While the  word sauerkraut is associated with Germans, fermented cabbage has a long, global history. The Chinese have been fermenting cabbage for thousands of years. The earliest discovered instructions are from 50 AD, written by Pliny, in ancient Rome.   Genghis Khan carried sauerkraut with him when invading Eastern Europe, perhaps introducing it to Europe. It’s use was widespread throughout Europe in Middle Ages, and was later used on ships to prevent scurvy.

What is Lactic Acid Fermentation?

Lactic Acid bacteria eat sugars that are in the food being fermented. Their waste products are lactic acid and carbon dioxide. The lactic acid makes food easier to digest, and also preserves it. There are 2 main types of lactic acid bacteria, one adapted for plants and the other for milk products. Lactic acid bacteria are commonly found in soil and on plants. When cows eat grass, the bacteria goes into their milk. These bacterial travelers arrive ready to work – unpasteurized milk sours by itself, and vegetables ferment when provided the proper environment.


  1. Don’t wash the cabbage – the bacteria will be rinsed down the drain! Get obvious visible dirt off, compost outer leaves if necessary.
  2. Grate/chop vegetable
  3. Rub salt on inside of crock
  4. Add layers of vegetable, sprinkling salt on top of each layer
  5. Cover with a heavy weight- compressing the vegetables and cutting off air access
  6. The next day, check the crock- if the salt has not drawn out enough water from the vegetables to immerse them, then add enough brine solution to keep all the vegetables completely underwater.
  7. Keep at comfortable room temperature.
  8. Check back in 2 weeks- remove any vegetables that have been in contact with the air, turned brown, or any white yeast (called Kahm) on the top.  The kraut can be left in the crock or put in jars.  Keep it in a cool spot (root cellar, fridge, basement, etc.)

How much salt?

  • Brine Solution: 2 TBSP SALT PER QUART H2o

Don’t limit yourself to cabbage- Korean Kimchi is made with cabbage, carrots, garlic, scallions, ginger, perilla, and other spices.   Cayenne or other spicy peppers add great zing!

This antique cabbage shredder was a great garage sale find.  It was cleaned up and ready for use in no time, and didn’t even need to be resharpened.  New ones can be found at places like Lehmans, or made.

2 thoughts on “Sauerkraut

  1. Pingback: Sauerkraut! « The Radix Ecological Sustainabilty Center

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