacteria you may decide it is worth adjusting your salt intake elsewhere and learning how to make sauerkraut for yourself.

Increasing the salt gives a slower ferment and a more acid result.

Brine from fermentation:
As the vegetables ferment, the brine becomes full of complex flavour and loaded with Lactobacilli. As the ferments are eaten, the leftover brine can be used as:

  1. a soup stock.
  2. a digestive tonic, dilute with water to degree of saltiness desired.
  3. the liquid for salad dressing.
  4. a starter for the next batch

Garlic slows the fermentation process - do not use too much.

Horseradish helps to keep ferments crisp.

Inulin from chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke is not digested in the upper intestinal tract and so reaches the large intestine intact where it feeds the friendly bacteria (this is classed as a prebiotic). You can add some to your ferments.

Captain Cook and other seafarers carried barrels of sauerkraut for long voyages. It helped to keep the crews free of scurvy. The vitamin C preserved in lactic acid fermentation and the resulting healthy intestinal flora helps combat disease.

Hundreds of years ago, the procedure of how to make sauerkraut was much more widely known. Without refrigerators, they had to use other ways to preserve their food. It turns out that sometimes the old ways are better, certainly healthier. Learn how to make sauerkraut and other ferments yourself and enjoy the taste and the health benefits.

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