Saturday, July 12

Sauerkraut In Mason Jars

Cabbage History

Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables and is believed to have been grown in gardens as far back as 3000 years ago. 

The Roman writers Cato and Columella are the first to mention preserving cabbages and turnips with salt. 
It is believed to have been introduced to Europe in its present form 1,000 years later by Genghis Khan after invading China.

Sauerkraut (sour rout) is chopped cabbage that is salted and then fermented in its own juice. The word, which in German means "sour cabbage," was first mentioned in American English in 1776.  
The dish has long been associated with German communities in the United States.

How Fermenting Works:
During fermentation, bacteria produce lactic acid from sugars in food.  Lactic acid slowly preserves the food, changes the texture, and gives it a tart taste.
Fermentation should begin the same day or the following day after mixing the ingredients together.  Bubbles rising, scum on top and a yeasty smell all are good indications of fermenting.

Cabbage in my garden

What You’ll Need
3 medium heads of cabbage
6 tablespoons kosher salt
Caraway seeds (optional)
Shredder or food processor
Knife, large bowl, measuring spoon
7 wide mouth quart jars and lids
Water Bath canner and canning tools

Wash and sterilize all jars, lids, kitchen utensils.
Wash cabbage and remove wilted or damaged outer leaves.  Work with one head of cabbage at a time.
If the cabbage is garden fresh you may want to soak the entire heads in salt water for a couple hours. The salt water will kill any bugs or worms. 
Cut cabbage in quarters and remove the core.  Slice cabbage again, ending up with 8 wedges. 
Use a food processor to shed cabbage into thin ribbons.
Or using a sharp knife cut each cabbage wedge into thin ribbons.

Shred cabbage

Place shredded cabbage into a large bowl.  Continue until one head is completely cut up.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of kosher or canning salt over cabbage.  Work the salt into the cabbage with your hands, massaging and turning the cabbage.  Let rest for 1 or 2 minutes and then repeat massaging and working salt into the cabbage. The cabbage will become limp and watery.  This process should take about 5 to 7 minutes.

Massage salt into shredded cabbage

Now pack the cabbage into the sterilized quart mason jars, using a funnel if desired to cut down on mess.  After adding a handful of cabbage to the jar, use a mallet, spoon or fork to press down and compact the cabbage.  Add another handful of cabbage to the jar and compact the cabbage each time. 
Make sure to continually mix up cabbage in the bowl so you are putting cabbage and liquid into each jar.  Fill jar with cabbage to about 3/4 full and then add enough liquid to just cover the cabbage, leaving approximately 1 1/4   to 1 1/2  inch head space.

Fill jars and compact 

To make the liquid, mix 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water. I usually make 2 cups of liquid at a time.
Once the cabbage is packed into the jar, loosely apply the two piece lid.  This will allow air flow but prevent flies and other insects from getting into the jar.
You can also cover the mouth of the jar with cloth secured with a rubber band.
Every few hours or often each day, use a mallet, fork or spoon to press down on the cabbage.  
As the cabbage ferments you will see bubbles, the cabbage will become limp and liquid will rise to the top of the jar.

Press down cabbage to submerge under liquid

If the liquid is not covering the cabbage, press down on the cabbage and/or add more salt water.
Fermenting will take 5 to 10 days or until you no longer see bubbling.  The fermenting process will not take as long as a large vat of sauerkraut because each jar is its own small batch.  Keep the sauerkraut at room temperature or somewhere between 65 to 75 degrees.

What fermentation looks like
Do not forget to press down the cabbage a few times a day and add salt water if needed to keep cabbage submerged.
Foam may form on the top or you may see white scum.  These are signs the cabbage is fermenting.  Just skim off the white scum. 
If mold forms, it means the cabbage is not submerged below the liquid.  Remove mold immediately, then press down on the cabbage and add more salt water to submerge the cabbage.
Check sauerkraut after a few days by doing a taste test.  If it tastes good to you and has stopped bubbling, it’s done!

When sauerkraut is done wipe jars and apply the 2 piece lids and refrigerate.  Sauerkraut will keep in the refrigerator for months. 

This recipe can be used for Red Cabbage also.

You do not have to can the sauerkraut, but if you want to here is how it's done.

Canning The Sauerkraut:
Once done fermenting, pour sauerkraut into a large pot and heat to simmering, DO NOT BOIL.
Wash jars and 2 piece lids and then sterilize.
Prepare a water bath canner.
Pour hot sauerkraut and liquid into hot sterilized canning jars, leaving a 1 1/4 inch head space.  
Wipe rims and apply the 2 piece lid to fingertip tight. 
Process quart jars for 25 minutes in a water bath canner.  Timing begins when water starts to boil.

Store sealed jars in cool dark area or pantry.

Serving Sauerkraut:
Empty contents of jar into strainer and rinse well with cool water to remove excess salt residue. Heat sauerkraut or serve cold.  Serve with your favorite pork roast, on hot dogs, brats or sandwiches or as a side dish.
A really sweet old jar lifter I found at a second hand store!

I have made 14 quarts of sauerkraut and still have 4 or 5 heads of cabbage left.  We will use the fresh cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls, coleslaw and just serving steamed with butter as a side dish.  
What ways do you use cabbage? 


Other Canning Recipes

Sauerkraut Balls

Homemade Chicken Stock


Anonymous said...

I always find good information from your blog articles. Thanks for the canning how-to's. This looks easy to do. Amanda Willock

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Amanda: Glad the posts are of some help. I started canning before all the internet information was available and taught myself as my mother did not can. I hope my format: directions and lots of photos, is similar to being taught first hand or at least makes it easier to learn. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Just followed this link from a Facebook post! This looks a lot easier than the old way in a big crock with heavy weights. I'm going to try this. Where did you get the processing times for canning? Thanks, Anna

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

The processing method and times are taken directly out of The Ball Blue Book of Canning, the newest addition. The method for making the sauerkraut is basically the same, just small containers vs a huge crock. And it takes a lot less time for fermenting because each jar is a little batch of it's own sauerkraut. I place my jars on a towel in our bay window in the kitchen for fermenting. And this is a great recipe if you only want to make fresh fermented sauerkraut one jar at a time. It's great for stomach and digestive health.

Anonymous said...

It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that are interesting and trending like the subject of fermenting. Thanks, Leslie Lim

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks for the gracious comment Leslie! Glad you enjoyed it.

Sauerkraut Billy said...

This is so informative! I love all the information about the history of kraut and all the super informative pictures guiding us along the way. Thanks so much for sharing and I can't wait to give this recipe a shot. How long does the kraut last in the fridge?

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

@Sauerkraut Billy, if the sauerkraut is fermented it can last for months in the refrigerator! Make sure the sauerkraut is submerged in the brine solution at all times.