Jamie Mäkinen’s Delicious Sauerkraut

Making sauerkraut is a pretty straightforward process; cabbage, salt, container, done. As with most hand made things, the variations are endless.

Don’t worry! It really isn’t difficult and it is actually hard to screw up. I recommend trying it….the end result is delicious and really good for you.

–  Cutting the Cabbage –
I bought a mandolin blade cutter at the Red Cross resale shop and this works the best for me. I have also hand cut my cabbage with a knife and a wooden cutting board, and I have used the food processor with either the shredder attachment or the blade. Whatever works the best for you.

So lets start with the basics:
– You will need –
– a head of cabbage
– 3 tablespoons of salt
– a large glass jar (mine is 3 ltr.)
– cutting implement
– Something to use as a weight


  • Wash and rinse your jar, hands and all the tools that you will use very well.
  • Sprinkle a bit of salt into the bottom of the jar.
    Remove 2 or 3 of the outer cabbage leaves and put them to one side. Keep them as intact as possible.
  • Cut your cabbage into shreds. It’s up to you what size you want. Some folks really appreciate fine shreds, some like uneven size pieces, and there are a lot of people who like the small pieces you get from using the blade in the food processor. You’re the boss! Take a handful of shredded cabbage and place it in the jar. Sprinkle in some more salt. Place another handful of cabbage and sprinkle it with salt. Continue in this way until you have no more cabbage and no more salt.
  • Half way through the process your jar will start to get full, that’s when you start to press it down. Use your clean hands or use a clean wooden utensil (like a wooden meat tenderizer or something your granny had in her utensil drawer that has until now been a mystery), or even a potato masher. You need to press the air out and compress the salt and cabbage so that the salt starts to draw out the liquid from the cabbage.
  • When the jar is full and you have pressed down the cabbage so that some liquid starts to show, you can place a whole cabbage leaf on the surface of the kraut (I cut mine to fit the jar and to get rid of the thick “rib” making the leaf more flexible.) Now you need to weigh it down. I put a plastic lid on top of the cabbage leaf and place a clean, jar that fits into your kraut jar and place it on top to keep the cabbage down. Again, this is one of those tasks that has many solutions.
  • You must try to keep the kraut submerged, you want to prevent air from getting to the cabbage, that is why you weigh it down. A very common practice is to fill a ziplock bag with water and place it on the kraut, it weighs it down and fills the sides of the jar because it’s not rigid and keeps the air off the cabbage. I have done this successfully and I have done this where the ziplock bag is compromised and the water leaks, So for me the weighted lid works best. But hey, I have also used a rock from the garden….hopefully you will continue to experiment.
  • Cover the jar. I cover my jar with a napkin held on with a rubber band, this is to keep out dust and in the warmer months, any wildlife that might happen along. The jar sits on the counter of my kitchen at least 5 days, but usually I like to let it do it’s thing for at least 10 days. Keep the jar away from direct sunlight.
  • Check it along the way. Make sure the fluid is above the kraut. Press down the cabbage which releases the air bubbles, compresses the cabbage and allows the brine to stay above the cabbage. Tending to my sauerkraut ferment is a little like caring for a tamagotchi, except that my sauerkraut has never “died”.

Seeds –
They say (whoever “they ” are) that adding seeds to your sauerkraut helps prevent mold. That it adds flavor and variation is a given. Caraway seed is the most common but I have made some really great batches with mustard seed and coriander seeds, (not together, but who knows?). I just started a batch with dill seed, I suspect it is going to be fantastic, but I’ll know better in a week or so.

– Other Veggies –
It is common to add carrot to your cabbage kraut, and garlic (if you like that kind of thing). There are really as many variations as your imagination can come up with. I am a purist and the wackiest I get with my sauerkraut is combining red and green, and the aforementioned seeds. But go wild, and do leave a comment on your experiences.

Remember-sauerkraut smells like sauerkraut, it is not a bunch of roses. But if it smells nasty, I mean really nasty, you may have to chuck it and start again. Or if it’s slimy, that’s not good. But if there is just some white growth at the top, that’s normal, skim it off.

I’ve never had anything worse than tiny spots of mold show up on bits that are not submerged. Just pick it out and throw it away. Now clearly, if there is a mass of black mold growing in the jar you will have to get rid of the batch.

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