Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe – Old Fashion Style

This fermented sauerkraut recipe is an easy, delicious way to add some of those friendly lactobacillus bacteria to your diet.

Why did our ancestors preserve food with fermentation?

It saved lives during cold months.

Luckiest folks owned lands to grow all kinds of plants that would be enough to feed all the family. However, they still needed to find a way to feed themselves when the mercury drops and makes it impossible to grow food.

Traditionally, our grandparents use to make fermented cabbage, carrots, garlic, cranberries and much more to keep food from deteriorating during the winter. As we can imagine, options were pretty limited without a refrigerator or supermarkets to get the food on a daily or weekly basis. There was simply no other way to avoid starving to death then finding ways to preserve all kinds of aliment.

Why should we bring back this old practice in our nutrition habits?

For the extra friendly bacteria in your gut and all the benefits that come with it. Some of those benefits are:

  • Better immune response to viruses and harmful microorganisms,
  • Better absorption of food nutrients,
  • Helps protect your bowel lining
Fermented sauerkraut recipe

Also, it’s harder to find fresh products in the northern part of the world. If that’s where you live then it could be what you need to keep good health in the wintertime.

Not having access to freshly riped fruits and vegetables means that our diet is lacking many nutrients during the cold months. Food from your local grocery has been purchased in countries where the temperature allows them to grow all year round.

Therefore, harvest and transportation conditions can really impact their nutritional quality. Some fruits and vegetables are harvested too early for some types of nutrients to appear. This is a common practice to ensure it doesn’t rot before it’s put on the store’s shelves.

This may seem ok and perfectly fine but the nutritional quality of food depends a lot on how naturally it was grown. Food that ripes in the refrigerated truck on its way to the food store is not as healthy as the one you eat directly from the tree.

Encouraging local economy

Taking advantage of local growers fresh and organic products during summertime when the plants get all the real nutrients from the rich soil and summer sun. The fruits and veggies are ripe directly on the plant as it should be.

So a rule of thumb for a healthy diet would be to eat only summer fruits and vegetables during summer.

But what should we eat during the cold season? That’s when fermentation steps in.

There are very good alternatives to summer harvest foods that can be grown in winter greenhouses. As more and more people are looking for high-quality fresh products you may even have local farms that are doing it close to where you live. Ask your local market to find these for you.

Sauerkraut little secrets

Let me tell you the most important thing about veggies we eat: they have to be as fresh as possible. Although, some of them stay fresh longer than others.

You probably already bought strawberries from your local grocery store only to find out the next day they were already rotten. The storing condition also plays an important role in how quickly your fruits and vegetables will start to decay.

That,s why you must choose the freshest cabbage you can find. Ideally directly from the farmer’s small market. Cabbage can be stored for a few weeks after being harvested. If you let it sit on the counter it quickly starts showing signs of decomposition. These will appear a little sooner if it wasn’t kept in a tempered space prior to buying. Since there is no easy way to know when it was harvested, there are few signs you should pay attention to.

  • Don’t buy a cabbage that’s not firm or that has some black dots on it. It’s possible that the leaves at the top look wilted but what’s under should look as fresh as possible. If so make sure to prepare your sauerkraut the next day at the latest to boost the chances for the healthy bacteria to grow strong.
  • The cleaner the better: You don’t have to wash every single leaf, (thank God no..) But be very meticulous in using tools that are clean. This includes cleaning the countertop where you’ll be cutting your veggies in case you drop bits of cabbage (like I always do). Otherwise, throw those small pieces in the compost bucket. Remember, don’t give any opportunities for bad bacteria to grow.
  • Size (and measurements) matter. A lot. The degree of saltiness and the weight of cabbage/veggies. have to be well balanced. I will go into more detail in the recipe.

Signs that your sauerkraut is healthy

  • White foam is forming at the top
  • You can see bubbles trapped through the veggie pieces. Also when you press the weight some of those bubbles are liberated. This is something you should do to help release the gases.
  • The vegetables have a faded, translucent color compared to the freshly cut version but they have kept their original pigment
  • You can hear effervescence or sparkling-like noises when you put your ear close to the jar.

Signs that your sauerkraut is good for the compost and dangerous for human/animal consumption

Mold, hairy formations on top and foul smell are all signs that the fermentation has gone bad. In my experience, a healthy fermentation should have a pleasant smell that whets the appetite.

When in doubt it’s better to accept defeat and start all over again. Especially for beginners. You don’t want to get sick due to a lack of knowledge.

I’ve been making sauerkraut many few times now and it happened to me once. It wasn’t very obvious like black mold at the top for instance.

Mind you, after 10 days through fermentation, I saw those small white flakes that I had never seen in my previous attempts. Attempts that were all successful and very tasty.

It’s one of those cases where I couldn’t find any information on what I was observing. No similar pictures and no advice from more advanced people. Some of them would say “I’ve never had that problem with mine” while others would say “if it doesn’t smell bad I wouldn’t worry about it” or “yikes! this looks like mold!!”

So I decided to throw 1 pound of somewhat awkward sauerkraut. End of story. At least my conscience was clear. I did feel sad because I had no way to be sure what happened and how I could prevent it from happening again.

Finally, I bought more cabbages from 2 different farmers that looked great and firm only to realize that the leaves underneath showed signs of degradation with black dots… aarrg. I guess I’ll have to wait until next fall to make this delicious fermented sauerkraut recipe…

If you goo down the same road, don’t worry. This is all part of a normal learning process and the next one will be just as you expected.

