Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut

I started making sauerkraut last summer after reading the book Nourishing Traditions. I read of all the benefits of eating fermented foods and wanted to try this. It was a great learning experience. I had successes but I also had failures. I started reading other books on fermenting foods and started to work to develop a method that worked for me. I just kept trying and eventually had more successes than failures.

I don’t have large crocks to ferment food in; you don’t really need these to have success with fermenting. I tried the quart jars as suggested by Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions and found that sometimes, for some things, they worked great, but for other things they failed miserably for me. After reading more on the subject I tried using 2 quart jars and gallon size glass jars. These have worked great for me. I highly recommend the gallon size jars for making sauerkraut. You can reuse glass jars if you buy items in those big quantities, like I do ~smile~. You can also purchase gallon size glass canning jars.

I read and learned of the benefits of lacto fermented food. Basically fermentation is taking the carbohydrates of those vegetables and turning them into lactic acid. Lactic acid breaks food down making it easier to digest. The resulting product is full of digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Lactic acid stimulates your digestive system to make it function as it should.

In order to make lacto fermented foods you will need some whey. When I started making lacto fermented food I had goats in milk and I was making a lot of feta cheese and cream cheese. This gave me a large supply of whey. If you are not ready to start making cheese in order to get whey, don’t despair there is another option for you. You can buy good quality yogurt and drain this through cheese cloth or an old pillow case (that has been washed and bleached first) to extract the whey. What is left in the bag is yogurt cheese and can be used similarly to cream cheese.

You can achieve the same results without the whey by using salt only. It just takes longer to get the finished product. By using whey, which is lactic acid and only a little salt you have an edible product in about 3 days. The little bit of salt added is for the benefit of preserving the veggies in the first days, until the lactic acid takes over. This prevents decay. Fermented vegetables are not a dead, decayed food. They are very much an alive food that is FULL of beneficial health promoting properties.

I have now had some personal experience to back this up. At the end of 2006 I had a case of giardia. Giardia is a parasite that lives in your intestines. I have no idea how I got this but never the less I did. It was a very painful and difficult experience. I was severely dehydrated and could not keep any food in my system. I went on some very strong antibiotics for 7 days. At the end of this time I had lost 20 pounds (not the diet plan I would recommend!) and the giardia was gone; but the giardia and the antibiotics had basically wiped out my digestive system. I could hardly eat anything; everything I tried to eat went right through me. I was also lactose intolerant and would spend hours in misery after ingesting any type of milk products.

So in desperation I remembered my summer of fermented foods (which ended when my goats dried up and I stopped making cheese). I bought some good quality yogurt at the grocery store (Nancy’ brand) and hung this to drip so I could obtain the whey. I bought cabbages and began making sauerkraut again. After my first batch was made I ate it with gusto (ate my first batch in about a day and a half) and had no digestive problems after eating it. To my complete amazement my digestive system suddenly settled down. Food was no longer going right through me; I could eat foods that I previously had not been able to. I continued to make batch after batch and it became (or has become) a huge part of my daily diet. Within a very short time I was eating milk products again with out problems. I now eat a small amount of sauerkraut with every meal (yes, even breakfast! :).

After this experience I am sold on lacto fermenting of food and have since read that it can help cure everything from arthritis to diabetes to indigestion to arthritis to cancer! It also is supposed to boost metabolism, which is something I am also experiencing as well. I am not sure about all these claims but I do know what it has done for me and how easy it is to make and have as a part of your daily diet.

Sauerkraut is not the only lacto fermented food you can make, but it is the easiest to make and so tasty. I have fermented carrots, salsa, garlic, and ginger ale. I hope to make some fermented ginger (helps with digestion), onions, and more.

I will be sharing the recipe and procedure on how to make sauerkraut with lots of pictures. If you are interested in making sauerkraut you can begin by collect the supplies you will need to do this.

Gather together this list of items:

  • 1- 1 gallon glass jar, with lid
  • 1 zip lock type bag, gallon size
  • Large wooden spoon
  • A potato masher

And purchase some good quality yogurt (Nancy’s or Brown Cow are two good brands that have active live cultures)
A washed an bleached piece of cloth to drain your yogurt

You will need about ½ cup of whey. I find I can easily get this amount of whey from 16 oz. of yogurt.

To get the whey from yogurt you need to use a washed and bleached piece of cotton cloth and some string.  I use an old ugly piece of fabric I cut from an old sheet.  I scoop out the yogurt, tie it and hang it to drip.

After the whey is collected I put it in a jar in the refrigerator until I need to use it.


I want to share with you how to make a simple basic batch of Sauerkraut. If you would like to ferment other foods and read more on this I highly recommend the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. The book is more than worth every penny you will spend on it.

Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut

Supplies Needed:

  • 1- 1 gallon glass jar, with lid
  • 1 zip lock type bag, gallon size
  • Large wooden spoon
  • A potato masher


  • 1 large head of cabbage, fairly heavy and dense or 2 medium heads of cabbage
  • 2 T sea salt
  • ½ cup whey

Optional Ingredients:

  • ~1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • ~1 onion, sliced thinly

Sauerkraut can be made with cabbage only, but I often add the extra veggies to give added taste and color.

Core and slice cabbage into thin shreds. I like this better than grating. I discard a few of the outer leaves of the cabbage. Then I cut it in quarters and core it. I take each quarter and run it through my food processor with a slicing disk. If you don’t have a food processor with a slicing disk, you can do the cutting by hand.

Put cabbage into a large bowl. Add extra veggies if you are using them. Stir them up to mix up the extra veggies.

Sprinkle salt over cabbage.

Sprinkle the whey over the cabbage.

Using a large spoon mix well. Now take the potato masher and begin pounding and mixing and pounding the cabbage. You will notice that soon the volume begins to reduce. I will let my cabbage sit for awhile and then pound and mix again for a few minutes. I take about 30 to 45 minutes to do this, taking breaks as needed.

When this process is done spoon cabbage mixture into one gallon jar. Having a nice wide canning funnel sitting on top of the jar helps this process. Use a wooden spoon to pack and push the cabbage to the bottom of the jar and let any liquid that is there rise to the top.

After all the cabbage has been put in the jar and packed down you can add more water if needed. You need to make sure water is covering the top of the cabbage.

Now take the one gallon size zip lock type bag and put this into the jar, opening the bag up and reaching your hand inside the bag to push it to the edges of the jar. Now fill the bag about half full of water. Using your hand push and make sure the bag is tightly packed around the inside edge of the jar. The water provides the weight to press the cabbage down and keep it down and the bag helps to ensure an oxygen-less environment for the cabbage to ferment.

Fermentation can only take place in the absence of oxygen. So it is important for the bag to seal all the way to the edges and for the water weight to keep the cabbage under the layer of liquid.

Put the lid on the jar and set it on your counter for 3 days.

During those 3 days you will watch your cabbage transform into sauerkraut. Bubbles seen around the glass is normal. After 3 days you can remove the bag and put the sauerkraut into the fridge. It will taste better if left for a few more days.

Temperatures are important too. Fermenting needs to take place between 68 and 72 degrees, officially. I have had success with nighttime temps dropping below 68 in my kitchen and going above 72 during the day if we are doing a lot baking.