The Nourisher - Editor’s Blog

When we got married the registry wouldn’t let me put Super Hero as my occupation, they put Home Duties on our marriage certificate instead. But I AM a Super Hero and my Super Hero name is…… The Nourisher.

How to Make Sauerkraut

By Joanne Hay

Sauerkraut, sour cabbage, is a german lacto fermented cabbage dish. In the 18th Century Captain James Cook used sauerkraut to prevent the death of his sailors from scurvy but Germany’s sauerkraut is actually a version of chinese kraut, brought to Europe by the hoards of Gengis Khan.
Raw cabbage is implicated in depressed thyroid functioning, while fermented cabbage and other vegetables provide many health benefits and should not be under estimated for their healing powers. Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions provides some excellent instructions on the fermentation of vegetables and fruits, in addition to grains, nuts, seeds, fish and meat.

Basic Recipe for Sauerkraut

  • 1 litre glass jar with plastic lid or spring lid
  • 1 Cabbage Medium sized (1kg)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of Kefir whey (you may use already fermented sauerkraut for an innoculant or simply add another tablespoon of salt.)
  • 1 tablespoon of carraway seeds or fresh chopped dill.

Germans have always sliced the cabbage with a specially made machine and pounded them with a wooden mortar in a large crock to bruise the cell walls.
Grate cabbage with a hand grater or process in a food processor, then mix in a large food grade plastic bucket (get them at a hardware store) with the salt and Kefir whey. Pound with a meat mallot or wooden pounder of some kind. I’ve been known to use a pick handle, a clean one of course. Pound until the juices cause suction when you pull the pounder out of the mix.

Press the mixture into a clean glass jar using a wooden spoon. Press firmly until the juice rises to the top and covers the mixture, which it will do when it is pounded enough. Leave at least one inch or more of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
Cover the kraut and store the jar in a cupboard for 3-5 days (depending on the ambient temperature) before transferring to the refrigerator. The sauerkraut may be consumed after a couple of weeks, though if you allow the fermentation process to continue for a month or so in the refrigerator you will be well rewarded with a most delicious flavour. I love sauerkraut at 4 months old.

As with all fermenting, follow your nose. If it smells putrid or you have any doubts about the quality, then discard the sauerkraut and start again.

To explore this topic further we recommend…

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Kefir Rediscovered!: The Nutritional Benefits of an Ancient Healing Food (Kaufmann Food Series)
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

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Joanne Hay, Editor of Nourished Magazine, Chief Nourisher and Mother of three is very grateful to live in Byron Bay and be able to share all she has learned about Nourishment. She has trained as an Acupuncturist (unfinished), Kinesiologist (finished) and parent (never finished). She serves the Weston A Price Foundation as a chapter leader. She loves sauerkraut, kangaroo tail stew, home made ice cream, her husband Wes and her kids Isaiah, Brynn and Ronin (in no particular order…well maybe ice cream first).

COMMENTS - 40 Responses

  1. I read with interest of Recipe for Sauerkraut, please allow me to have a query,Is it ok if I don’t add kefir whey?

    Amy Tong

  2. Sure Amy
    I should have written in the recipe that if you don’t have any whey, add another tablespoon of salt. (I’ll change that, thanks for the heads up). The salt encourages lacto bacillus bacteria by discouraging putrifying bacteria. The whey is an innoculant, adding more lacto bacillus. Cabbage has plenty of lacto bacillus, however, especially if you pound it until the juices are released (good food for the bacteria). I pound it enough to squash the mix into a jar and the juices cover the cabbage. You can eat it after the first three days but I like it at least 1 month old. 4 months old is my favourite kraut.
    Good luck and let us know your results.

  3. Hi Joanne, I found your website while searching for a bircher muesli recipe. I have a question on sauerkraut. I buy it in a little barrel-shaped jar that says it’s authentic from Germany. The ingredients list only cabbage, water and salt. Is this okay to use? Will it give me the same benefits? I know homemade is usually best but I don’t have alot of spare time. Thanks!

  4. Leeny, If you are talking about Global Organics Sauerkraut, it should be fine. It hasn’t been pasteurized, as most other sauerkraut is. Organic foods can not be irradiated as they enter the country also, so it should be safe from that indignity. I’ve tried it and can assure you, the taste is no way near as wonderful as home made. Also, at $10 a jar, it’s about 1000% more expensive than making your own.
    The last Sunday of every month is fermenting day in my community. All those interested let me know during the week if they’re coming and I order bulk organic vegetables etc. We all chat while we chop, stomp and bottle and then clean up together. It’s a great way to socialise and make a month’s worth of fermented goodies. I always feel tired but satisfied and deliciously connected to my friends (the humans and the bacteria) after Fermenting day.
    Your local Weston Price Chapter leader will probably do something like this. Where are you?

