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Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe

by | Jun 23, 2021 | Fermenting, Preserve

Making this homemade lacto-fermented sauerkraut recipe is so simple and takes just two ingredients. Learn how to turn plain-old sliced cabbage (which I think is great just the way it is) into a super-food filled with enzymes, probiotics, and healthy acids.

Finished sauerkraut in a glass anchor hocking jar.

There is no other preservation method I know where your food actually gets healthier than in lacto-fermentation. Superfoods generally come with a super price tag to match, but making your own sauerkraut is inexpensive, provides health benefits to strengthen your immune system, and is EASY to make once you understand it.  

Watch the video below as I make this delicious ferment, or continue reading for the recipe below.

Why I Love This Recipe

When it comes to food preservation, it’s not hard for the beginner to feel intimidated and overwhelmed because we have all heard about the importance of food safety, and the dangers of preserving food improperly. (You can learn how to avoid some common pitfalls in Pressure Canning Mistakes right here.)

I love lacto-fermentation because it’s very obvious if something went wrong. You will either visually be able to see mold, or there will be an off-smell so strong that no one will be able to convince you to eat it.

These obvious cues allow the beginner to have confidence in making homemade sauerkraut knowing that the food they are preserving is safe.

Finished Sauerkraut in colorful bowls.

What is Lacto Fermentation?

It is a common misconception that the term lacto fermentation comes from the addition of whey in order to reduce the amount of salt used (which I will show you how to do when making Easy Fermented Cranberry Sauce).

However, lacto-fermentation is traditionally done with salt only, and the term “lacto” refers to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacillus bacteria that are being cultured. 

Sauerkraut ingredients on a wooden cutting board.

Equipment and Ingredients Needed

  • Cabbage – It will roughly take a medium-size head of green or red cabbage to fill a quart jar. This is purely subjective, and it’s not necessary to weigh the cabbage for an exact measurement. Just pick a head of cabbage that seems “medium” size to you.
  • Sea Salt – The ratio of salt to cabbage should be two tablespoons for every head of cabbage. Salt has more than one purpose. It draws the moisture from the cabbage to create the liquid needed for the fermentation process, and it also preserves the cabbage from breeding bad bacteria while the beneficial bacteria are forming.
  • Large Bowl – This bowl will need to be large enough to hold a full head of cabbage after it has been shredded.
  • Cabbage Pounder – If you do not have a cabbage pounder, a wooden spoon or a wooden meat hammer will work just as well. The pounding process is critical because it will extract the water needed for the fermentation process. If you simply add water without extracting the water from the cabbage, you will end up with an imbalance of water to salt ratio which will result in your ferment failing.
  • Quart Mason Jar – The jar needs to be freshly cleaned with hot soapy water. Do not sanitize with bleach. If there is any trace of bleach leftover, it will stop the lactobacillus from multiplying.
  • Fermenting LidFermenting lids are nice to have, but not necessary. If you don’t have a fermenting lid, you could use a storage lid made for quart jars, or even a two-part canning lid. The storage lids are not airtight, but two-part canning lids can be, so if you use a two-part canning lid, make sure it’s on loosely to allow for airflow and off-gassing.
Sliced cabbage and large knife on a wooden cutting board.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Inspect cabbage, and remove any outer leaves that show signs of decay or bruising. These leaves can be fed to your livestock, or added to your compost pile. 
  2. Remove a second leaf, keeping it as whole as possible, and set this leaf aside for later. 
  3. Remove the core, and set it aside to use later to make stock, or put it with the leaves that will go to your livestock or compost pile. 
  4. Finely shred remaining cabbage by cutting against the grain. 
  5. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl, and sprinkle salt over the cabbage. 
  6. Toss the cabbage with clean hands to incorporate the salt evenly throughout the cabbage. 
  7. After the cabbage and salt have been thoroughly combined, allow the cabbage to sit for about 10-15 minutes. After sitting, you will notice the salt has started to go to work drawing the moisture out. 
  8. With the cabbage pounder, wooden spoon, or wooden meat hammer, pound the cabbage to extract the rest of the water from the cabbage. This step should take at least 10 minutes. If it seems the cabbage isn’t breaking down after 10 minutes, let the cabbage sit for another 30 minutes, and come back to pound it some more. Your final product should have about ⅓ of the volume as when you began. 
  9. With clean hands, transfer the cabbage from the bowl to the quart glass jar packing with your wooden cabbage pounder to remove any air bubbles. 
  10. Once the cabbage is packed tightly in the jar, you will have leftover juice in the bottom of your bowl. You will use this, but first tear off the soft part of the reserved cabbage leaf and tuck it into the jar to help weigh down the shredded cabbage to keep it underneath the surface of the liquid. It is critical that all of the cabbage stays under the surface of the liquid, or it will mold. 
  11. Top off the jar with remaining cabbage juice leaving about an inch of room at the top. This will avoid any spillage that may happen during any movement caused by the fermentation process. 
  12. Leave on the counter at room temperature for an average of 3 days fermentation time (give or take depending on how warm/cool your kitchen is). You should notice the fermentation activity (or bubbling), and the smell will change to sour/acidic. 
  13. At this point, you can move the jar to long term cold storage in your refrigerator or root cellar with a shelf life for up to a year.

