Friday, February 27, 2015

Crock Fermented Sauerkraut

We typically grow cabbage and if it's a good season that yields a big harvest, we'll ferment a few heads for sauerkraut. I grew up in a German/Irish family where we ate kraut throughout the winter and sometimes twice for New Year's (eve and day). My mom would roast the kraut in a slow cooker along with a pork roast, smoked sausage and brown sugar. It was the kind of meal I could smell before I entered the house.

The fermentation process takes a few weeks. Be aware the aroma of fermenting vegetation can waft throughout the house. I try to close off the crock in a spare room or a cool basement to minimize the odor. If I have enough cabbage, I ferment 50 pounds at a time, which requires a five gallon crock. I've also had success fermenting a smaller batch (25 pounds of cabbage). I tend to avoid ferment-in-the-jar recipes. I think a large batch of fermenting cabbage has a better flavor. If we make more that what we'll eat, my friends and family enjoy the excess.

I ferment the cabbage in a five gallon, lead-free crock. Other non-reactive
containers suitable for curing include food grade plastic, glass or stainless steel.

Discard outer leaves and cut into quarters. Remove core.

We use a large antique slaw slicer (this one belonged to the hub's grandparents).
The small box on top slides across three large and very sharp blades in the base.
You could also use a food processor or knife to slice the cabbage.
Mix the cabbage and salt in the crock. Press until the liquid covers the cabbage.
Cover cabbage with cheesecloth and place a dinner plate over the cloth and top
with a weight to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid. Remove scum daily.

Fermentation will be complete in 3-6 weeks. The cabbage will be wilted and yellow.
Remove kraut from crock to a large stock pot. Bring just to a simmer.
Pack hot kraut into jars and process quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Allow to cool for 12 hours. Remove rings, wipe down jars and store in a cool, dark place.

from Ball Blue Book
50 lbs cabbage
1 pound canning salt

Wash and drain heads. Remove outer leaves, cut heads into quarters and remove core. Use a shredder or sharp knife to cut cabbage into thin shreds. In a large clean, lead-free crock, thoroughly mix 3 Tbsp salt with 5 lbs cabbage and let stand for several minutes to wilt slightly. This allows packing without excessive breaking or bruising. Using hands, press down firmly until juice comes to the surface. Repeat shredding, salting and packing until all cabbage and salt is used. If juice does not cover cabbage, make a bring by boiling 1 1/2 Tbsp salt and 1 quart of water. Cool before using.

Cover cabbage with cheesecloth, tucking edges against the inside of the crock. Weight cabbage under brine by placing a dinner plate over cloth (add additional weight on top of plate, if necessary). Formation of gas bubbles indicates fermentation is taking place. Remove and discard scum formation each day. A room temperature of 70-75 degrees F is best for fermenting cabbage. Fermentation is usually complete in 3 to 6 weeks.

To can:
Bring kraut to a simmer (185-210 degrees). Do not boil. Pack into hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot brine liquid over cabbage  leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust lids. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: 18 quarts


  1. I love sauerkraut. It is reported to be VERY good for you! Great post, I'm not much for canning, but I am wondering do you think you can freeze it?
    I didn't think you could freeze cabbage, until I somehow left a container of coleslaw in the back of my car in the freezing cold for over a week.
    It was frozen solid, but when it unthawed, it seemed as fresh as the day it was made.

    1. Hi Carol! Yes, you can freeze cabbage. We have frozen fresh cabbage then thawed and grilled or sauteed. Fresh cabbage will rend water when thawed but since kraut is already wilted, it should hold up better. Give it a try!

  2. I love the smell of fermenting sauerkraut! The one time I made it I kept the crock in the living area. the lovely smell when walking by it was a reassurance that all was going well. I only skimmed the top a few times during the process. I figured the less disturbance the better and the less introduction of undesirable bacteria. But then, I was/am just a novice. Funny how I hated sauerkraut until I made my own.

    1. I wasn't a sauerkraut fan either until I started making my own! Although I'm not as big a fan of the fermentation odor, I appreciate that it means cabbage is transforming onto kraut.

  3. Well, it looks like I will be on the lookout for a big crock. This looks great, and probably tastes better.

    1. Pottery stores are your best bet for a crock - just be sure it's lead free. Let me know how it goes!