  5. Joanne, I’m in Texas. I sure would join you on Fermenting Day if I were close enough! The brand of sauerkraut I buy from my local organic market is German and I’ve forgotten the name now. I don’t buy sauerkraut often but I would if I could find the right kind. I didn’t know that most sauerkraut is pasteurized! Then I might be out of luck unless I order online. Thanks for your comment, Joanne!

  6. hi there saw an item on sbs telly “vasili’s garden” his guest made home made sauerkraut by placing a whole cabbage with the centre core cut out & filled with salt, & then placed in a bucket ( filled with water) for 6 weeks (check after 3 weeks) he did not pound the cabbage at all I live in the tropics so i would need to keep the cabbage in the fridge (?) would this slow or change the process at all Your comment please lyn

  7. I have a question about the sauerkrraut recipe. Where it says cover the kraut, is it meant that you put the lid on the jar to seal it or do you allow air to get in?

  8. Seal the jar Pete. but don’t worry so much about checking it every once in a while. As long as the cabbage is covered in the juice/brine, it will not allow putrifying bacteria in. If it does get a little discoloured on the top, simply scrape that bit off and eat what’s below.

  9. Hello,
    I have made saurkraut in a 5 gallon jar. It is almost ready to can. How long do you leave the
    kraut in the boiling water bath. Too long would definately make it too soft but I do want it
    to stay seaed.

  10. Debra, which recipe uses boiling water for the kraut? I’ve never done that before. What is the purpose?

  11. I just wanted to make sure the jars stayed sealed in the cellar. My Mom used to do this.

  12. Oh, your jars aren’t spring top. Plastic screw top lids are be ok if you leave at least 1 inch space from the top of the jar because fermentation does expand the cabbage. If you’ve added enough salt and whey, there should be enough lacto bacilli to avoid any mould or unhelpful bacteria taking over the kraut.

  13. Debra,
    You will want to heat your sauerkraut and liguid to about 180 degrees (simmering), do not boil. Pack hot kraut into clean, hot canning jars to the lower neck rim. If ther is not enough brine to cover all the kraut in the jars, usa a boiling hot, weak brine-2 tablespoons salt to each quart of water. Process in a boiling water canner 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Start to count processing time as soon as the hot jars are placed in actively boiling water.

    I realize your sauerkraut was ready a month ago, but hopefully this will help out the next time.

  14. wow, that is a great recipe!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  15. I have a few small heads of cabbage left in the garden. I think I’ll try this. I’ve never had homemade sauerkraut. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Hi all, I have been purchesing store bought organic sauerkraut, as im only new to these types of foods, and after finidshing the jar there is about 1/4 cup of liquid in the bottom…….can this liquid be used for fermenting other vegetables or making beet kvass of something? many thanks

  17. Oh, I have finally made sauerkraut!!! Yippee!!! I cheated a bit by adding some spring water since I didn’t pound it long enough to get enough juice from the cabbage. I used red purple cabbage by the way. I can’t wait to eat it in a couple of months. Thanks so much for the recipe!!!!!!!!!!

  18. jessy Ive just made my first sauerkraut too! it is nicely fermenting in my cupboard, only 3 months to go!! im sure it will be worth it though :) i also have kimchi and ginger carrots fermenting away too. and it was so satisfying when i opened my new batch of beet kvass and lovely pop and fizz occurred..yay it worked!!

  19. 19. Chuck Fowlds
    Apr 6th, 2008 at 3:20 am

    I am trying to get started making sauerkraut. I am wondering how large of a crock or jar to get. I am single would only like to make small amounts - 1 cabbage probably. What is a smallest recommended batch and what size crock will it take?

  20. Chuck, you don’t need a crock. Just use a glass jar with a plastic screw top lid. Be sure to ferment out of direct light. 1 cabbage usually uses about 1 litre of space. You can split between a few jars if you like. Do not use metal lidded jars, the metals will leach. You can also use food grade plastic I’m told.

  21. 21. Sarah Luck
    Apr 8th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Can I use regular whey in place of the keffir whey? (My whey comes from home made raw milk yoghurt that has been strained to create yoghurt cheese so is still a cultured whey)

  22. Yes Sarah, that should have enough bacteria to innoculate your sauerkraut.

  23. 23. Harold Rhodes
    Jun 3rd, 2008 at 7:36 am

    I’ve just made about ten gallon of kraut using your receipt. I ask Google “How do I make sauerkraut?”, and out of all the different receipts I looked at I chose yours.

    You can email me if you like.

    Thank you;


  24. I made 22 jars of kraut yesterday. I use spaghetti sauce and dill pickle jars saved throughout the year. The metal lids do not leach as I can tell. I just grate the cabbage,I do not pound it with anything. Then I pack the cabbage firmly halfway, adding 1 teaspoon canning salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar to the jar then finish packing firmly until full.

    I then put them in a dark place, usually in a closed box, then throw a sheet or something over it to prevent any light from entering. I put the boxes in my utility shed until fermented as it does give off a pretty strong odor while fermenting.

