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How to Tell if Your Sauerkraut is Finished

December 18th, 2009

I blogged over at Not Dabbling yesterday about how to tell if that sauerkraut you started a while ago is finished. There were a few questions from readers about how to know. I thought perhaps some of you would have the same question, so I figured I’d share the information here as well.
not_dabbling_blog
After 2-4 weeks, depending on the temp, you should notice that your kraut is no longer bubbling, or is bubbling much less than it was. I usually notice that the brine starts going down instead of spilling over after 3-4 weeks. The warmer it is, the quicker your sauerkraut will finish fermenting (at 70-80 it will take 2-3 weeks at 60 it will take 4-6 weeks). Mine was finished a week or two ago, and I started mine on October 28, it took about 4 weeks to finish fermenting. You will also notice that your sauerkraut become kind of clear, or loses it’s whiteness.
finished_sauekraut
Another way to decide if your sauerkraut is finished is by smell. If you don’t have a good sense of what sauerkraut smells like, buy some and smell it. Warm it a bit on the stove and the smell will become more pronounced. It smells pleasantly sour almost vinegary. You don’t want it to smell “off” or moldy.
mold_on_sauerkraut
Don’t be alarmed if some mold or scum forms on top of your kraut while it’s fermenting. Just skim it off and add some more brine. If your brine level gets low and some of the top layer of cabbage gets moldy, simply skim off that cabbage and add more brine (1 or 1.5 T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine).
pouring_brine_over_sauerkraut
When your sauerkraut is finished, simply take out the jar/bag that you’re using to weigh it down, top off with brine, throw a lid on it and put it in the fridge or in your cool root cellar. Use 1 or 1.5 T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine (if using kosher use more, if fine salt use less).
Storing_sauerkraut
You can can it if you’re worried about the coolness of your root cellar or don’t have room in the fridge (to can process in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes). If you can it you kill all the good bacteria though, so it won’t be a good source of probiotics. I like my sauerkraut cooked, so I occasionally can it. Sometimes, however I just lid the jar and put it in the basement.

Do you have any great tips to know when you’re fermented products are finished?

19 Comments to “How to Tell if Your Sauerkraut is Finished”
  1. ruralrose on December 18, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Thanks so much for this. Firstly I haven’t stirred mine in a couple of days and obviously it needs more brine (which i didn’t know the combo for) because it is very dry. You inspired me to try. I used my food processor to cut the cabbage and it is sort of grated not sliced. It smells great. I remember the first time I made wine I thought I would poison everyone. it was potent but no casualities. Merry Christmas, peace for all

    Reply to ruralrose's comment

    • Susy on December 18, 2009 at 6:23 am

      Well, it’s supposed to ensure a prosperous New Year, and I think doubly so if you make the kraut yourself :) Cheers

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. tigress on December 18, 2009 at 8:17 am

    i am excited because i started my first sauerkraut two weeks ago. it has to be ready tomorrow though – for an [early] Christmas lunch I am serving. I probably should have fermented it at a warmer temp – i tasted it at one week and it was delicious – just a bit too crunchy – so I’m hoping tomorrow it will be right on time! :)
    .-= tigress´s last blog ..deee-licious beets & updates! =-.

    Reply to tigress's comment

    • Susy on December 18, 2009 at 8:25 am

      You can always cook it a bit if it’s too crunchy, that will kill the probiotics, but it will still taste great!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Paul Zollinger on December 18, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Susy; I owe you two apologies – first, for calling you Suzy (I dislike it myself when someone spells my nickname Paulie instead of Pauly….hey I just figured out why my bro-in-law, Chris, does that!) and secondly for giving your hubby all of the credit for your blog pics…I didn’t realize you could brandish a camera so well until Marty clued me in. Keep up the great work!

    Reply to Paul Zollinger's comment

    • Susy on December 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

      No problem on the misspelling (I know it’s not the norm), it doesn’t bother me at all. Brian does take some of the photos, usually the ones that include me or both my hands (the ones with one of my hands are usually mine). No problem, Brian’s talented in the photo taking area as well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. kristin @ going country on December 18, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I think I did everything wrong when I made sauerkraut for the first time this year, but it STILL came out great. Must be we have the perfect cellar conditions for the fermenting. I figured mine was finished when it tasted like, well, sauerkraut.

