What’s the Salt Ratio for making Sauerkraut?

We’ve been fermenting a lot over the last month or so.  It’s something that happens a lot in winter – fermenting is an ideal preservation method for hardy vegetables (like carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, turnip, rutabaga and other root vegetables) and it adds a lot of variety to our meals.  Our fermenting has included a lot of fermentation and we’ve played with the ratio of salt to cabbage when making sauerkraut.

Whats the Salt Ratio for making Sauerkraut? February Cabbage

Sauerkraut is exceptionally easy to make: add salt to chopped (or grated cabbage), squeeze the cabbage and cover with a weight.  Here’s a few articles that will help you get up to speed if you haven’t made it before:

Whats the Salt Ratio for making Sauerkraut? February Cabbage

Now that we have the basics covered, a few basics of salting cabbage for kraut:

  • Salt helps pull liquid from the cabbage.
  • You can ferment cabbage without salt but it tends to be less sour and it’s shelf-life will be reduced.
  • Too much salt will prohibit fermentation altogether.
  • The more salt you have, the slower the ferment will take.  The opposite is, of course, true as well.
  • Many people don’t measure their salt and just taste it as a guideline.  I recommend measuring so that your results are somewhat repeatable.
  • Although you can use just about any salt, I really have a soft spot for the grey sea salt (‘sel gris’) when I ferment.
  • In the first few days of the ferment, your product may taste overly salted.  This will mellow as the ferment continues and more liquid is created in your fermenting vessel.
  • Many people learning to ferment add too much salt and inhibit or prevent fermentation.  Too much will stop fermentation – too little will not cause harm.

Many sources recommend 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of vegetables.  I like to think of this as 2 teaspoons per pound as many of my ferments are smaller than 5 pounds and it’s easier to scale that way.  From my experience, more than this is not required and can simply slow or stop the process.

In the last few weeks we made two sauerkrauts – one with the ratio above and a second using 2 tablespoons per 5 pounds of kraut.  Here’s what we found:

  • Timing: the version with less salt fermented faster than the one with more (about twice as fast even though had 66% of the salt content)
  • Mould: the version with less salt started growing mould on the surface of the brine on day 2 and had to be skimmed daily compared to the other.
  • Texture: the less-salty version was slightly softer (and parts of it even limp) compared to its mate.
  • Taste: While both tasted different, both were quite tasty.

In the future I’ll play some more but, for now, I’d use 2.5-3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of cabbage.  If you ferment, what ratio do you use?

Comments

  1. Perfect timing! We had pierogi tonight and when the husband asked where the ‘kraut was and I confessed it was all gone, well, there was sadness. To the market tomorrow to start another batch! I’ve only made it once, so I def. needed the refresher course.

  2. Christopher says:

    I made a recent batch and I was worried I put too much salt since.. well during the fermentation process it seemed to have created air pockets from what it looked like around the jar. Ie, there was no juice around some of the cabbage. I thought this was no good, and due to my having added too much salt such that it kept absorbing water.

    • Hi Christopher,

      Keep doing what you are doing – the more you practice, the more comfortable you will get. Salt will draw liquid out, not absorb the water. Some pockets of air will be natural is the ferment produces bubbles and they get trapped. Just give it a stir/ mix every day or so to release them. :)

  3. Thanks so much for this info! I just bought a case of cabbage (45 pounds), since it was on sale for St. Patrick’s day (wasn’t he the patron saint of sauerkraut??), and couldn’t find the post-it with the magic ratio. I like doing my kraut by weight (so much variation with “one head of cabbage”).

    I’m 30# in, and it is juicing like a charm. I’ll finish the chopping/mixing/packing tomorrow, since the kids keep complaining about the sound of the food processor. I add a shredded carrot and finely sliced onion to mine for a little extra flavor and color.

    Thanks again!!

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