    I then check the jars every 2 or 3 days and if the lids look puffed up, I release them to let out any excess brine. After a few weeks, I then move them to fresh boxes, still keeping in the dark, and put the boxes on the shelf in my basement. The kraut usually will stay snow white and not turn soft if done this way.

    I have a couple jars left from fall 2006 and it is still very good and very white. My mother has made kraut this way for almost 50 years. The moon signs also have an effect on kraut making. We usually make it when the moon is growing old. NEVER make kraut in the sign of the bowels, it will not be eatable.

  25. 25. Charlotte A Rosen
    Jul 22nd, 2008 at 8:26 am

    The old folks from Germany use to add crab apples to thier kraut. Do you know how this is done?

  26. I’ve fermented pieces of ginger and the ‘water’ has turned pink.
    I know that young/green coconut water turns pink when it is off. Does that mean mine’s a gonner?

    Donna Gates from Body Ecology Diet (just google for more info) mentions using green/sour-ish apples in cultured vegies. I believe you just chop them up and add them in to the mixture and ferment!

    I’m not familier with crab apples. Are they sweet? That could affect it… not sure

  27. I forgot some sauerkraut jar at the back of my fridge and when I found it, there was mold cover on top. The date on the jar said it was at least 2 month old. Being curious, I decided to scrape off the mold to see if the sauerkraut underneath was salvageable. The mold turned out to be firm and came off all in one round piece, which I discarded. To my surprise, the sauerkraut underneath had the most DELICIOUS flavor. I have not gotten sick from eating it. Has anyone else had the same experience?

    Since then, I have tried to let my jar develop that mold on top, but so far no result. I wish I had saved that mold and I would have re-used it over and over.

  28. 28. Cathy Mifsud
    Aug 18th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    what do you mean ” never make kraut in the sign of the bowels”?
    So the best Kraut you say is made during the waxing moon?

  29. 29. Karen Haynes
    Nov 9th, 2008 at 3:57 am

    I have been trying my hand at making kraut. I thought I followed all the steps and put a brine filled plastic bag on top of the kraut to seal it. I looked at it today and there were small spots of mold on top of the bag. I removed it and all the mold I found. The kraut smells ok but, I would like to know if I should toss it or if it will be ok to continue.

  30. It’s often ok to just scrape the top layer off and the kraut underneath is fine. Your nose should tell you.

  31. I have had serious acid reflux for the past seven months. Can’t handle the medications. So my diet has been limited.
    I started reading Body ecology and have been buying kraut for the last three days.
    I feel lots better. I am wondering if the homemade kraut would work even better?

  32. 32. Bertie White
    Mar 9th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Dear Joanne
    Thanks for the recipe.
    Ours is 1 month old now and we would like to try it. It smells great but we think a little salty. Would you rinse it first? I have noticed that some “traditional” canned varieties have wine in them would you cook the kraut in wine?
    We made our “pounder” out of a large rolling pin with one end removed it worked really well and we used a large “Vacola” Jar nice heavy glass and just the right size for a cabbage and good fit for the pounder.
    Thanks again for the recipe, so much better than some of the attemps we have had in the past!
    Cheers Bertie

  33. Hi Everyone,

    I have recently made two batches of sauerkraut:

    The first with red cabbage and the second I used with green cabbage and a lil bit of the red cabbage as a starter.
    I have been watching this 2nd batch every few days and it has seemed to be fine and then all of a sudden it turned pink and I didn’t think any of it, UNTIL today I had some..I did think it tasted a bit strange (for sauerkraut) but I kept eating it (silly me!).
    Apparently it is due to certain yeasts and you should not eat this? Did I mention my body feels quite achy now? Does anyone know about this? Any help/info would be appreciated!


  34. 34. Robert Warehime
    Jul 10th, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Hi, Where can I find the signs you mentioned, like sign of the bowels.
    My mom used to go by them.
    Thanks Bob

  35. Joanne

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe, I myself am German (though live in Australia) and did not know how to make this, when I asked my grandfather his reply was “buy it” :o) so I had to search for the recipe instead. I will definitely be trying out your technique very soon.

    Thanks again


  36. I have been making homemade kraut for about a year. This time my kraut turned soft. It smells fine and has a good flavor, does anyone know if why or if it is safe?

  37. I make sourkraut on a yearly basis…always in the fall. I use a crock for my formentation process. I was wondering processing after it is ready. I usually let it forment for about 4 weeks and then can it up into canning jars and cold pack it. Question is… do I lose all my beneficial properties of the kraut form the hot water bath that I use to seal my jar rings and lids? Thanks

  38. Hi, Joanna, thanks for the sauerkraut info. I have my 2nd batch “brewing”, the 1st was a failure :’(. I read that chefs are a cruel lot; they pinch salt, whip cream and beat eggs. So it is not strange for one to pound cabbage into submission. I’d appreciate a sourdough starter recipe. Regards from a rather chilly Durban.

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