Easy Canning Jar Sauerkraut

Easy-Canning-Jar-Sauerkraut-Day-14.jpgBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

This has been the best year for gardening in a long (long) time.  The heat and drought of the last four all but strangled either my desire to garden or the garden itself.  Good thing gardening is in my DNA – I couldn’t leave it if I wanted to.  And this year, Dean and I were doubly rewarded for our efforts to take a slab of hard red clay and rock and turn it into a garden.  To celebrate the most beautiful cabbage we have grown in 20 years of gardening, I decided to make a little homemade sauerkraut.

I should point out that while we’ve had a good year cabbage-wise, I don’t want to turn all my cabbage into kraut.  I simply want a few jars to enjoy in the heart of winter.

Most recipes for sauerkraut are tailored for fermenting large quantities of cabbage in large ceramic crocks prior to packing into jars for canning.  The problem with those recipes is:  a) I don’t have an appropriate fermenting vessel that large and b) I never have enough cabbage to make more than a few jars of kraut at a time.

No matter how you approach it,  it takes a lot of cabbage to make sauerkraut.  This is because as the cabbage ferments, it shrinks dramatically.  Each quart jar will require approximately 2 lbs. of cabbage.  That’s equal to 2 medium-sized heads, or 8-10 cups of shredded cabbage.

CabbageFor each jar (or for every 8-10 cups shredded cabbage) you will also need 1 tbs. of pure canning, pickling, or kosher salt.  Never use table salt.

Clean, quarter and core your cabbage.  Using a sharp knife, shred the wedges into 1/4” pieces.  Food processor and mandolins make short work of this task.

Roughly measure out 8-10 cups of cabbage into a large glass, plastic, or stainless steel bowl or pot (do not use aluminum or copper).   Over that, sprinkle 1 tbs. salt.  Repeat each layer until all your cabbage has been salted. If you need to use several smaller bowls, that’s fine. Just use the same measurements.

Hint: I have used my giant stainless steel soup pot and the ceramic crock out of my crock pot for this and both work great!

With your hands, toss and turn the cabbage in the bowl to distribute the salt throughout, about two minutes.  Lightly rub the cabbage until the juices begin to flow.  When one-quarter of the bowl contains juice, press the cabbage down into the juice and let it rest for 30 minutes or so.  During this time the cabbage is already shrinking and putting off lots of juices.  Don’t wait until you have a bowl full of juice to start packing your jars.

When you are ready to begin, sterilize your jars, lids, and rings and prepare a workspace for packing the jars.  Always use two-part canning jar lids and rings.  As the kraut ferments, these lids allow the release of pressure building in the jars during the fermentation process.  If you use a one part lid, the jar might explode.

Canning-Jar Sauerkraut Day 1Using a canning funnel and a large wooden or plastic spoon, begin packing the jars a little at a time.  Using your fingers or the spoon, pack the cabbage down into the jar as tight as you can get it.  Fill to within 1/4” of the rim, making sure that the jar fills with enough liquid to just cover the cabbage at the mouth of the jar.

If for some reason you don’t have enough natural juices from the cabbage to fill the jars properly, you can – in a pinch – make a salty brine by dissolving 2 tsp. of salt in 1 cup of just-boiled water.  Let it cool before adding to the jars.

Once the jars are full of salty, juicy cabbage, put on the sterilized lid and ring.  Finger-tighten the ring until you feel it begin to grip the threads of the jar and then stop.  Rinse the sides of the jar with clean water and place them in a shallow baking pan or something similar.  The pan will catch the excess juices that will eventually seep out of the jars.

Store the jars in a place that is warm and dark, yet easy to access.  Avoid overly cold areas like basements, as kraut needs temperatures of at least 65-70 to ferment.  I put mine in the pantry or in the big cabinet under the sink.  The Montana State Extension suggests these fermenting guidelines:

Store at 70 to 75˚F while fermenting. At temperatures between 70 and 75˚F, kraut will be fully fermented in about three to four weeks; at 60 to 65˚F, fermentation may take five to six weeks. At temperatures lower than 60˚F, kraut may not ferment.
Above 75˚F, kraut may become soft.

Easy Canning-Jar Sauerkraut Day 5To remind me to check on my kraut, I mark the number of fermenting days on the calendar in big black marker: Day 1  Day 3, Day 5, Day 7, Day 14, Day 21.  On each of those days I check the jars and clean things up as needed.

During the first week,  the kraut will shrink, bubble, and create of lots juice.  If you are uncertain about the progress of your kraut, tip the jar slightly to one side.  If fermentation has begun, you will see bubbles rising to the top of the jar, hear the sound of escaping gasses, or see liquid coming out from under the lids.  All of these signs indicate that fermentation is under way and that the lids are venting properly.

If you don’t see these signs within the first few days, ever so slowly loosen the ring on each jar.  Stop the minute you hear gas or see liquid escaping.  Always keep in mind that the contents of the jars could be under intense pressure.

After the first two weeks, fermentation should slow considerably.  Keep checking on your kraut and rinse out or replace the pans as needed.  If the liquid in a jar falls below the level of the kraut, top of with the brine solution mentioned earlier.

