How to Make Old Fashioned Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Enjoy this delicious Bavarian-style sauerkraut recipe made with caraway seeds. In this step-by-step recipe, you will learn to make old fashioned sauerkraut with caraway seeds in a mason jar. If you are new to fermentation, this is one of the best and easiest recipes to get you started.

Caraway Seeds in Sauerkraut

When you are looking at Bavarian sauerkraut versus regular sauerkraut, the main difference is flavor. Bavarian sauerkraut is slightly sweeter than regular sauerkraut and it contains caraway seeds. Bavarian sauerkraut gets its sweetness from serving it with a bit of sugar after it is fermented. Caraway seeds also naturally add an herbaceous sweet flavor.

Anytime I make sauerkraut with caraway seeds and green cabbage I consider it Bavarian style. I consider regular, or plain German sauerkraut recipes, any plain green cabbage sauerkraut made without spices.

Old fashioned sauerkraut fermenting with a lot of bubbles in the jar. Someone is tampering the cabbage down to release the gas from the jar.

Liberty Cabbage

One of the most interesting stories about sauerkraut comes from World War I. In the 19th century, the United States received about 5 million immigrants from Germany. Many German-Americans settled in the mid-west to live on farms, build businesses, and become trades professionals. By the early 1900s, Germans were the largest immigrant group in America. They built restaurants, businesses, banks, churches, and entire communities.

Then World War I began, and Germans were intensely scrutinized, subject to prejudice, and cultural erasure. Americans during these times became so anti-German, that they wouldn’t even call German foods by their given names. Sauerkraut was renamed “Liberty Cabbage”, Hamburgers were called “Liberty Steak”, and frankfurters and bratwurst were dubbed “Liberty Sausage”. People actually believed that renaming German foods was an act of patriotism.

Why did referring to sauerkraut as liberty cabbage seem patriotic? Well, because people during that time thought that being anti-German was patriotic. Alas, liberty cabbage didn’t stick and we still call fermented cabbage sauerkraut, as it should be.

Using Caraway Seeds in Sauerkraut

To make classic caraway sauerkraut, you have to add the caraway seeds at the beginning of fermentation. I always add the seeds when I add my salt to the mixing bowl. This allows me to really mix the seeds in with the cabbage to evenly distribute the flavor. You should always add caraway seeds to sauerkraut before fermentation so the seeds can release and impart more flavor throughout the sauerkraut as it ferments.

You can adjust the amount of caraway seeds you add to the kraut depending on your flavor preference. For a lighter flavor start with just 5 grams per quart.

The Best Cabbage for Sauerkraut  

The best cabbage for sauerkraut is organic green cabbage. Any green cabbage will do, and you can also use Chinese (napa) cabbage. If you cannot get organic cabbage conventional cabbage works perfectly in this recipe too. Since you remove the outermost leaves from cabbage before fermenting, even conventionally grown cabbage is essentially pesticide-free.

How to Make Old Fashioned Sauerkraut

Homemade Sauerkraut is definitely the best type of fermented food to make if you’re new to fermenting vegetables at home. Sauerkraut is particularly easy for a first fermentation project because cabbage ferments extremely well. The water content along with the microbial species richness of cabbage makes it optimal for wild fermentation!

For old-fashioned sauerkraut flavor and texture, you should use weight measurements for your fermentation ingredients. That means you need a kitchen scale. Weighing your ingredients gives you consistent and superior fermentation results. This is the scale we use in our home kitchen.  

Placing a fermentation weight in a jar of old fashioned sauerkraut with caraway seeds.

Fermenting Jars and Supplies for Making Old Fashioned Sauerkraut with caraway seeds

Old Fashioned Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar

During the first few days of fermentation: carbon dioxide and bubbles will be produced. Sometimes mason jars will become very full of liquid, and this liquid can seep out. You will need to burp the jar.

