How does one know how much salt to add when making sauerkraut?
Is there a handy tool to use (that you might already have in your kitchen) to determine how much salt to add to your sauerkraut for a perfect ferment… every time?
Can you use your taste buds?
For many years, I made sauerkraut adding salt by taste and estimation. I always taught my workshop participants to do likewise. “Taste a pinch. It should taste salty but not offensively so.”
Problem is, there is a wide range in taste buds. What tastes salty to one person may not to the next.
Using this “by taste” method, I had some jars of sauerkraut with mold on the top, some jars go slimy, some turn brown and others end up tasting way too salty. I got tired of putting in all the work to make sauerkraut only to end up with something I didn’t want to eat. Too many jars of sauerkraut were being fed to the worms living in my compost pile.
Then, I started noticing other bloggers recommending a 2% brine and tracked down one source showing how the amount of salt used does impact the fermentation process. I was convinced and went in search of a scale.
How much salt do you add to the sauerkraut you’re making?
The short of it?
Use 2% dry salt by weight for the amount of cabbage and vegetables you’re mixing.
See How Much Salt Do I Use to Make Sauerkraut? for all the nitty-gritty details.
And, don’t worry. I’ve done the calculations for you in all my sauerkraut recipes are set up for a 2% brine ratio.
I Bought a Scale
did my life suddenly get so much simpler!
When I finally decided to buy a scale – on the used circuit for $20! – and weigh my cabbage and vegetables, I could calculate exactly how much salt to use to achieve the recommended 2% salt to cabbage ratio.
I had so much wanted to keep my control side out of the process and just estimate how much salt I needed to add as many others teach. However, that process was leading to frustration, moldy sauerkraut and wasted ferments.
To my delight, I soon found out I was no longer emptying jars of sauerkraut into the compost pile. I had 100% success rate. Workshop participants were all achieving the same results.
The difference a simple tool can make!
If you haven’t yet purchased a scale, now’s the time to do it. The success of your sauerkraut depends upon using the correct amount of salt for the cabbage and vegetables you have sliced.
See my Resources – Tools of the Trade page for the latest on recommended brands.
Two Types of Scales: Mechanical and Digital
I have an old-fashioned mechanical scale that I found on the used circuit for $20. It’s not as accurate as a digital but it gets the job done. And, the best part? No batteries required.
These are the mechanical scales I’ve used:
Weston Flat Top Dial Scale, 44 Pound
This scale costs more than my favorite digital scale. From the description, I thought I was getting the best thing money could buy. How wrong I was.
The top wobbles giving me visions of my bowl of sauerkraut crashing to the floor.
You get different readings depending upon how close to the center of the weighing platform you place your bowl.
The dial – though protected by a plastic shield – is thin paper with a cheap “Weston” sticker placed over the previous company name.
I used to shun digital scales, until I owned one… a good one. Now, I’m converted.
Some things to look for when selecting a scale:
- Can you read the display when a large bowl is sitting on the scale?
- Can the scale weigh at least 11 pounds (This is enough to make a bowl full of 5 pounds of sauerkraut, necessary when making larger batches or filling a large crock)?
- Can you program it to not automatically shut off?
These are the digital scales I’ve used:
Ozeri Pronto Digital Scale
The Ozeri Pronto Digital scale, and others like it, is affordable, but… it makes a light humming noise and automatically shuts off after a minute or two, erasing any tare amount – explained below – that you were expecting to make use of.
The first time I used my digital scale, I put my bowl on the scale, hit the tare button to set the display to “0” grams and then as I was slicing cabbage, it turned off. When I turned it back on, it no longer knew the weight of my bowl and I was forced to dump the contents and start the weighing process over.
If using a digital scale with an auto-off feature, make sure you write down the weight of your bowl and add the required cabbage and vegetables weight to that number.
I recently purchased the My-Weigh KD-8000 scale and I LOVE IT! It cost close to $40 from Amazon but the added quality and accuracy was worth the extra money. It’s compact, making for easy storage. Best thing? You can program it so that it does not automatically shut off!!!
Rarely a day goes by that someone in our house is not using this scale. My knitting, my son’s science experiments and.. making sauerkraut all happen more smoothly with my number one fermentation tool.
What is Tare Weight?
When making SureFire Sauerkraut, you put your bowl on the scale and add cabbage to it until you have a specified weight. We don’t want to include the bowl in our calculations, so you need to know its Tare weight. Tare is the weight of the empty bowl.
How to Use a Scale for Perfect Sauerkraut… Every Time
Set up Your Scale and “Zero-Out” or Note the Tare
If your bowl won’t safely sit on the top of your scale, place a cutting board or some other flat device on top. Then, place your bowl on the scale. If you can “zero-out” your scale, do so now. Most digital scales have a button for this. If not, write down the weight showing.
On my mechanical scale, I didn’t want to have to turn the “calibrate” knob (It is small and difficult to turn back and forth.) when I wasn’t using it for sauerkraut, so I just note the Tare weight.
For my digital scale that automatically shuts off, I keep a piece of tape on it with the weight of the bowl I use for sauerkraut noted.
For my digital scale that does not automatically shut off, I put the bowl on the scale and push the Tare button. The scale zeros out.
With a digital scale, play around with whether you want to work in pounds, ounces or grams. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the ease of working in grams. Especially when making 5-pound batches to fill my water-sealed fermentation crock.
Add Your Vegetables and Cabbage
Prep your vegetables – grated carrots, minced garlic, and so on – and add them to the bowl on the scale. Now, add your sliced cabbage to the bowl until the actual weight of your flavoring vegetables and cabbage is 1 3/4 pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams).
This is the proper amount to which one tablespoon of salt is added and the 2% brine is created to ensure proper fermentation.
How Much Salt?
1 tablespoon salt – 1 ¾ pounds (28 ounces, 800 grams) cabbage and flavoring vegetables
3 tablespoons salt – 5 pounds (2.4 kilograms, 2400 grams) cabbage and flavoring vegetables
Now you’re ready to ferment with confidence. Say good-bye to slimy, mold sauerkraut? Set up your scale and try one of my flavorful recipes at:
Or, if you have never made sauerkraut first follow: