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Even though sauerkraut is synonymous with being German, once again it’s one of those appropriated German things. Ancient Rome already had sauerkraut and when the Mongols invaded Europe in the thirteenth century, they too brought the fermented cabbage with them. All of these events occurred well ahead of the German discovery of sauerkraut as the German claim goes only as far back as the sixteenth century. Considering Hungary’s noble but miserable history, Hungarians had to have a jumpstart on cabbage souring as well. Indeed, there is a long and noble tradition on the making of savanyú káposzta.

Sauerkraut Vendors

I used only a half a head of a cabbage. This will only make a small bowl of sauerkraut, you would need at least 2 cabbages for a more substantial amount, but I figured this way is easier to show how it’s made. I don’t own a fermenter and you wouldn’t believe the contraption I had to assemble the last time Jim and I made sauerkraut. You may want to experiment with smaller amounts to adjust the recipe to your individual taste anyway. There is nothing more disheartening than making a huge batch and not liking the taste. My advice is to follow this recipe and from that develop one to your own liking. Right away you see my Hungarian heritage, hot pepper, bay leaf and caraway seeds are my choice of flavouring. The fermentation will be a couple of weeks give or take so I will be adding to this recipe as the sauerkraut develops. Two weeks, less a day and the kraut was calling to me from the basement. It smelled wonderful and tasted delicious.

8 cups of sliced green cabbage [about 1/2 head of cabbage]
1/2 Tbsp pickling salt
1 hot [red] Hungarian pepper with the seeds removed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp caraway seed

• Remove the core of the cabbage and discard.
• Slice the cabbage with a chef’s knife on the cutting board.
• Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
• Sprinkle the cabbage with pickling salt. Do not use iodized table salt.
• Toss the salt into the cabbage and let sit for half an hour. I didn’t wait I started right away. However, letting the cabbage sit with the salt saves you from some of the muscle work. Then again, if you can enlist a guy to do your squeezing, who cares.
• After half an hour of rest, start squeezing the cabbage. Pound it with a potato masher. Squeeze until the cabbage reduces at least by half and you have close to a cup of cabbage juice in the bowl.
• Take a handful of cabbage and squeeze the juice out. Place the cabbage in a medium sized bowl. Repeat until all the cabbage is used.
• Transfer the remaining cabbage juice from the bowl into a cup.
• Return the squeezed cabbage to the mixing bowl.
• Add the hot red pepper, the bay leaf and the caraway seed.
• Toss to combine.
• Transfer the seasoned cabbage to a nonreactive bowl and pack it down very tight, not leaving any air pockets.
• Place a slightly smaller bowl on the top. You have to leave an escape route for the fermenting liquid, on the other hand the bowl on top should press down on most of the cabbage, so the top bowl should not be too small. If you don’t have two such bowls, fit a plate on top of the cabbage, and place something on top to hold the weight.
• Put a large casserole dish or a tray underneath to catch the fermenting liquid.
• Place a heavy weight on top. The cabbage should be submerged by liquid.
• Place the whole contraption somewhere in a dark place at room temperature. If you don’t have a dark place cover the whole thing with a towel
• On the tenth day I removed the top bowl and wiped off the scum. Tasted the kraut and it's lovely, but it still needs to mature a little. The color is beautiful. I am starting to dream about kraut.
• After two weeks less a day and the sauerkraut is ready.


  1. Zsuzsa, you are amazing! I would never attempt doing it. You are my idol. I still remember my grandmother making sauerkraut and it seemed difficult, complicated, capricious... Her sauerkraut was always greyish in colour compared to the one from the shops, but it was 100x better!
    By the way, I'm sure all the Central and Eastern European countries haven't "stolen" sauerkraut from Germans! Just like you say, it's a very ancient tradition.

  2. Indeed its ancient. It seems all indigenous cultures preserve food with fermentation from one end of the globe to the other. Just like the kimchi you make Sissi. If the Hungarians didn't bring this with them when they migrated from Asia the second time around, the Mongols surely brought it in three hundred years later. Or the Slavs might have got it from the Romans a thousand years earlier. Who knows? It’s funny how history is misrepresented by the new world.




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