  • When burping the jar, remove the lid and tamper everything back down using a clean tamper or spoon. Make sure everything, including the weight is still submerged below the brine.

Always Trust your sense of smell: In the beginning fermenting cabbage smells funky. When fermentation is finished, fermented cabbage should smell pleasantly sour and like strong cabbage.  Never eat anything that smells repulsive or yeasty. 

Never eat anything that had mold growing on it: By following directions you should not encounter this problem. 

After 3-4 weeks, remove the fermentation weight and smell and taste test. Your fermented cabbage should smell pleasantly sour. It should taste tart, salty and cabbage.  

The Best Temperature to Ferment Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

Keep your fermenting cabbage at a temperature between 70-80 degrees F for best results, and keep the jar out of direct sunlight. If your fermentation temperatures are warmer and closer to 90° F, fermentation will just happen faster.

Does Old Fashioned Sauerkraut Need to Be Refrigerated?

After fermenting for 3-4 weeks, remove the weight and place a regular mason jar lid on the jar and refrigerate. Consume within 6 months for full probiotic benefits.

How Long Does Opened Sauerkraut Last?

Once you open your sauerkraut and start eating it, it will last in the fridge for about a year. It technically lasts longer, and is still good to eat after a year, you just might find that the texture softens and it gets more sour the longer it stays in the fridge.

Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

Sauerkraut naturally takes time. I recommend fermenting your sauerkraut for at least 14 days before eating, with 21-28 days being the best fermentation time for optimal flavor and health benefits. By checking the progress of microbial stages under the microscope we have provided you with this handy timeline! If you follow our recipe and directions, your timeline of sauerkraut fermentation should approximately match ours!

24 – 48 hours: All contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time there are still Gram-negative bacteria and possible pathogens present.

48 hours – 5 days: After 48 hours you should start to see lots of bubbles being produced. This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and Gram-negative organisms die off.

5 – 10 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease, as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The ferment will become cloudy, the color will change and a pleasant sour smell will develop. Lactobacillus species begin to thrive in this time period.

10 – 21 days: Lactobacillus make up the majority or all of the microbial population. They produce copious amounts of lactic acid and make the fermented cabbage smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the vegetable mixture becomes sauerkraut and is preserved.

21 – 28 days: This is when you want to smell and taste test. Wait for the kraut to smell and taste as you like, and refrigerate when you find the smell and taste most pleasant! We like ours best when we refrigerate at about 25 days.

Recipes with Old Fashioned Sauerkraut

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How to Make Old Fashioned Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

Enjoy this delicious Bavarian-style sauerkraut recipe made with caraway seeds. In this step-by-step recipe, you will learn to make old-fashioned sauerkraut in a mason jar. If you are new to fermentation, this is one of the best and easiest recipes to get you started. Try this sauerkraut in our easy sauerkraut soup recipe

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 Minutes
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Yield: 32 ounces 1x
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: German

Ingredients

Scale
  • 550 grams green cabbage
  • 20 grams unrefined sea salt
  • 200 grams filtered water
  • 5 grams caraway seeds

Instructions

  1. Wash your fermentation equipment (jar, weight and lid)
  2. Remove the outer leaves of your cabbage and lightly rinse with cool water. Using a knife, chop the cabbage to your desired thickness.
  3. Place your kitchen scale on the counter. Turn it on and set it to weigh in grams.
  4. Place a mixing bowl on your kitchen scale and tare/zero the scale.* 
  5. Add chopped cabbage into the bowl on your scale util the scale reads 550 grams.
  6. Remove the bowl of cabbage from the scale and set it aside. Place a small, empty bowl on your scale and tare/zero the scale. Weigh out 20 grams of salt.
  7. Add the 20 grams of salt into the bowl with the cabbage, and mix with your hands until the cabbage becomes wet.*
  8. Place your empty, clean mason jar on the scale, and tare/zero the scale. Make sure your scale is still set to grams and add 200 grams of filtered water to your mason jar.
  9. Add the 200 grams of water into the bowl with the cabbage and salt. Add the caraway seeds. Mix everything well.
  10. Starting with the liquid, add the entire contents of the bowl into your mason jar, and pack everything down using a tamper, wooden spoon, or your hand.
  11. Place your glass fermentation weight in the jar, making sure to submerge the cabbage pieces and weight fully into the liquid. If you don’t have quite enough liquid, place your glass fermentation weight in the jar and submerge as much as possible. Over the next 12 hours, the cabbage should release more liquid and you can press down your fermentation weight below the brine.
  12. Secure the standard mason jar lid to the mason jar.
  13. Ferment for 21-28 days. Don’t forget to burp the jar daily during the bubbly phase.

Notes

*Taring/zeroing the scale with a container on it subtracts the weight of the container, allowing you to weigh only what is added to the container. After taring/zeroing the scale, the scale should read 0.0 with the container on it.

For softer kraut massage the cabbage vigorously in step 7. For crunchier kraut, gently mix the cabbage.

Keywords: fermentation recipe, Fermented Foods, Cultured Vegetables, Sauerkraut Recipe

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Recipe rating

46 comments

Jessica Lewis December 22, 2018 - 5:22 am

Does this recipe scale to a bigger batch? I’ve been doing 2 heads of cabbage in my 5 liter crock with 2% salt. All the recipes I’ve tried call for massaging the cabbage much longer and I find my sauerkraut always ends up mushy. Im excited to try your method with less massaging and adding water.

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Cultured Guru February 19, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Apologies for the late reply on this comment! Just now seeing it. The recipe does scale up. This recipe makes about 0.45 liters, so just multiply the recipe amounts by 10 and you should have right around a 5 liter quantity! ?

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Christine March 21, 2019 - 5:12 am

How much carraway am I going to put?

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Lucy Dawson October 7, 2019 - 5:33 pm

Can I ask a question regarding water? Do you always need to add water with the salt and cabbage if using a bowl method or is this just for the jar method? I used a different recipe before which was just salt and cabbage and massaged/mixed which then created the salty brine but I didn’t feel there was a lot of liquid there for the cabbage to ferment in. It came out smelling and tasting okay just a little salty so I will use your calculation next time. Thanks

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Cultured Guru Admin October 7, 2019 - 10:42 pm

Adding water is not a requirement for a successful sauerkraut fermentation, but it helps keep batches consistent. Having water as part of our recipe also helps with consistency amongst all people who use our recipe. How old a cabbage is, what season it was grown in, and how long it’s been sitting in your fridge all influence how much brine can be created from using just salt and cabbage. So, adding water eliminates a lot of possible issues and unnecessary troubleshooting.

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Lucy Dawson October 8, 2019 - 3:31 pm

Thank you so much.

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SHARON April 21, 2021 - 3:22 pm

Than you for the information you provide on your website. Can I use red cabbage for this recipe & is the cabbage crunchy when fermented. If not can I add anything to keep it crunchy. Thank you in advance if you reply.

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Kaitlynn Fenley April 22, 2021 - 10:33 am

You’re welcome! you can absolutely use red cabbage. If you follow the recipe here, go easy and gentle on mixing the cabbage and salt, don’t pound it or mash it, it will stay crunchy! Since this recipe calls for some water, there’s no need to mash the cabbage to get the water out.

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Divina October 18, 2021 - 2:42 am

How do I compute for the amount of water needed?

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Kaitlynn Fenley October 19, 2021 - 9:58 am

The amount of water is listed in the recipe. If you want to learn my techniques for developing fermentation recipes you can visit our online school!

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Heather Marchment November 3, 2021 - 11:40 pm

I don’t know what I messed up – I followed the recipe to a T (I was quite anal about the details) – made the recipe 4x in 4 separate jars and 3 out of the 4 have mold on day 13 – I have no idea what I did differently ….