How much sauerkraut is too much to eat

Well, it pretty much depends on how you feel when eating it. Keep in mind that fermented food is alive. Its inhabitants are bacterias that will start to interact with your intestine microbiome as soon as they are in.

If you eat too much, chances are you will feel bloated and pass gas for a couple of hours. Not a very pleasant feeling.

Unfortunately, it leads some people to think that fermented food is not good for them while it only means they ate too much at once.

Instead of eating your sauerkraut like you would eat a salad use it as a condiment.

Start by adding no more than 1 tablespoon in your plate so your gut gets used to this new bacteria. You can then eat 2 tablespoons per day.

To enjoy the health benefits of an enriched flora, consistency is the key. Try to eat your small portions of fermented food each day or at least 3 times a week.

In fact, if you let too much time pass between each serving the bacteria won’t be able to settle and proliferate enough.

Fermented cabbage Sauerkraut recipe

For the sake of simplicity, this recipe presents the ingredients needed to fit a 1 liter (or 1 kilogram) glass jar. This represents about 700 – 800 grams of sauerkraut.

Also, you won’t have any trouble finding such a glass container size as it’s a pretty common one.


  • A glass jar like a Mason jar
    Make sure to use a plastic lid over a typical metal lid. Once the fermentation is over, you’ll need to store your sauerkraut in the fridge. This will avoid rusting.
  • Chef knife or knife large enough to slice through a medium cabbage.
  • Scale and a bowl to weigh your ingredients accurately.
  • A larger mixing bowl, optional but can be very helpful.
  • Weight, usually a smaller jar that goes inside the 1L jar and on to top to weigh down the sauerkraut.
  • 1/4 tablespoon.
  • Cutting board.
Tools needed to make your sauerkraut


  • 1 medium-size cabbage. You will need to slice 800 grams of cabbage for this recipe
  • 1 tablespoon of pink salt (or a salt type that has no iodine)
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds (It’s optional and is added for the taste)
  • Extra salty water: 1 tablespoon diluted in 2 cups of water (if needed)


Remove the wilted layers on top and discard them


Cut the cabbage in half;

Now is the right time to keep a fresh leaf and cut oi to fit the shape of the opening or of your jar although a little larger. This is to make sure all the small bits that tend to float stay under the watery surface. I’ll give you more details on this later as this step should be done close to the end.


Slice your cabbage face down in thin slices (less than 1cm) until you get close to the core. Discard the core.


Once you’ve reached the desired weight of 800 grams you can start adding the salt. I recommend that you transfer your ingredients in a larger bowl so that you can easily mix it with your hands. I use a large (like family size) pasta bowl.


Squeeze, crush, press between your fingers until you start seeing the brine form. At this stage, you will see that this large cabbage salad is turning into a shrinking watery mixture.


Now the fun part: adding your vegetables into the jar. You will need to press down many times during this process to pack it tightly and remove air pockets. Don’t wait until you fill half of the jar to start pressing as it will require much more pressure to be able to remove the air. Note that it’s totally normal that it gets messy at this point.


Don’t forget to add all the salty liquid resulting from the squeezing you did earlier. You worked hard to get it that alone is a good reason to keep it. But most importantly, it will create a barrier between your precious friendly bacteria from ambient air and any potential bad bacteria carried by it.


Remember the piece of cabbage leaf you cut down earlier? Well now is the time to place it on top. Then put your canning weight or small jar and press it down to remove air. As the small jar settles, you may notice some bits that float above the brine. Remove them and wipe any residue or cabbage pieces that adhere to the inside of the glass.


The salty brine protects what’s under it. You don’t want to leave anything that’s above it in contact with air that could encourage bad bacteria proliferation and compromise your healthy fermentation.
If the brine level is to low add more brine (see ingredients for the accurate dosage.)


Wipe your jar, and cover it using something that is not hermetic. I like to use a piece of cotton fabric held with an elastic. You can also simply screw loosely the plastic lid. The idea is to protect the mixture from outside bacterias, dust and little bugs while allowing the fermentation gases to escape.


Leave the jar in a place where the temperature is comfortable and not likely to fluctuate. For example avoid windows, full sun exposure, etc. Mine always sits in a corner of my countertop where I can see it and enjoy watching the fermentation changes that occur especially in the first few days.

Tips and tricks to keep everything tidy

Speaking of which, you may see many bubbes and even a foamy mixture appear at the top. Simply remove it with a spoon. Also, you might notice that liquid level is rising and it can sometimes overflow.

This is normal, just add a small plate under it to collect the liquid and clean it later.

As I mentioned earlier, making sure the cabbage stay under the salty liquid is crucial to ensure a healthy fermentation.

If you find the brine level a bit low you will need to add in more salty water (see ingredients). You can keep the extra salty water you haven’t added in another jar and use it if needed for this batch.

The hardest part of making sauerkraut is the wait. Be patient, very patient if the temperature is low and wait 7 days before tasting the sauerkraut you can taste it earlier but you may find the taste a bit plain.

On warm days you may find your fermentation pretty tasty after only 3 to 4 days. As I write the lines, it’s January (where I live it’s -10 to -20 Celsius degrees outside!) and I find the sauerkraut to be really good after 12 to 15 days.

If you have any questions simply leave a comment and I will get back to you.

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