Easy Canning Jar Sauerkraut - Finished ProductAfter three to four weeks, your kraut should be done.  You’ll know it is when the cabbage has become almost translucent and the bubbling and seeping stop entirely.  Before storing, thoroughly wash the outside of the jar and replace the ring with a clean one.

At this time you can store the jars in the refrigerator from one to many months or can the kraut in a water bath canner for 25 minutes at 0 – 1,000 feet.

And that’s it!  Easy Canning Jar Sauerkraut.  Try it and let me know how it turns out for you!

© 2013 Jill Henderson

The Garden Seed Saving Guide by Jill Henderson
The Garden Seed Saving Guide

Whether you’re a weekend gardener, homesteader, or serious survivalist, saving seeds is a money saving skill that every green-thumb should to have. An excellent resource for beginners and experienced gardeners alike, The Garden Seed Saving Guide takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving seeds. If you want to save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid genetically modified food crops, The Garden Seed Saving Guide is for you.  Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.

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27 responses to “Easy Canning Jar Sauerkraut

  1. After tasting my latest batch, I decided that the kraut was a little too salty – not bad, just a little too much for my taste buds. So, I have changed the recipe posted here from 4 teaspoons per jar (or per 8-10 cups shredded cabbage) to 1 tablespoon, which is 3 teaspoons. You could probably use even less, but keep in mind that the salt also acts as a preservative.

  2. Hi Jill. Can’t wait to try sauerkraut recipe. I live in southeast Mo. and am looking to buy some bamboo to plant outside. Any suggestions on the nearest place to buy it? Sunny hill and plants plus do not have it. Thanks Billi

  3. If the lid came off of one of the jars during the fermenting process, is it ruined? My 3 year old just had to peek when I wasn’t watching 🙂

    • Hi Emily. I don’t think that having the lid come off would be a terrible thing unless it was off for a long time. That would let unwanted bacteria into the fermentation vessel and it could ruin your kraut and possibly make you sick. If the lid has been off a while but the kraut is actively fermenting, I would clean the rim, put a brand new lid and ring on the jar, and continue fermenting. Then if you want to be extra safe, you could water bath can the kraut when it’s done. Hope that helps!

  4. I had homemade sauerkraut once, when I was a young man. Now I’m a senior, my wife has passed on, and I’m getting senile. :o)> I’ve never forgotten the taste of the REAL deal. As I type this, I’ve actually got a batch under way sitting at one end of the kitchen counter; it’s about two weeks in, therefor not yet ready. I can feel my mouth watering just thinking about it. I’m not at all worried about the kraut turning out, just about canning the result. I’m thinking about investing in a pressure canner. Am also looking into a fermenting crock. (big money there!) To land a proper, high quality, water seal type crock on my doorstep, allowing for purchase, shipping, customs duty, and currency conversion (I’m in Canada) will cost me $400 to $600 for a 5 gallon size. Expensive kraut no? However, I’m an old guy that needs something to do, so, what the heck!

    • Hi Dan. Sounds like you’ve got a new summer pass time making sauerkraut! And I’ll bet it turns out great! I have never used one of those fancy fermenting crocks, either. I’ve heard from other readers who use the stoneware from their crockpot/slow cookers for fermenting! Their not huge, but I bet you can pick up old crockpots for next to nothing at the thrift store! Hmmmm, maybe I should check that out…

  5. Jill, Thanks for the help with sauerkraut. I had canned it years ago using the “in jar” method; moved; moved again and couldn’t find my recipe. This works and is wonderful We made over 20 qts last year and they are all gone. This year our cabbages are really bountiful and we expect to double the amount of kraut for our pantry. Can’t wait for winter hibernation and our kraut to be ready.

    • Hi Mari, I’m so glad this recipe has worked so well for you! It’s wonderfully easy and makes some of the best kraut we’ve ever had. Sounds like you’ll have plenty to enjoy all winter long! Cheers! 🙂

  6. Hm… if one really should ferment too long or too little, it’s always possible to save the kraut with some recipe (e.g. http://leckerbiss.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/so-what-to-do-with-the-rest-of-the-sauerkraut-a-simplified-maccheroni-recipe/). In any case, thanks for explaining how to do it in an ordinary kitchen… It’s a good start to try out even more recipes 😉

  7. I’ve made kraut with a similar method for years, but even easier. I finely shred the cabbage and pack it as tightly as I can in a quart jar with about an inch or so space at the top. I used to use 1 teaspoon of salt per jar, sprinkled on top but the last few years I’ve used 1/2 t. salt sprinkled on top of the cabbage. Then I fill the jar with boiling water, leaving about 1/2 in at the top and seal the jars with lids and rings. Jars and lids are sterilized before using. Then I put it in a warm place for about a month. I notice some jars leak and some don’t appear to have done so. I don’t eat it straight out of the jar, but boil it before serving. (I can still hear my mother telling me to do so when I demonstrated my method to her when I first started making kraut this way.) I probably don’t end up with as much sauerkraut in the jar as you do with your method, Jill, but it’s sufficient for a meal for my family.

