How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Makes: 1/2 to ¾ of a quart
Adapted from The Kitchn
1/2 medium head cabbage (about 1.5 pounds)
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher or himalayan salt
1-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or two pint mason jars)
Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it's best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar is washed and rinsed of all soap residue. You'll be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, so give those a good wash, too. Wipe everything (cutting board, knife, jar) with white vinegar.
Slice the cabbage: Discard the wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Slice the cabbage crosswise into very thin ribbons. Save a large outer leaf for step #5.
Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes.
Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar.
Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
Lid the jar.
Press the cabbage the next day. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
Add extra liquid, if needed: If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 14 days. Your taste will determine when it’s done more so than length of time. As it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Burp (to release the pressure) it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.
Because this is a small batch of sauerkraut, it will ferment more quickly than larger batches. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, put it in the refrigerator. You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 14 days or even longer. There's no hard-and-fast rule for when the sauerkraut is "done" — go by how it tastes.
While it's fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If you see any mold, toss it.
Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.
Sauerkraut with other cabbages: Red cabbage, napa cabbage, and other cabbages all make great sauerkraut. Make individual batches or mix them up for a multi-colored sauerkraut!
Larger or smaller batches: To make larger or smaller batches of sauerkraut, keep same ratio of cabbage to salt and adjust the size of the container. Smaller batches will ferment more quickly and larger batches will take longer.
Hot and cold temperatures: Do everything you can to store sauerkraut at a cool room temperature. At high temperatures, the sauerkraut can sometimes become unappetizingly mushy or go bad. Low temperatures (above freezing) are fine, but fermentation will proceed more slowly.
What's your favorite fermented food recipe? Please share below!