Rich holiday cooking is over for a while, time to get back to everyday cooking. Late fall and early winter are the traditional times for putting some foods into storage including some vegetables.

For those who like sauerkraut, a little patience and a few dollars — possibly less than $5 depending on the price of cabbage — can produce months-worth of sauerkraut. All that is needed is space like a storeroom or garage, away from living areas, because the fermenting cabbage can be aromatic.

No special equipment is needed - only a cutting board, sharp knife and container are necessary.

These steps are drawn from detailed instructions by Mary E. Mennes - professor, Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and food management specialist, UW-Extension. Mennes’ edition further notes drawing on a manuscript by Charlotte M. Dunn, emeritus professor of Food Science, UW-Madison, and former food and nutrition specialist, UW-Extension.

Those instructions, produced by Cooperative Extension Publications, UW-Extension, can be found online at; or, if in the vicinity of the Lonoke County Agriculture Center, 2001 U.S. Highway 70, Lonoke, an instruction pamphlet is available through the University of Arkansas Extension office.

Sauerkraut is naturally fermented cabbage, and fermentation is one of the oldest means of food preservation.

Salt draws water out of the shredded cabbage, forming the sauerkraut juice. Naturally occurring yeasts on the cabbage act on the sugar in the juice, creating between 1.5 and 2 percent acid, chiefly lactic acid. The acid give sauerkraut its tartness, and reduces spoilage.

Sauerkraut is low-calorie — only 42 calories per cup — and a good source of vitamin C (30 mg. per cup). However, because of the salt, it is high-sodium with about 1.5 grams (1,500 mg.) sodium per cup. Anyone on a reduced-sodium diet might not be able to add sauerkraut to their menu.

The sodium content and tartness can be reduced by rinsing sauerkraut in cold water before using.

For large quantities, sauerkraut cutters are available at some hardware stores, on-line, or through garden catalogs. Sometimes used cutters can sometimes be found at auctions, flea markets and consignment stores.

Old-fashioned earthenware crocks, ranging from two to 20 gallons are the traditional container, and can be purchased new at some feed stores and specialty shops but are quite expensive.

Fortunately, food-grade plastic containers make excellent containers and can purchased at low cost. Dairy processing plants, bakeries and restaurants often use ingredients shipped in 5-gallon plastic pails and could be a source. Sometimes food-grade plastic containers of various sizes can be found at home-supply stores such as Lowes or Home Depot.

A five-gallon container will hold about 25 pounds of prepared cabbage; but for smaller batches, I have successfully used two-quart pitchers, available at most stores, for four-pound batches.

1. Remove defective and coarse outer leaves from the cabbage. This will also get rid of any residual insecticide spray or dust. Cut away any spoiled or damaged spots. Rinse heads lightly in cold water to remove dust or visible dirt particles; drain.

2. Cut heads into halves or quarters and remove the core. Slice or shred the cabbage so that the shred is as long and thin as possible. If you use a food processor, you may not get this characteristically desirable shred, but it will not affect the fermentation.

3. Weigh the cabbage. For every 5 pounds of cabbage, sprinkle with 3 tablespoons pure canning or pickling salt. One note here - do not use iodized salt. The iodine inhibits fermentation.

Mix the salted cabbage well to distribute the salt uniformly; allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes to wilt slightly and begin to draw out juices.

Then pack the cabbage into a crock or other suitable container in layers, pressing each layer firmly to force out all the air. Press or tamp down until the cabbage is covered by the juice.

4. Repeat this layer by layer, until the container is filled to four or five inches from the top, for larger containers - I fill two-quart pitchers to about two inches from the top. It is important that the cabbage is completely covered by the juice.

5. Use gallon-size food storage bags filled with salty water to cover the cabbage; it is important to exclude all air. The water should be mixed at 6 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water. A water-filled plastic bag is one of the easiest and best ways to both cover and weight down the cabbage. Be sure to use a heavy-duty, watertight clear – not colored - plastic bag intended for food use. Clear freezer bags sold for packaging turkeys are suitable for use on 5-gallon containers.

6. Place the container of cabbage in a well-ventilated place with a relatively constant temperature. If kept at room temperature (68 to 72 degrees F), the sauerkraut should be ready in 3 to 4 weeks. At higher temperatures, fermentation will be faster and the sauerkraut will be ready sooner; lower temperatures slow the process and might not be complete below 60 degrees F.

7. Check the container daily. Filmy yeasts or molds may form on the liquid’s surface. If so, skim them off. If any discoloration appears within the top inch of kraut, remove it. If you are using a cloth covering, rinse or replace it each time you remove scum or spoiled cabbage.