    • I’m not sure the folks over at the Ball canning kitchen would approve of either of our methods, Carol! lol My only concern about sealing the jars completely the way you do is the pressure from the fermentation could break the jar. Apparently, you’ve never had that problem and you’re still kickin! lol In the same vein, I once had several gallon heavy glass jugs of wine explode because they hadn’t completely stopped fermenting (I didn’t have an air lock and was just using my “judgement” and observation). Boy, was that a mess! The house smelled like a bar for a month and we lost two gallons of huckleberry pear wine!

  8. I’ve never had a jar break–I don’t think the seal is strong enough. I made kraut last night and I could hear all the lids clicking, indicating that they were sealed. By pushing on the lids today I can tell two of them are no longer completely sealed. Yes, I don’t think Ball or the local Cooperative Extension Service would approve of our methods, but it’s always worked for me and I do heat the kraut to boiling before eating, just in case.

  9. You’re right about that! LOL I’m definitely not an expert on canning, but my mother-in-law has been canning green beans in her water bath canner her entire adult life without a single incident. She keeps them going for three hours before letting them seal, but they are always super yummy! 🙂 If your kraut is fully fermented, it shouldn’t spoil, but boiling for 10 minutes is a good idea – just to be on the safe side! 🙂 Enjoy!

  10. I don’t have the two piece lids and was reading elsewhere that the top is just covered with a large leaf of cabbage to keep it submerged and then a cloth secured with an elastic over the top. What do you think? Any concerns? I’ve fermented kefir amd kombucha in this way.

    • Hi Gett. Though I’ve never tried fermenting sauerkraut using the method you describe, I’m guessing it would work OK. However, I would be concerned that the covering cabbage leaf would rot or develop mold. If this happened, your kraut would be ruined and your health put at risk. The concept behind the two part lid is to allow gases and excess liquids to escape the fermentation vessel while restricting the entry of molds and bacteria to the vessel. A box of 12 canning lids and rings cost around $4.00. The rings will last for a long time before replacement. The lids can be used only once for canning purposes, but for fermenting, can be used many times over. A good investment for future fermentation needs. If you decide to try the cabbage leaf method, please let us know how it turns out! Best of luck!

    • I use lids now but haven’t always. I used to put the kraut in the jars then covered it, just under the shoulder of the jar with clean pieces of cloth. I then broke wood coffee stirrers to fit under the shoulder and over the cloth. This kept the kraut submerged. I wiped off any foam and removed the wooden stirrers to wipe them clean every other day and exchanged the cloth for a clean piece. This worked for many years. It demands a little more time; that is why I use the lids now ( and wash/reuse them just for the fermenting process)

  11. Thanks for sharing your method, Mari. It might just be the answer Gett was looking for. I began using the canning jar method because it is so simple and doesn’t require as much time and effort as many of the others and I am glad to know it has worked for you as well! Cheers!

  12. I made sauerkraut last fall and processed them in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. I have noticed that some of the sauerkraut has turned dark. The seals seem to be ok. Any suggestions? Is it still ok to eat?

    • Hi, Bernice. Thanks for the question. I’m sorry to hear your kraut is browning. This could be caused by a number of factors, including the temperature at which the kraut was fermented, excessive heat or sunlight during storage, and so on.

      But my first question would be “Just how brown is it?”

      If it were me and the kraut was just slightly darker than when it was first canned, (and not brown-brown) and the lids were definitely sealed – I would be comfortable eating it after it had been brought to a boil.

      If it is very brown and has just recently changed color and the other jars canned at the same time are not the same color, I would suggest the seal is broken and air has entered the jar. If this is the case, the kraut is not safe to eat and should be discarded.

      Also, I would open at least one of the jars and listen for the deep sucking sound that a solidly sealed jar makes when opened. There are other signs that can help determine if a canning jar is sealed. To learn more about those, I suggest that you contact your nearest Extension Service.

      Please keep in mind that the clostridium bacteria that causes botulism does not necessarily produce an unpleasant smell in the canned food and so the absence of a rancid smell does not indicate that the food is safe to eat.

      For those who don’t know how to test the seal on a canning jar, start by tapping the center of the lid with a metal spoon. If it is sealed, it will have a ‘ring’ to it, unlike a lid that is not sealed, which will make a dull ‘thudding’ sound when tapped.

      You are welcome to send some pictures of the kraut to share with others and let us know how it turns out.

  13. Thank you for sharing your recipe! The pictures do a great job at explaining every step of the recipe – I can’t wait to try this at home!

  14. Annabelle adkins

    Can I use used lids for canning kraut

    • Hi, Annabelle. You should always use brand new lids when canning in a water bath or pressure canner. If you just plan on keeping your kraut in the fridge for a few months without preserving them in a water bath canner, then yes, you could use sterilized used canning lids for that.

  15. Best kraut I’ve ever tasted!
    Hubby and I made a single batch a couple of months ago…it wasn’t nearly enough, as its almost gone already 🙂
    Tonight we made 14 quarts, taking us halfway through what’s left of our garden cabbage. We plan to do about the same amount tomorrow…good stuff!!
    Thanks so much!

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