Have some of your batches of sauerkraut turned out mushy or slimy?
Were some too salty?
Were some covered in mold that forced you to throw out that sauerkraut that you invested so much time and money to make?
These mishaps are usually due to one or more of the following factors:
- Salinity. How much salt was used in the cabbage and vegetable mixture (too much or too little)?
- Temperature. How warm or cold your fermenting environment was (too warm, too cold, too variable)?
- Time. How long you fermented (too short or too long)?
I find salinity to be the most important factor, with the temperature a close second.
I’ve got you covered. Just follow my recipe. It uses not too much salt… not too little salt… but, just the right amount!
Why Do You Need Salt Anyway?
Salt pulls water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create a brine that the cabbage mixture is packed in. This briny environment is where the good bacteria (mainly lactobacillus) can grow and proliferate and the bad bacteria die off.
The success of your lacto-fermented sauerkraut depends on using the proper amount of salt for the quantity of vegetables you’re fermenting. This applies not just to the cabbage but to the other vegetables and seasonings, you add, too. The amount of salt used affects the rate at which fermentation proceeds, and determines the quality of the fermentation environment and types of microorganisms that will grow and thrive there.
Using the right amount of salt is key for many reasons:
- Salt helps pull water out of the cabbage and vegetables to create an environment – a salty brine – for happy fermentation.
- Too little salt is a “Come and live here” invitation to the “nasties” (mold or slime) that you don’t want in your jar.
- Too little salt inhibits or prevents fermentation and tends to create a softer sauerkraut.
- Too much salt is a “Go away” sign for the beneficial bacteria, the lactobacillus that you want living and multiplying in your jar.
- The amount of salt you use determines the rate at which fermentation takes place. Too much salt and the fermentation process slows down and beneficial bacteria do not rapidly multiply. Not enough salt and the fermentation proceeds too rapidly, and the sauerkraut turns out soft.
Although you can use just about any salt – as long as it does not contain iodide or other additives – my favorite is Himalayan Pink Salt, as discussed in What is the Best Salt to Use When Making Fermented Sauerkraut?
The Sweet Spot: A 2% Brine
The best fermentation results are achieved with a 2% brine.
The easiest way to think about this is in grams. For every 100 grams of cabbage, you need 2 grams of salt (100 grams x .02 = 2 grams). You won’t have to do these calculations; my recipes are already set up to achieve this 2% brine ratio. I’m just trying to give you an understanding of where the salt measurements come from and why is the amount is important.
A 2% brine ratio ensures a happy fermentation environment and results in crispy, tangy sauerkraut. You will need a scale to weigh your vegetables, as I discuss here.
1 tablespoon of salt for 1¾ pound (800 grams) of vegetables
To make a quantity of sauerkraut that will fit in a 1-quart (1-litre) jar, you will need 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1¾ pounds (800 grams) of vegetables. These are the quantities I use because this amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart jar – the right size for the beginning fermenter.
How Much Salt?
There are three ways to determine the proper amount of salt: Taste, Volume and Weight. Volume is the method I use and teach on this website.
Determining Salt by:
|Taste||Sprinkle 1–-2 pounds of vegetables with 1 Tbsp salt and taste. It should taste salty, but not offensively so. Add more salt, if necessary.
You can make sauerkraut this way, and I did so for years, but some of your batches may turn out too salty or too soft if you don’t end up with the correct amount of salt.
|Volume||1 Tbsp salt for 1 ¾ pounds of vegetables to make 1 quart of sauerkraut, OR
3 Tbsp salt for 5 pounds of vegetables to make 3 quarts of sauerkraut.This is my favorite way to make small home batches of sauerkraut. If I’m filling a 10- liter crock with 10–-15 pounds of vegetables, I weigh and mix in 5- pound increments.
|Weight||2% salt by weight (using a digital scale set to grams)
16 grams of salt for 800 grams vegetables to make 1 quart of sauerkraut.First, weigh your vegetables in grams and then multiply by .02 (that is, 2%) to get the required amount of salt in grams (for example, 800 grams of vegetables would require 16 grams of salt).If you are measuring large batches of vegetables (that is, more than 5 pounds at a time), you’ll want to invest in a digital scale and also weigh your salt. The size of salt crystals vary, so measuring them with a measuring spoon may not always result in a successful fermentation, especially with commercial sized batches.
|Extra Brine||1 Tbsp salt in 2 cups water.
Use this mixture if you need to add more brine during the first 10 days of the fermentation process.
Grab a scale, weigh out your cabbage, sprinkle with just the right amount of salt and let me know the results. Tangy with just the right crunch?
Want help selecting a scale to buy? See:
Want help choosing what salt to use? See:
Or, want to just follow a recipe with it all figured out for you?