Making My Own Sauerkraut

by Katy on October 29, 2023 · 32 comments

In my unending quest to spend as little as possible on quality groceries, I decided to try making my own sauerkraut. I’d heard that it was easy, but the idea of doing my own fermentation was a bit intimidating. I looked for a recipe and settled on this one from The Kitchn and picked up a big ol’ head of cabbage from Trader Joe’s.

Why Trader Joe’s? Because they price per item instead of by-the-pound, so you can get bargain produce if that item happens to particularly heavy. Examples being butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower and yes — cabbage. I paid $1.99 and you shouldn’t be surprised that I did my best to buy the biggest one!

The only ingredients in this straightforward recipe were cabbage and 1-1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. I used the Himalayan pink sea salt that I already had on hand from Dollar Tree as it’s similarly chunky.

Once the cabbage was chopped and sprinkled with salt, it was time to get to work. The recipe described it as “massaging,” so that’s what I did. (Wow mon petit chou chou, you really hold a lot of tension in your shoulders!”) The amount of slivered cabbage was massive, so I assumed I’d need two quart-size canning jars, but the volume went down an absolutely tremendous amount.

From this:

To this:

All sauerkraut recipes call for it to be weighed down in order to ensure that the cabbage stays under the briney liquid for proper fermentation. I used a brand new Ziploc freezer bag filled with glass marbles and I also placed a single cabbage leaf between the two layers, which I saw in a different recipe. The top is then covered with a bandana so it can breathe while staying clean.

The recipe did suggest caraway seeds as an optional addition, but I didn’t have any and I wanted my first attempt to be as simple as possible. Other recipes include additions such as carrots, beets, lemon peel and even juniper berries.

The jar now sits on my counter and I’ll start to taste it after three days of fermentation, although it can take up to ten days. I’ll then cover it properly and stick it in the fridge once the flavor is right. I’m very pleased with myself for making my own sauerkraut, even though it couldn’t have been more straightforward!

I kind of feel like an ole timey Alaskan homesteader. Maybe I’ll go out panning for gold as my next frugal hack!

Have you made your own sauerkraut? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

T October 29, 2023 at 9:41 am

Well I always say when I practice frugality in my life I’m making gold out of straw.
I bow to my mother who truly knew how to mine gold.

I’m liking your bowl you made it in. It might have seen better days but it still does the job.


Ava October 29, 2023 at 9:51 am

I have made my own and it turned out well. I think I added a little water. As a kid, I helped my aunt make it. She let it ferment in a crock before packing it into the jars. My job was washing the jars with my little kid hands.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 10:51 am

So far it has more than enough liquid, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.


mary in maryland October 29, 2023 at 10:11 am

I’ve been making sauerkraut for several years. The flavor deepens a lot over time. I age mine for six to seven weeks. Delish. You need to keep it a somewhat cool (55-65) so it doesn’t get mushy—no problem for us who keep the house at 62 in the winter. In the summer I ferment in the basement. Wide mouth jars make it easier for my now adult sized hands to do the packing.
1. I crossed a big item off my bucket list. Last Tuesday we drove to Lancaster County, PA for some “Produce tourism.” We bought stuff at the Corn Wagon—two ten-pound heads of cabbage for 1.50 each. Two big eggplants for a dollar. Two four-pound cauliflowers for $2 each. Then we headed to the Amish produce auction at Roots. The auction was a hoot. Someone was clearly buying for a restaurant or food cart—she nabbed the cases of bok choy, limes, and avocadoes. I got three bags of avocadoes for 2.75 each, a $2 bag of eight organic lemons (now being fermented into Moroccan lemon pickles), a 25 pound box of chopped almonds for $7. The Mister was shocked that I bid on the Lindt truffles—got seven 8 oz bags for $13. But my goal was winter squash for storage. They went for $2 apiece—must take three– in the first round. In the round where I hopped in they went for 90 cents each. I opted for 25, but they threw in all that were left, so I got 28. The smallest weighs four pounds. My mood dropped some when I saw them described as long-necked pumpkin on my payment slip. But we’ve eaten the first one three different ways—a little blander than I had hoped but easily cured by chipotle pepper or Old Bay seasoning.
2. Before the auction we met friends for a good visit and falafel sandwiches at a food cart on the premises. I also got a half bushel of Winesaps for $15 at an apple stand at Roots.
3. I’ve gifted three friends with jars of chopped almonds, and one accepted two of the pumpkins.
4. On Friday the bread machine produced only a dryish lump of dough. I rescued it, added some water, kneaded like crazy, let it rise for a long time, and baked it in my oval Dutch oven. Very good.
5. A friend gifted me a lemon grass plant. I’ve trimmed it back to prep it for a winter in the shed.
6. Penne rescue—I made a calculation error and cooked too much penne for last night’s dinner party. For lunch today I poured boiling water over some of the leftover for just a minute before draining it and adding the sauce. A tiny bit overdone, but edible.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 10:51 am

Produce tourism?! I love this! Now I want to come visit you for a repeat day trip.


mary in maryland October 29, 2023 at 4:02 pm

Folks are always talking about ecotourism, textile tourism, and tall boat tourism. Yet you’re the first person to notice the peculiarity of produce tourism. Our day trip involved six hours of driving and $22 of gas. So not a cheap trip, but lots of fun. And produce!


Katy October 29, 2023 at 4:40 pm

You could start a touring company!


Katy October 29, 2023 at 10:52 am

By the way, my house is very cool this time of year. Yesterday I woke up to a 53 degree house!


mary in maryland October 29, 2023 at 1:39 pm

At 53 degrees fermentation will take more than three days. In reference to an entry below–beets have too much sugar to ferment well on their own. They get gooey. Holly Howe has a website/blog with great recipes. I love her cabbage/beet/apple/ginger ferment.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 4:39 pm

Luckily that temperature in the house was an anomaly.


