Appalachian Food Preserving/Canning

How To Make Kraut – The Old Timey Way

The Blind Pig household has spent the morning making Kraut. We always make Kraut when the zodiac signs are in the head (we use the head sign for any fermenting we do). This year our Kraut making is more exciting than usual since we grew the cabbage ourselves.

Typically when we make Kraut we shred the cabbage with knives and a cutting board because we like a coarser texture of Kraut. This year The Deer Hunter wanted to try using the food processor to chop the cabbage. Before we had done 2 heads my processor gave up the ghost. Making do with 2 really small choppers we managed to get it all chopped. But at this point in the game I’m thinking it’s easier and quicker to go the coarse chop knife method unless you have a heavy duty chopper/shredder.

We used an 8-gallon crock. We really didn’t have enough cabbage to fill it-but both of us were anxious to use the crock-it was The Deer Hunter’s Grandmother Lura’s. We only recently acquired it-and couldn’t wait to make something of our own in her old crock.

To make Kraut the old time way you need:

  • a crock (last year we discussed using food grade plastic containers, but I’ve never used one-so if any of you have used them with success-please leave a comment and tell us about it)
  • shredded/chopped cabbage-save a couple of your bigger cabbage leaves whole-to cover the Kraut while it’s working
  • salt-either pickling salt or un-iodized table salt
  • peppers are optional-but we usually mix in a few banana peppers
  • a plate-and 2 quart jars filled with water or some other type of weight

You begin layering your ingredients-by places about a 2 inch thick layer of cabbage and sprinkling on sliced peppers if you’re using them.

Next comes the salt. The Deer Hunter sprinkles it on top of the cabbage/pepper layer.

Next-you put another layer of cabbage-peppers-salt just like the first one. In between each layer-it’s important to pack the Kraut down-this helps draw out the water that’s in the cabbage-as well as ensure you have enough room in the crock.

It doesn’t take many layers for you to begin to see the liquid coming up over the cabbage.

Continue layering-until you’ve used all your cabbage or reached about 4 or 5 inches from the top of the crock.

Once you’ve finished the layers-take the big cabbage leaves you kept in the beginning-and lay them on top of the Kraut covering it.

Place the 2 quart jars filled with water on top of the plate to make sure the Kraut stays submerged. I’ve read accounts of folks using a rock to hold down the Kraut-but we just use the plate and jars of water.

Next-place a towel over the top of the crock and tie it-so it doesn’t slip off. Place the crock in a cool dry place-mine’s in a corner of my kitchen.

It takes at least 2 weeks for the Kraut to work-but the longer you leave it the stronger it will get-so you may want to taste after 2 weeks and see if it’s sour enough for your bunch. After you decide the kraut is ready you can put it in jars-and can it. However-you can leave it in the crock longer if you need or want too. In the old days-folks left Kraut in the crock till it was all eaten-dipping out some as they needed it.


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  • Reply
    Danny Hyde
    September 27, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I buy food grade 5 gallon buckets at Home Depot my plates are a good fit inside the bucket. I have about 2 inches of liquid above the plate weighted with a water filled 1 gallon jar.

  • Reply
    Cindy Shull
    June 3, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Can’t wait to kraut…from Johnson City,Tennessee. ..originally.from.St.Charles,Virginia

  • Reply
    November 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Paula-thank you for the comment! If I was short on brine I would add water. 

  • Reply
    Paula Vibert
    November 13, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Can I add water to the sauerkraut jars if I’m short on brine (pre-boiling water bath)?

  • Reply
    Michelle smith
    September 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I do my kraut the same way you do yours. It is the best!

  • Reply
    August 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Ronnie-thank you for the comment! Congrats on the Kruat : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    August 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm


  • Reply
    Brenda Cathey
    June 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Just found your site today. Enjoyed reading about how to make kraut in a bucket and a croc. I have tried every year to make kraut and each time it turns dark brown. Had no idea why, but I figure it wasn’t enough salt. Also I made it in jars. I have tried adding cold water and hot water. Didn’t know the cabbage made its own water, (silly me). Thanks, will try this method soon as the cabbage comes in here, (In N. Ga). Still wondering how to can it though. Thanks for all the good info.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Thanks for another great post. Mom is 81 and makes kraut in a crock also like her mom did. We made it again this year from cabbages she grew in her garden. I’m looking forward to trying it again. It is so much better than what you can buy in the store and is something I look forward to helping with every year.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you for the comment-so glad you liked my site! Go here-just click the link:
    to see how Granny makes her kraut in the jar-like your Grandma did. Granny leaves her kraut in the jars-with the same lids and rings until shes ready to eat it.

