How to Make Sauerkraut From Scratch [Recipe]

how to make sauerkraut recipe

If you enjoy pre-made sauerkraut, then get ready to have your socks blown off. Homemade sauerkraut is a whole new level of flavor. It’s a world apart from store-bought options, and it’s going to be your new favorite BBQ side-dish.

Crunchy and sour in equal measure, it’s unlike anything else. And the good news is that anyone can make it. It goes great in sandwiches and burgers, and is the perfect pairing to meat. There’s a reason why millions of Bavarians enjoy it on the side of bratwurst sausage.

It’s made from just essentially just cabbage, salt and water, it couldn’t be easier to make. The only obstacle is time, so be patient. Once fermentation starts, it’ll need at least 3 weeks to turn into delicious sauerkraut.

If this is your first foray into fermented food, then also check out our grilled kimchi recipe.

How to make homemade sauerkraut in a mason jar

Sauerkraut is a great entry to fermented foods for newcomers. It only needs one core ingredient and a mason jar. It’s easy, doesn’t need special equipment, and is very hands-off once fermentation begins.

While you can make large batches of the stuff in a crockpot or even barrel if you’re feeling brave, a mason jar is the perfect size to get started with.

Once submerged and sealed in the jar, the cabbage will release its water content and create its own brining solution. After a few days it’ll start to ferment, and slowly form the sauerkraut we love.

The essence of our homemade sauerkraut will be just three simple ingredients: Cabbage, salt, and juniper berries. Heck, it doesn’t even need the juniper berries, but I saw it recommended by the AllThingsBBQ YouTube channel and I haven’t looked back since trying it as added seasoning.

It takes time, but the weeks of fermentation that goes into creating it is what makes the ingredient so special and delicious.

how to make sauerkraut recipe
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Homemade Sauerkraut

Make your own homemade sauerkraut. Crunchy and sour in equal measure, it's the perfect condiment topping for meat, sandwiches, eggs, and more!
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine BBQ, German
Prep Time 3 hours
fermentation 21 days

Equipment

  • mason jar

Ingredients

  • 3 lb head of cabbage
  • 1 oz kosher salt
  • 2 tsp juniper berries

For the brine

Instructions

  • Remove some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and put to one side (we’ll be using these later). Cut the entire cabbage head into quarters, and then remove what’s left of the core from each quarter.
  • Shred the cabbage quarters with a large knife into thin pieces. Transfer shredded cabbage to a large bowl and toss lightly. Add kosher salt.
  • With your hands, start to crush cabbage in order to work in the salt and break down the cabbage pieces. Knead it until you start to see water being released from the crushed cabbage.
  • Add juniper berries, spreading evenly.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 20 minutes. Repeat kneading process again, and leave for a further 20 minutes. Repeat the process until you see standing water in the bowl. Usually this takes about 2-3 hours.
  • When the cabbage is ready for fermentation, you’ll notice that it looks wet and has lost some of the bright green color that it has when fresh. When you pick up a handful of it and squeeze it, a good amount of liquid should drip out. Crucially, you should see liquid standing at the bottom of the bowl.
  • For the fermentation, we need to add an extra salt-water solution. To make this, combine just 1 cup of water with 1 tsp of kosher salt. Stir to dissolve.
  • Transfer cabbage to a mason jar, and pour salt-water solution on top. If the cabbage isn’t completely covered, you will need to make more solution. Make sure that you keep the 1 cup of water-to-1 tsp kosher salt ratio.
  • Press the cabbage so that it’s submerged in the solution. Try to allow about half an inch of solution on top to ensure that the cabbage won’t be exposed to the air at all.
  • Reach for the cabbage leaves we put aside earlier (remember those?). Place these in the mason jar on top of the cabbage, acting as a barrier weight to keep the cabbage shreds submerged in the solution.
  • Once the cabbage is fully submerged, screw the lid of the jar on. Store at room temperature (not in your refrigerator) out of the way of direct sunlight. After a couple of days you should see the process start, with pressure building within the jar. When this happens, loosen the lid slightly to let the gas out before tightening it again. Do this every 3-5 days.
  • There is no hard and fast rule with how long fermentation can take. Allow at least 3 weeks, and then test to see how it suits your tastes. As long as the cabbage is always submerged and nothing weird has started to develop in the jar, you’re safe to try it.

FAQ

How long does it take to make sauerkraut?

When made in a mason jar, sauerkraut takes at least 3 weeks to make. It starts to ferment after about 3 days, and needs to be degassed every few days to relieve the pressure building up in the jar. Larger volumes of sauerkraut will require more time.

Is eating sauerkraut good for you?

Just like with many other fermented foods, eating sauerkraut is linked to a number of health benefits. It contains a lot of probiotics, which can aid digestion and boost your immune system. Sauerkraut is high in sodium however, so be careful with the quantities that you eat.

How do you eat sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is best known in Germany as an accompaniment to bratwurst, but is also great in meat-heavy sandwiches and burgers. It’s also great on non-meat foods, like scrambled eggs, avocado, and as a salad dressing.


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