How long to ferment sauerkraut?
Discover the various phases behind sauerkraut fermentation and just how long to ferment sauerkraut.
What is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is finely cut raw cabbage fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sharp, tangy flavour, both of which are the result of the lactic acid formed when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage leaves. It is one of the best-known national dishes in Germany and has become notably popular for the positive role it can play in maintaining a healthy gut biome.
Sauerkraut is made during a process called lactic acid fermentation, the same process is used to make traditional (not heat-treated) pickled cucumbers and kimchis. The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt, and left to ferment.
How long to ferment sauerkraut is a common question among fermenters. The longer you leave it to ferment, however, the deeper the flavour profile it will have and the more healthy lactic acid bacteria you will have as a result.
What do you need to make a Sauerkraut?
To ferment sauerkraut you will need a glass fermenting jar, salt, the sliced cabbage you wish to ferment into sauerkraut and an ambient room temperature.
Why is time important to ferment sauerkraut?
It’s important to establish the right period of time to ferment sauerkraut as it will determine some of the critical factors necessary for a successful, healthy sauerkraut ferment, such as:
- Flavour development
- Proper acidity levels
- Correct consumption of the sugars in the cabbage during the fermentation process
If you don’t allow your sauerkraut to ferment long enough, you may lose out on some of the most beneficial probiotics of sauerkraut!
“Cabbage that has been fermented between 14-21 days has three times more beneficial bioactive compounds than cabbage fermented in less than 14 days.”Cultured Guru
The different stages of Sauerkraut fermentation
Stage one – Approx Days 1 – 5
The first phase of fermentation begins from the moment you combine the salt with your sliced cabbage.
During this first fermentation stage, the most common organisms associated with vegetables get to work. They are the smallest of the three bacteria studied and are able to tolerate salty conditions.
Stage 2 Approx Days 5 – 16
The second phase of sauerkraut fermentation starts roughly five days after the initial stage. Sometimes it’s faster, but this all depends on the room temperature. By this stage, the first phase of bacteria has died off. Next, the Leuconostoc bacteria populate the fermenting cabbage. This stage is recognizable because these bacteria make things carbonated, and the cabbage colour notably changes.
Stage 3 Approx Days 16 – 21
In the third stage of sauerkraut fermentation, healthy bacteria create lactic acid for a greater flavour profile. Once there is no more sugar, fermentation ends. The acidic and reduced pH environment of this stage supports the growth of good bacteria. The lactic acid development during this stage contributes greatly to the flavour profile of your batch of sauerkraut. You can read more about each stage in detail on the Make Sauerkraut blog!
So, how long Sauerkraut takes to ferment?
Ideally, you should ferment sauerkraut at room temperature with the correct amount of salt for 21 to 28 days. This will help your sauerkraut to fully develop flavour and healthy bacteria. These lactic acid bacteria produce acids, making minerals, vitamins, and nutrients more bioavailable. Homemade sauerkraut health benefits increase with fermentation time.