  • Reply
    linda childress
    October 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    So glad found your page, I remember grandma making kraut right in jar with salt & water but cant remember how she kept it after you put lids on and it works do you then put new heated sealed lids on jars? hope you can help

  • Reply
    katie letterman
    August 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for conformation on ole time crocking… though we put half cup plain corn in cheese cloth in bottom to start…same way for ole time chow-chow…we added green tomatoesand peppers-sweet for mild peppers for added.for…cold days eating…we put all our cabbage satlks whole in (stuck straight in) at the last…..was always a fight to eating times….the meal helped the pickling ..9-11 days instead of 14…we used the rock…same one my mom,now me,goes to my daughter next…..thanks

  • Reply
    January 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    This year was the first year that we made kraut. We grew a garden, and our weather here was actually good for cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and potatoes. We can’t grow any sort of squash or tomato outdoors, but we had cabbage! So, we made 52.5 pounds of kraut! We wanted to use our old crocks for it, but then I was reading that a lot of the old crocks have lead in them. Ours are at lease 100 years old, so I’m pretty sure they contain lead. So, we got some food grade buckets for free from a military cook. You can also get them from the deli at grocery stores for free.
    Anyway, I like the idea of putting the leaves on top, and will definitely be doing that next year. We didn’t much of a problem with mold, since our garage stayed around 50 degrees. My problem was that there never seemed to be enough liquid on top. I even made extra brine to pour on it, so maybe I just need more weight. I used a plate and two jars filled with water, just like you did.
    One thing that I would HIGHLY recommend, is a big food processor, using the shred disc instead of the bottom blades. Then it’s more like hand cut cabbage. Mine is made by GE, and I think I paid $40 for it (7 years ago). I use the heck out of that thing and it’s still kickin’. Instead of shredding pork for barbecue, I stick it in the food processor. If I have to chop a lot of vegetables (like, for jambalaya), chop cabbage for coleslaw, or shred zucchini for bread, I use it. It’s probably an 8 cup processor. It sure would cut down your work load.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Elita-yes it was common practice for folks to bury their cabbage as a way to store them-taking one out as they needed it during the winter.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    December 2, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I heard that the old timers would dig up the cabbages and turn them upside down in the field and store them in the cold weather that way – have you heard of this?

  • Reply
    August 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    This is my second year making kraut with a food safe bucket…and let me tell you, it is awesome and you cant tell at all the difference. I dont have a crock of my own, and when I found this out last year that I could use a bucket, I was dancing with glee… Hope this may help some of you. Crocks arent always easy to find and when they can, they are quite expensive.

    • Reply
      Agnes Schoolcraft
      May 23, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      Yeah we did this, pull up cabbage and dig deep trench and bury cabbage upside down leaving root stick out of ground and when you want a head just pull up by root.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Hello Tipper! This is my first visit to your blog, and I love it! I have been going back a couple pages, and reading everything. You do a really great job!
    I live in WV (near Parkersburg), so I love history and info to do with Appalachia! I grew up in Glenville, where the WV State Folk Festival is held every June, and I adore Bluegrass music!
    Thanks for posting how to make kraut the old fashioned way! We don’t grow it, but I may get some cabbage and give it a try. I wonder if the nutrients stay in pickled foods? Do you have recipes for kraut? I usually just “fry” it with a little bit of sugar to tone it down a bit. I’d love to hear of some other ways of preparing it, if you know of any. 🙂
    I also have a blog, which is mainly about my gardening and art, in case you’d like to visit. It’s at
    Have a great day!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    July 8, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Tipper: All I can say is I bet that would go great with some link sausage.

    • Reply
      Agnes Schoolcraft
      May 23, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Shannon I live in Glenville, moved here from Calhoun County after my husband passed, I worked at the country Store at the Folk festival a few years,I make my kraut a different way, I make it it jars, I make a solution of 1 gallon water, 1 cup canning salt, I cup vinegar and I cup sugar and add to water and boil until dissolved and let get cold, I use a kraut cutter to cut the cabbage, then press in sterilized jars and pack tight, then pour solution over it sometimes I use knife to stick in jar to allow it to make sure it covers the cabbage,then put hot jar lids on jar just hand tight. LET SET FROM 14 to 20 days to work ,I usually put jars in our old stone cellar on floor until ready then open lids and check to see if it needs anymore liquid and then hot water bath 20 minutes. Everyone loves it, in fact my neighbor said it was the best kraut she had ever ate.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    I never cared much for kraut until I made some homemade in a crock myself. We have a cutter, but we burned up a food processor as well trying to speed things up!
    I use the plastic bag with water method, but beware. Last year the bag broke. The water added to the fermenting kraut created rotten cabbage, blech!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    My wife’s grandmother showed us how to make kraut this way and it was wonderful…one year. Another year we must have goofed it and it was awful…we’ll see about this year. Yours looks great so far!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Rachelle-my husband’s Aunt Wanda always puts the stalks in too. But me-I eat them as I cut up the cabbage and there isn’t usually any left to put in the crock. The stalk is always the best part of a head of cabbage to me : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Neat idea to use the plastic bag-especially if you were running low on canning jars.Never heard of pepper cabbage-but folks around here make something similar that they call chowchow. It usually has peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, and sometimes beans in it.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Thanks for the reminder! I had 9 small stonehead cabbage in the walk-in cooler I I had been intending to make into kraut and this post kicked me into gear. Made a crock of kraut Monday night while waiting on 9 quarts of tomatoes in the water bath canner to finish. Never heard of adding banana peppers to kraut but, I had some in the garden and chopped up and added 8 of them to the kraut. Thanks!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 1:06 am