While there are four alternatives for storing sauerkraut after fermentation is complete, canning and freezing are preferable for maintaining high quality: pack sauerkraut and juice in rigid plastic moisture- or vapor-proof freezer containers, in glass freezer jars (leave 1 – 1/2 inches headspace), or in heavy, tightly sealed plastic freezer bags. Freeze.

Or, heat well-fermented sauerkraut and liquid to 185 to 200 degrees F. Do not boil. Pack hot sauerkraut into clean, hot canning jars to within 1/2-inch of the top of the jar. Cover with hot juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. If there is not enough sauerkraut juice to cover all the kraut in the jars, use a boiling-hot, weak brine – 2 tablespoons salt for each quart of water.

Pretreat lids according to manufacturer’s instructions and then place on jars.

Process in a boiling water canner (212 degrees F) 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Start to count processing time as soon as the hot jars are placed in actively boiling water.

The kraut may also be placed in tightly closed jars or sealed freezer bags and stored in the refrigerator for as long as several months.

Sauerkraut could also be stored in a cool basement, garage or other storage area, in a crock indefinitely as long as the top surface is covered, exposure to air causes spoilage. No refrigeration is required, but after removing portions, cover and weight down. A small amount of spoilage may appear after each opening, but it can be removed the next time the crock is opened.

Some darkening may occur during storage of canned kraut. This probably is not a safety concern, since it is likely caused by a chemical change that occurs naturally over time. However, if you have any doubts about the safety of your kraut, throw it out.


Some recipes from various Extension Services to use sauerkraut:

Sauerkraut Salad I

2 cups sauerkraut, drained

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green pepper, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Combine vegetables with oil and seasonings. Cover and chill overnight. Approximately eight 1/2-cup servings.

Per serving: calories, 202; fat, 14 g; cholesterol, 0; vitamin C, 30 percent of Daily Value - 59 percent of the calories and 99 percent of the fat come from the oil; 29 percent of the calories come from the sugar. If you drain the salad before serving or use a slotted serving spoon, you will decrease the amount of oil and dissolved sugar in the salad.

82 percent of the calories and 98 percent of the fat come from the oil. If you drain the salad or use a slotted serving spoon you will remove some of the oil.


Sauerkraut Salad II

2/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

2 – 3 cups sauerkraut, drained

1 green pepper, chopped

1 2-ounce jar pimento, chopped

1 cup celery, diced

1 large onion, sliced in rings

Blend the first four ingredients well and mix with sauerkraut. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix. Refrigerate overnight in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Stores 2 to 3 weeks. Approximately 10 ?-cup servings.

Per serving: calories, 117; fat, 11 g, cholesterol, 0; vitamin C, 33 percent of Daily Value.

82 percent of the calories and 98 percent of the fat come from the oil. If you drain the salad or use a slotted serving spoon you will remove some of the oil.


Baked Sauerkraut

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup onion, sliced

4 cups sauerkraut, drained

1 apple, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon caraway seed

Melt butter in large skillet; saute onions; add sauerkraut and apple; add caraway seed. Barely cover with water and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. Approximately eight 1/2-cup servings.

Per serving: calories, 59; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 4 mg; dietary fiber, 3.3 g, 13 percent of Daily Value; vitamin C, 30 percent of Daily Value.

44 percent of the calories and 93 percent of the fat come from the butter.


German Chowder

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup sauerkraut

1/2 cup onion

1 cup cooked corned beef

1/4 cup green pepper

1 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup celery

1/4 cup butter

3 tbs. flour

2 cups half-n-half

Put chicken broth, onion, celery and green peppers in a pan and cook for 10-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In another pan melt butter and mix in flour and add half-n-half until creamy. Add hot broth mixture, sauerkraut, corned beef and grated cheese. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Donna Crosiar, Oregon State University Extension Service Family Food Education Volunteer


Sauerkraut Potato Soup

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp. sugar

3 slices bacon, diced

salt to taste

4 large potatoes, diced

2 cups dairy sour cream

2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and chopped

1 tbs. flour

1/2 t. caraway seeds

Sauté onion and bacon and drain fat. Add potatoes and 3-cups water. Bring to boil and simmer until tender. Add sauerkraut, caraway seeds, sugar, and salt. Boil for 15 minutes. Mix sour cream and flour together. Fold sour cream and flour mixture into soup and simmer until thickened. (Do not boil.)

Oregon State University Extension Service Family Food Education