A. Marie October 29, 2023 at 1:39 pm

Mary in MD, re: your #4: Let me tell you about the time I made a loaf in the bread machine and forgot to add the yeast. There was no rescuing that brickbat!


JC October 29, 2023 at 10:29 am

I love sauerkraut, but unfortunatly I am the only one in the family that eats it.
So I buy a large jar at Aldis and usually eat some plain and then make the rest into sandwich relish. It keeps forever in the fridge and is good on anything!
One of my favorite meals is sauerkraut, sausage or hotdogs and mashed potatoes.


Linda M October 29, 2023 at 10:30 am

The time for fermentation varies on the temperature of the room it ferments in. Cooler rooms take longer. So judge accordingly.
Word of caution… You are now jaded. Once you’ve had homemade, the Houghton stuff tastes yucky!


Linda M October 29, 2023 at 10:32 am

Boughten… Not houghten.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 10:47 am

I look forward to my sauerkraut-specific smug superiority.


Jann in Maine October 29, 2023 at 11:03 am

Sauerkraut is great for gut health. A friend also ferments beets in a similar fashion. Gut health is our new health frontier.
Keep us posted on its progress!


Katy October 29, 2023 at 12:02 pm

You know I will!


A. Marie October 29, 2023 at 12:21 pm

I made a few jars of sauerkraut a few years ago, following Sandor Ellix Katz’s simplest recipe (probably widely available online). It was good. But because of my high BP and DH’s decline, we didn’t eat it as much as I’d hoped–and I probably won’t make any more. Success to yours, however!


Katy October 29, 2023 at 12:26 pm

I’m looking forward to very tasty reuben sandwiches.


BettafrmdaVille October 29, 2023 at 1:15 pm

The best Rueben that I ever had was one that used roasted broccoli in place of the corned beef. You can find several recipes online for it now.

My sister has great success making sauerkraut and sauer turnips, both are great in the Slovenian stew/dish jota (also uses kidney beans, potatoes, and some kielbasa and sometimes smoked pork). It is one of the great frugal meals. I tried to make sauerkraut, but it was a dismal failure, and I have access to Morse’s sauerkraut, who have been making it up in Maine since 1918.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Bless your heart . . . but that’s a blasphemy sandwich.

I’ll let you know if I need your sister’s advice at any point, as I can hardly deem my sauerkraut a success at this early stage.


MB in MN October 29, 2023 at 4:11 pm

Katy, you’ve inspired me to try this at home! My husband eats sauerkraut right out of the jar, while I need to have it in a sandwich. Since we’re vegetarian, we substitute sauteed mushrooms for the corned beef in a Reuben. When I go to a restaurant, I’ll order a Reuben without the meat, and it’s still delicious.


Katy October 29, 2023 at 4:40 pm

Cool, let me know how it turns out!


Ruby October 29, 2023 at 5:19 pm

Like JC, I am the only sauerkraut eater in the family. I really like it, but it takes me awhile to finish a jar from Aldi. Am very interested in your sprout growing efforts, as micro-greens are the way to go for city dwellers.


K D October 30, 2023 at 2:02 am

I look forward to hearing more about the sauerkraut adventure. I am not a big fan but know that fermented food is purported to be good for “gut health” and these days our gut seems to be important to everything from physical to mental health.


Julia October 30, 2023 at 4:27 am

I make my own sauerkraut all the time! It is so yummy. I usually go off of how it looks rather than tasting it. And I’m guessing yours will take 7 to 10 days because of how cool it is. But it should look very wilty and not bright anymore when it’s done. I also always keep mine in the cupboard so that it doesn’t get hit by light but I don’t actually know if that matters or not.


Sandra October 30, 2023 at 7:58 am

I was so happy to discover another new post this morning and then the reference to a post on Sunday, too. I stopped reading today’s post and quickly went over to read the sauerkraut post.

I have never tried making my own sauerkraut, although I do like it. I remember when I was pregnant it was something I would eat cold right out of the jar.

I have made pickled red onion which are just too delicious on burgers or sandwiches. I usually make several 1/2 pint jars at a time and keep them in the refrigerator. They make great hostess gifts, too… pretty.

I think that scratch cooking whether it be soup or bread, canning, or freezing always makes me feel like an accomplished homemaker. I know that is a quaint, old fashioned term, but it feels just right.


Katy October 30, 2023 at 10:02 am

I feel like a homesteader when I cook from scratch like this.


Blue Gate Farmgirl October 30, 2023 at 9:09 am

Growing up my family had “sauerkraut party”. Dad would pick the early cabbages, Grandma would bring over her large 5 gallon crock and shredder from her grandfather. The shredder fit perfectly inside the crock, after the cabbages (usually 7 or 8 large) then the salting and pounding with G Grandpa’s hand carved maple pounder. When the appropriate amount of liquid was formed, a glass pie plate weighted down with a mason jar filled with water, then a flour sack over the top. It would sit in the mud room and cure. Every night we would test it. When it was “just right” it would be stored in gallon jars in the garage fridge. Yum! These days, I make mine in a small crock, using my Cuisinart to finely slice. A smaller wood pounder is used to fit in the smaller crock.


Katy October 30, 2023 at 9:58 am

This is fantastic, thank you for sharing this memory!


iforonwy October 31, 2023 at 9:30 am

Hope you enjoyed your Reuben sandwich! The first Reuben sandwich I ever had was in Portland!


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