    I do have to rinse it pretty well before I use it though. WAY saltier than the store kind.
    .-= kristin @ going country´s last blog ..Nourishing =-.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  5. Dave on December 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Hmm, I just have to say that my Sauerkraut was finished before it was begun! I’m not a fan of it!
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Are You Ready For Spring Gardening? =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

  6. Dan on December 18, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    I have a 1.5 gallon crock of sauerkraut fermenting right now. It was started about a month ago now I think. It is fermenting very cool so I am guessing it will take the full 6 weeks. I have been skimming white scum but no mold. First time trying kraut so its been a learn experience.

    I think I add way to much salt. I tried it last week and it was souring but was quite salty. Once it is fully soured can I strain and reserve brine, lightly rinse the kraut and then add the brine back diluted? Maybe dilute with white wine?
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..2010 Veggie Patch Plan, Preliminary =-.

    Reply to Dan's comment

    • Susy on December 19, 2009 at 12:05 am

      I wouldn’t see why you couldn’t dilute the brine, white wine would probably be a great addition. In The Joy of Pickling she has a sauerkraut recipe made with wine.

      I’m sure the amount of salt is similar to canning times. It seems like the USDA is always upping it. I’ve heard most people used to just taste the kraut as they went along making sure it didn’t get too salty. That’s probably a good idea. I generally err on the lesser side of salt. It also depends on what kind of salt you use. Kosher salt takes up more space so a Tablespoon of kosher is not equal to a Tablespoon of regular salt. This is one reason I often weigh ingredients instead of measure, especially for baking.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Dan on December 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

        I used course sea salt and the recipe I used called for three tablespoons for a 6 pound head of cabbage. I didn’t measure, just put 6 big pinches thinking it was three tablespoons…. I am thinking it may have actually been over 6 tablespoons now :-) I will have to taste it again once it is done and dilute then. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be a nice addition I think, would mask my mistake well.
        .-= Dan´s last blog ..2010 Veggie Patch Plan, Preliminary =-.

        to Dan's comment

  7. Justyne on April 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    hi just want to say thanks all the info you guy have here was helpful,
    iv started my first home made sauerkraut i too used way to much salt 150g to 4kgs of cabbage i thought more is better then not enough i did add 3l of water when need to it to keep the cabbage under the brine am weighing it down . one question for you its been going all most a month when i looked in on it today there was a thin black mold on top of the brine is that black mold ok? it came off easy and the smell of the sauerkraut was good, i want to taste it but before i do i just want to make sure its safe still.

    thanks Justyne

    Reply to Justyne's comment

    • Susy on April 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      As long as the kraut still tastes I’d keep eating it.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Mark on December 24, 2012 at 6:07 am

    I have been making sauerkraut for twenty years, and never once measured my salt. when we schred our cabbage, we use nothing but the hand squeeze method, but we stay with it, and sometimes switch, but we get so much juice, we never have to add any brine mixture,As far as how much salt to add, we sprinkle some uniodized salt at every level of cabbage we add. Then we taste the raw cabbage at every level. This will tell you how much salt you need as per how it tastes to you at this time. When we are done schredding, and the bucket is 3/4 full, that raw cabbage should taste just how you want your sauerkraut in terms of salt,
    I ferment mine in the cellar starting in the middle of October in eastern Pennsylvania, and i ferment mine for eight weeks without guessing. It tastes great every year. I use cheesecloth over the top of the kraut, then put a table plate on top and weigh it down with two bricks that are put inside a two and a half gallon freezer bag. This keeps bad bacteria out of the mix. Then we cover the top of the crock with cheesecloth again. to keep most particles out. The scum that is created over the top of your sauerkraut tells you it is definitely fermenting well. Just remove as much as possible before canning or storing. Don’t be afraid to taste your raw cabbage when making it, and tasting it when you think it is done, or at any time during the process, because that is the only true way to tell if it is the way you want itin terms of salt and sour. Good Luck

