Fail-proof sauerkraut

I recently went to a workshop a couple of weekends ago with fermentation expert Sandor Ellix Katz.

Since I discovered the benefits of fermented foods on gut health, I’ve wanted to make my own fermented vegetables but never got around to it {I blame the delicious local brands!}.

So off I went to Sandor’s workshop to see how it easy it’d be and to get some inspiration. And, oh my, let me tell you, I was not disappointed. I even discovered how I could make fermented chilli sauce!

Now, before I share the ridiculously easy and fail-proof method for making sauerkraut, here are some sauerkraut fermenting principles that I know a few of you may appreciate.

The basic principles of making sauerkraut

To make sauerkraut {sour cabbage} the aim is to encourage the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria {these are the good guys} — which need moisture and an anaerobic {no oxygen} environment to grow.

To create that environment, the dry salting method is used — where salt is massaged into shredded cabbages to extract plenty of juice from them.

The lactic acid released from the bacteria already present on the vegetables creates an acidic {sour} environment, which further encourages more lactic acid producing bacteria to grow. The resulting acidic environment kills off other, dangerous bacteria, protecting the sauerkraut from spoiling.

Keeping the sauerkraut submerged in the liquid also keeps it from developing mould on top. {If any white mould does form, it can be scrapped off from the top. If any bright, coloured mould is present, the sauerkraut will need to be thrown out. This is rare.}

You don’t need any special equipment, like a crock, to make sauerkraut in the home. Homemade kraut can be stored in a glass jar. Avoid plastic and metal {including stainless steel, unless you’re using food grade stainless steel}.

This is the very bare bone principles of making sauerkraut. To learn more about fermentation, the different ways of pickling {fermenting} vegetables, and the different fermented foods you can make I recommend Sandor Katz’s books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation.

You may also find these resources helpful:

Now let’s make some kraut!

My version of fail-proof sauerkraut


Makes 1-litre jar | 20 minute pre time + fermenting time | raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, pale-friendly

Note: work with approx. 1–1.2 kg vegetables to fit it into a litre jar

  • 1 kg cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large daikon radish, grated or chopped into thin sticks
  • 50 g ginger, finely sliced or grated
  • 2–4 chillies, chopped, or to taste {optional}
  • ~ 1/2 tbsp pure salt, plus any extra for taste

Mix together the cabbage and daikon in a big bowl and sprinkle over the salt.

With clean hands mix the salt into the vegetables with a squeezing action. You’ll need to do this for a few minutes until they bruise and start to become wet. The aim is to draw out the moisture to make a juice brine. Do this to a point where you can take a handful of the vegetables, squeeze it like a sponge and clearly see the juice dripping from it.

Then check salt for taste and adjust accordingly.

With a clean spoon, stir in the ginger and chilli.

Next, pack veggies tightly into a clean, 1 litre glass jar. Fill to the top, then push down with your hand so you can keep filling the jar. Keep packing in this manner until you have all the vegetables in and submerged under the vegetable juice brine. {I folded a cabbage leaf and pushed it down on top to keep the vegetables submerged.}

Once packed and submerged, place lid on jar and store on kitchen bench {somewhere in sight}, so that you can release the pressure daily {open the lid and place it back on}.

Taste your kraut every few days. When it is as sour as you like it, it’s time for you to eat it. Put it in the fridge at this point to slow further fermentation, and enjoy with anything that you like. {Note: I started mine last Tuesday, so a week ago, and I’m still fermenting mine. It’s not yet as sour as I would like it to be.}

You can also watch the short video {3 minutes} in this article to see how Sandor makes sauerkraut.


Different vegetables

Since the dry salting method is used for making sauerkraut, it’s best that the primary vegetable be finely shredded cabbage {because you can draw a lot of water out of it and keep the veggies submerged in the juice brine}. You can make kraut just with cabbages or mix in secondary vegetables, such as grated carrot, radish, turnip, fennel chopped celery, onion and beetroot. There are no veggies that you could not add — it depends on your tastes. Dark green vegetables like kale, broccoli and silverbeet {Swiss chard} can be added too, but because of their high chlorophyll they’ll have a very strong taste — so use them in smaller amounts. Just make sure your vegetables are either grated or finely sliced.

Different flavours

Instead of adding ginger and chilli, you can use anything that takes your fancy and in any combination. I’m going to try one with caraway seeds, and another with ginger, turmeric, chilli and garlic.

4 thoughts on “Fail-proof sauerkraut”

  1. In my culture we do this often.. we use beetroots and cabbage and they all turn bight magenta! its so colourful and adds taste to any yummy arab meal… I highly recommend beetroot and cabbage mix….! perfect with eggs in the AM!

  2. Thanks for the straight-forward walk-through for making sauerkraut. It’s really helpful to break it down like this since I’ve never made it before! Wish I could hear your talk on mindful eating too….maybe all of us who can’t be there can hear about it on the blog afterwards?!

  3. This sounds such a great method. I’ve been wanting to try making sauerkraut but I keep putting it off when I think about where to put the stinky bucket for a month, but this small batch in a jar makes it seem really manageable. I’m assuming the jar doesn’t explode or something and that the sauerkraut is still able to ‘breathe’ while it’s fermenting?

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