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Homemade Sauerkraut (Choucroute)

Learn how to make sauerkraut with this choucroute recipe. Making sauerkraut is simple and the finished cabbage is far better than the packaged kind.
Course Basics, Condiments & Pickles
Cuisine Eastern European, French
Level Intermediate
Main Ingredient Vegetable
Diet Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low Sugar, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Pescatarian, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 16 cups water

Instructions

  1. First, we need to prepare the bottles. Because fermentation releases gasses, it's critical that we put holes to vent the gases, otherwise your bottle will explode and you will have a nasty, stinky mess to clean up. I used a pair of 3 liter PET water bottles. To make vents I just used a hot pin to poke holes in the lids. 

  2. Cut off any part of the bottom of the cabbage that looks like it's been cut before (around the stem). Remove the exterior layer of leaves on the cabbage and rinse the head of cabbage well. On a sterile cutting board, cut the head in half.
  3. Use a French mandoline (the Japanese ones typically shred the cabbage too thin for this purpose) to shred half a head of cabbage into a clean bowl.
  4. To prepare the brine. Add 2 liters of water to the bottle. Add 1/4 C of kosher salt to the bottle, secure the lid then shake to dissolve, making sure you cover the holes in the lid with the palm of your hand.
  5. The hardest part of this whole process is getting the cabbage into the bottle. I used a 4 layer strip of foil that I folded into a funnel to help move this process along. Just pinch some strands of cabbage between your thumb and fingers, then put them in the funnel and force them down into the bottle with your fingers. As long as you're putting them in lengthwise, you should be able to get quite a bit into the bottle in each batch. Repeat until the cabbage is gone.
  6. Now do this again with the other half of cabbage and the other bottle. The bottles should be more or less filled, but you may want to make some additional brine using the same water/salt ratio if they are not coming close to the top. You want to leave about 1" of air at the top, since the contents will bubble during fermentation, and you don't want it to overflow.
  7. Secure the lid then shake to make sure the cabbage is evenly distributed. Loosely tent some plastic wrap over the lid to prevent dust from getting into the holes.
  8. Put the bottles in a cool (under 70 degrees F) dark place for about 1 month. Shaking the bottles every day or two to redistribute. Start tasting the sauerkraut after 2 weeks and keep fermenting until you are happy with the flavour. A foul sulfur-like smell is normal, but should dissipate after a few days. _The sauerkraut should never get mushy, slimy or moldy and needs to be thrown out if any of this happens.
  9. When the sauerkraut is ready, use a knife to cut the top off the bottles, drain the sauerkraut and rinse lightly. To store for a longer period of time, drain the sauerkraut, reserving the liquid. Then boil the liquid. Pour it back over the sauerkraut and keep it in the fridge.