    We (my dad and me when I was a kid) used to use a plastic bag on top of the cabbage in the crock and fill it with water so the weight of water would push it down (rather than using a plate) and displace the air. We did the same with crock pickles too. Does anyone else do this? We also made my dad’s “pepper cabbage” which was cabbage to green bell peppers in about 2 to 1 ratio. Does anyone ever make “pepper cabbage” in this similar ratio?

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Yummy!!!! We haven’t had homemade kraut since my Grandma quit making it in the early 1980’s. But with your directions, I might try it in August.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    I’ve never eaten homemade kraut. Don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who made it.
    Interesting process. Nothing but salt. Huh? I would think there would have more to it. Shows what I know!

  • Reply
    July 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    We use a kraut cutter, which is a slicing blade on a wood board. The shredded cabbage falls below the blade into the crock. We don’t have cabbage here yet, but I think this will be my year to make my own kraut!

  • Reply
    July 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Tipper, Wished I had been there with you all but I felt like I was, Thanks for the photos they are GREAT. I also make kraut when the sign is in the knees. My grandmother used the sign in the head, knees and thighs and I follow along in her footsteps also use those same signs. Did you not put the cabbage stalk in there also??? We seem to fight over the cabbage stalk when I open a jar of kraut in the winter!!! Keep up the great work Tipper and the gang!!!!!

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    July 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Have yet to make Kraut from scratch, Tipper! Since my mother’s German, we grew up on it, but I’ve never learned to pickle it. I’m bookmarking this post just in case. Will keep you posted on how it turns out!
    p.s. How exciting that you’ve been able to grow your own compliments of Hometown seeds. Nothing like fresh grown! :))

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    July 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    When I learned how to make kraut from my neighbor, she said if a woman made kraut ‘when her period was on her,’ the kraut would go bad.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    That seems to be my kind of luck.
    Machinery breakdown with little
    time to get the job done. Enjoyed
    all the pictures of kraut making.
    Mama use to make it in a churn,
    using a big rock to hold every-
    thing down. When I was little I
    thought the rock was what made it
    so sour it would make a pig squeel. Ken

  • Reply
    July 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    I just got inspired! Bound and determined to make me some kraut in August. Hubby’s dad is 85 and hasn’t had homemade kraut since he left his parent’s home in Ohio 67 years ago. He will be delighted I’m sure. Can’t wait to try this out.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Oh, I can taste it now. It’s gonna be so gooood!

  • Reply
    July 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I loved reading how you ‘make’ kraut… I’ve never made it—and don’t think my mother ever made it…BUT–we had it on occasion —so maybe she did make it and I didn’t know how she did it….
    I will probably never make it (hubby doesn’t like it) –but it’s nice to know how it’s done.
    Thanks, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    July 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Nice pics to show the process, Tipper. I think the food processor “bruises” the cabbage too much and makes it soft instead of crispy, so I prefer to use my old kraut cutter to cut up my cabbage. It does a very good job.
    When I make kraut it’s usually in small batches so I use the in-the-jar method. It works very well. I blogged it last summer, and the kraut was delicious. I like it that you’re using the old crock, though. Passing down the history.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Unlike my husband, I’m not a great cabbage fan. I’m sure he’ll love your kraut if I ever manage to make it successfully. In Greece, we make stuffed cabbage leaves with mince meat and rice in an egg and lemon sauce. And of course, we use cabbage a lot in salads.
    ~ps~ I prefer shredding cabbage with a knife on a cutting board…as it seems to save time and it is tastier, isn’t it?

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    July 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    My mom was born in the German Village in Columbus Ohio. Her grandmother, a widow, supported her 5 kids by making and selling saurkraut. She made a good living. I don’t believe she had time to make it by the signs. She always 5 or 6 crocks going. Every Sunday as long as I could remember we had pork roast, saurkraut, mashed potatoes and home made apple sauce.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I can smell it and have that tingle on my tongue thinking of it when it is ready. yummmy. much better than store bought. mother used to make it but i can’t remember all the steps, I think she used a big canning pot, since she had not crock. sure would like to taste it a couple of weeks from now.

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