Did you make this recipe? If so, we’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card below, then snap a photo and tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily so we can see all the delicious ways you’re using up your homemade sauerkraut!

Finished sauerkraut in a glass anchor hocking jar.

Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe

Learn to take two simple ingredients and turn it into a healthy, probiotic superfood in this homemade lacto-fermented sauerkraut recipe.
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin
Course: Condiment
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Fermentation Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 14kcal
Author: Carolyn Thomas

Equipment

  • Large Bowl
  • Cabbage Pounder
  • Quart Mason Jar
  • Fermenting Lid

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage medium-sized
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • optional seasonings black pepper, caraway seeds, etc.
  • optional mix-ins shredded carrot, diced onions, cilantro, etc.

Instructions

  • Inspect cabbage, and remove any outer leaves that show signs of decay or bruising. These leaves can be fed to your livestock, or added to your compost pile. 
  • Remove a second leaf, keeping it as whole as possible, and set this leaf aside for later.
  • Remove the core, and set it aside to use later to make stock, or put it with the leaves that will go to your livestock or compost pile. 
  • Finely shred remaining cabbage by cutting against the grain. 
  • Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl, and sprinkle salt over the cabbage. 
  • Toss the cabbage with clean hands to incorporate the salt evenly throughout the cabbage. 
  • After the cabbage and salt have been thoroughly combined, allow the cabbage to sit for about 10-15 minutes. After sitting, you will notice the salt has started to go to work drawing the moisture out. 
  • With the cabbage pounder, wooden spoon, or wooden meat hammer, pound the cabbage to extract the rest of the water from the cabbage. This step should take at least 10 minutes. If it seems the cabbage isn’t breaking down after 10 minutes, let the cabbage sit for another 30 minutes, and come back to pound it some more. Your final product should have about ⅓ of the volume as when you began. 
  • With clean hands, transfer the cabbage from the bowl to the quart glass jar packing with your wooden cabbage pounder to remove any air bubbles.
  • Once the cabbage is packed tightly in the jar, you will have leftover juice in the bottom of your bowl. You will use this, but first tear off the soft part of the reserved cabbage leaf and tuck it into the jar to help weigh down the shredded cabbage to keep it underneath the surface of the liquid. It is critical that all of the cabbage stays under the surface of the liquid, or it will mold. 
  • Top off the jar with remaining cabbage juice leaving about an inch of room at the top. This will avoid any spillage that may happen during any movement caused by the fermentation process. 
  • Leave on the counter at room temperature for an average of 3 days fermentation time (give or take depending on how warm/cool your kitchen is). You should notice the fermentation activity (or bubbling), and the smell will change to sour/acidic. 
  • At this point, you can move the jar to long term cold storage in your refrigerator or root cellar with a shelf life for up to a year.

Video

Notes

  • Feel free to add in any other seasonings or ingredient mix-ins as noted above in the recipe. One of my favorite flavor combinations is this sweet and spicy sauerkraut recipe or this Latin-American Curtido recipe.
  • The flavor of sauerkraut continues to deepen and get better over time. If you find after 3 days that your kraut is too salty, just give it more time and the salty profile will mellow. 

Nutrition

Calories: 14kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 882mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 56IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?We want to see! Tag @homesteadingfamily on Instagram.

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