Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


It must be fall because I made sauerkraut.  Well, technically it’s not fermented YET, so let’s say I’ve started the sauerkraut.  Yes, I make sauerkraut.  After all, it’s all part of pickling and you know what I aspire to be.  Besides, I like sauerkraut. And so do my kids.  And so does my wife – wait, check that.  Um, like I said…my kids like it, too.

The recipe comes from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 6, Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled Vegetables.  I know, it’s hard to imagine someone as skeptical of the Federal Government in everything they do as me using this handy little guide as much as I do.  Well, I said I was a skeptic, that just means I DOUBT they do anything right until it’s proven.  And this has been proven to be all right in my book.

Back to the recipe, it’s ridiculously easy with just two ingredients – fresh cabbage and salt.  And, like every recipe with very few ingredients, those ingredients must be the very best.  The cabbage should be picked the day you make it.  So much of sauerkraut requires the cabbage to be as full of water as it can ever be and cabbage dries out very quickly.  And the salt – no table salt!  Iodine is not sauerkraut’s friend.  The recipe recommends using canning salt, which would work great, but I use good old fashioned Kosher salt.  Cheap, easy and in most cooks homes.  Also, because we are fermenting here, cleanliness is not only next to Godliness, it’s sitting on it’s lap!  I use a big glass crock I picked up at Wal Mart and I wash it in hot water and then sanitize it with just a touch of chlorine.  Now, chlorine is perfect for killing any nasty little buggy’s that might contaminate the sauerkraut, but if it’s not washed off completely, it will also kill the nice little buggy’s I want to ferment my cabbage – so wash, wash, wash!  I also clean my Christmas plate (you’ll see) and the outside of the gallon Ziploc I use (you’ll see that, too).  And don’t forget, wash, wash, wash!


  • 15 – 18 lbs. cabbage
  • Salt

I used cabbages I purchased at a local farm stand, each about 10 – 12 pounds.  When I asked when they cut the cabbage, the farmer looked at his watch and said, “Well, about 8:30 this morning.  It’s 10:30 now, so… two hours ago.”  Can’t beat that.  I got out my 10-inch chef’s knife and cut each in half through the stem.  I flipped each over and cut them in half, again through the stem.  I cut out the stem and then thinly sliced them.  After each quarter was sliced, I put about a third of that in the crock and added ½ Tablespoon of salt over it.  In goes another third and another ½ Tablespoon of salt.  The final third and salt again.  Reach in and toss the cabbage to mix the salt throughout.  Then press down with your hands – HARD.  Make fists and press down with your body weight to compress the cabbage as tightly as possible.  Repeat with the other quarters.  When you toss a layer, you don’t need to toss the layers beneath, just the one you’re working on.  After you have cut, salted, tossed and pressed a whole cabbage, you’ll see water coming up from below to start covering the layer you’re pressing down – that’s why you need fresh cabbage.  Keep this up until the pressed cabbage is 4-5 inches from the top of the crock.  By this time, water will be covering the cabbage as you press down by 2-3 inches.

At this point, I add my Christmas plate, which just fits through the top of the crock to hold down the cabbage.  I then fill the gallon Ziploc about 2/3rd full of warm water and 4 tablespoons of salt.  I then fit it into the crock to hold down the plate and add another layer of weight to keep the cabbage under the brine.  The bag has the salt in it just in case it leaks or breaks; if it does, the salinity level won’t be reduced, allowing those nasty buggy’s back in.  Then to my backroom to keep it at about 65-75 degrees for 4 weeks.

In four weeks, if all goes well and it doesn’t funk-a-fy (fingers crossed), I’ll report back and show you the finished product.

Here’s the crock about half full

More cabbage ready to go in


Here’s my last quarter (I used 1½ cabbages) just filling the crock.  The darker cabbage is where the brine line is.


It’s hard to tell here, but I have just pressed the last quarter down and it’s covered with water.


My Christmas bread plate


Here you can see the brine covering the cabbage


In goes the bag.  The angle is bad and it looks like the crock is only half full, but it’s really 2/3’s to 3/4 full with soon to be sauerkraut.


September 27, 2008 - Posted by | Recipe, Side Dish


  1. Scott wants to know if he can come over when the sauerkraut is ready.
    I am looking forward to seeing how this goes for you! And I might be trying your pickle recipe too. You are the Pickle King in my eyes already.

    Comment by Sara | October 1, 2008 | Reply


    Comment by garry | October 24, 2008 | Reply

  3. Garry,

    Very salty is a subjective term. That being said, the sauerkraut I’ve made has been salty, I mean – it has a lot of salt in it! If it’s overly salty, by all means rinse it. If you are canning it – don’t rinse it before you can it.


    Comment by Mike | October 25, 2008 | Reply

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