    Reply to Mark's comment

  9. Mark on December 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I have been making sauerkraut for twenty years, and never once measured my salt. when we shred our cabbage, we use nothing but the hand squeeze method, but we stay with it, and sometimes switch, but we get so much juice, we never have to add any brine mixture,As far as how much salt to add, we sprinkle some non iodide salt at every level of cabbage we add. Then we taste the raw cabbage at every level. This will tell you how much salt you need as per how it tastes to you at this time. When we are done shredding, and the bucket is 3/4 full, that raw cabbage should taste just how you want your sauerkraut to taste in terms of salt,
    I ferment mine in the cellar starting in the middle of October in eastern Pennsylvania, and i ferment mine for eight weeks without guessing. It tastes great every year. I use cheesecloth over the top of the kraut, then put a table plate on top and weigh it down with two bricks that are put inside a two and a half gallon freezer bag. This keeps bad bacteria out of the mix. Then we cover the top of the crock with cheesecloth again. to keep most particles out. The scum that is created over the top of your sauerkraut tells you it is definitely fermenting well. Just remove as much as possible before canning or storing. Don’t be afraid to taste your raw cabbage when making it, and tasting it when you think it is done, or at any time during the process, because that is the only true way to tell if it is the way you want it in terms of salt and sour. Good Luck!!!

    Reply to Mark's comment

  10. Betty on November 12, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I just finished what I would say was my first batch in my life. It was aboiut 22 lbs of cabbage (after being sliced up)..went w/ 3tblsp of koshered salt. put into friends big big crock 15 gal crock. Placed a big glass plate on it…made sure the brine was covering.
    Now that I have removed the white coating on top, picked off some cabbage and packed it into clean qt jars. put lids on and refrigerated it in our extra basement refrigerator. Today cooked / baked some with sausage and it was salty, even though I rinsed it before the cooking. Should I rinse it more than once?…am a bit disappointed at the lack of saur’ness in it. Maybe it will bring itself around to a better kraut in the refrigerator? help with any ideas while the batch is still young. 3 weeks in the crock in a cooler garage was where it was.

    Reply to Betty's comment

    • Susy on November 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      No need to rinse. Fermenting in longer will make it more sour, try letting it go for longer. The temperature plays into the fermenting time, if you garage was cool it may not have fermented long enough. You also probably should add more salt next time, the general rule is 3T of salt for every 5 lbs of vegetables. If you let the jars sit out at room temperature it should ferment a little more for you, try that and see if it works.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Mark Isett on November 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      If you only had it in the crock for three weeks, I would say it is not done yet. I keep mine in the crock for a minimum of eight weeks. That explains why it is not sour enough. You really should give it 6 to 8 weeks or more to work and ferment. That is why it is salty yet to. It is not done. If you didn’t have it out of the crock for to long, return the Kraut there for another 5 weeks. You can tell by the taste after that, if it is sour enough. The longer, the more sour. True sauerkraut eaters love their Kraut sour.
      Don’t be afraid to try your kraut raw at anytime to test it. That is the only true way to tell when it is to your likings

      Reply to Mark Isett's comment

  11. Nicole on December 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    DH and I made our first batch of sauerkraut but we’re unsure if it is ok. We used the recipe in the Ball canning book and have it fermenting in a large crock we borrowed from his parents (holding 50 lbs of shred cabbage). We used a plate and ziploc bags with water to weigh down the plate and covered it with a white kitchen towel. We didn’t know you should not open it to avoid air getting in because we were told when we skim the “bloom” from it we should also remove the plate and rinse it. It has been in there for about 8 weeks now. Early on it had a slightly yeasty smell but after reading blogs this sounded normal and one suggestion was to add a little more brine so we did that. The yeasty smell went away and at 5-6 weeks we pulled some out thinking it should be done (based on feedback and what we read) and we canned it but it was still pretty green/crispy and not really sour tasting yet. It was good if you like crunchier less sour sauerkraut. A couple weeks later the top layer was getting softer and kraut-like, like the store bought kraut and like his parents usually turns out, but the layers below that were still green and crispy. DH stirred it up thinking this would help ferment the lower levels. Now it has a stronger yeasty smell. We are still skimming the scum off the top. It is not slimy and is not turning pink or brown. The brine has a cloudy yellowish look. But the yeast smell is stronger than the first time. It smells like a yeasty beer versus a bad yeasty dough. I tasted a bite and it had a slightly yeasty taste. In searching online for tips about this, I read that we were not supposed to disrupt it and expose it to oxygen. Which we did multiple times. Because it’s not slimy or discolored, I’m wondering if it would correct if we just leave it covered for a couple more weeks, only skimming the scum off the water and not removing the plate. Also wondering if I added a little more brine if this would help or harm it? Has any one had a similar experience? Any thoughts on if we can fix it or if we are wasting our time? Thank you in advance!

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