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Kaitlynn Fenley November 4, 2021 - 8:11 am

Did you use a fermentation weight? What kind of jar and lid did you use? How did you clean your jars and equipment before you began?

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Letizia February 27, 2022 - 7:22 pm

I just made 2 double batches since I have 2 jars 34oz each. This is my first time fermenting anything…thank you for the info! You mention to ferment at 70-80 degrees. We keep our house between 64 and 68 degrees in the winter. I am assuming this will slow down the process. If that’s correct, how much slower should I expect it to be? In other words what is the timeline that applies to me, since it will be different than the one you provide?
Thank you so much! I save several other recipes and can’t wait to try them!

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Divine May 11, 2022 - 8:30 am

May I ask this question to remove any confusion. I see some recipes where they use hot water bath for their sauerkraut after the fermentation process. I believe so that they can store it on the shelf instead of the fridge. Will this destroy the probiotics after the hot water bath? ‘Thank you .

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Kaitlynn Fenley May 12, 2022 - 9:56 am

Yes, some people use canning methods to make the sauerkraut shelf-stable. This usually kills all the beneficial bacteria so fermentation will not continue at room temperature, but it depends on the temperature and canning method.

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taylor July 4, 2022 - 9:35 am

How many days are you supposed to burp the jar? I’m on day 6.

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 4, 2022 - 9:40 am

As long as it is bubbling, usually about 7 days.

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Patsi July 5, 2022 - 6:37 am

Hi, first of all thank you so much for your amazing work and all the free resources and knowledge you give to us! I have a question regarding the lids you use. The plastic tough tops are very hard to get in Germany, so I was wondering what their benefit is exactly. Aren’t normal mason jar lids leak proof and airtight, too? Or why do you use the plastic ones during fermentation and the normal ones after? Thanks in advance for your help. Cheers, Patsi

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 5, 2022 - 10:21 am

Hi there! You are welcome.

The plastic lids do not rust, that’s the only benefit really; they last longer. They’re also easier to open. I use normal mason jar lids all the time. Sometimes I switch between lids, because I only have a few plastic ones, so I use those while the ferments are bubbly so my metal lids don’t rust. When the bubbling stops I’ll switch to a regular metal lid, so I can use the plastic one for a different ferment.

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Chris July 18, 2022 - 12:22 am

Since the lid is closed, is there risk of the jar bursting during fermentation?

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 18, 2022 - 9:25 am

No, you burp the jar daily during the bubbly phase of fermentation. There’s information about burping the jar in the body of this blog post, above the recipe card.

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Melissa July 18, 2022 - 10:52 am

I am planning on making this recipe today hopefully! But was wondering if my water needs to be anything special?? Filtered? Distilled? Can I just use filtered tap water?

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 18, 2022 - 11:10 am

Filtered tap water works great!

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Taylor July 20, 2022 - 9:25 am

I'[m at day 20 and I don’t see any mold, and it smells pretty good. But my brine has not been above the cabbage for a week or so now. I had a lot of brine during the bubbly phase but once the bubbles stopped it seems like there is not enough. I have every few days been opening it up and pressing down my weight to move the brine up , but within a few minutes the brine sinks down below my cabbage, about 0.5 inch. Is this okay? I am almost ready to taste test but didn’t want it to not be properly fermented. Thanks for all your help! This is my first time doing this

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 20, 2022 - 9:35 am

Yeah, that’s okay. It happens to mine in the later days of fermentation sometimes too. If it smells nice, and looks fine, you can taste test and refrigerate!

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Megan August 3, 2022 - 3:08 pm

I made this and love it! Such a good recipe… it will be a staple in our fridge! One question I had, once you’ve moved it to the fridge… how long would you say it’s good and safe for? Do ferments tend to stay good for a while?

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 3, 2022 - 5:09 pm

So glad you loved it! We’d appreciate it if you give the recipe 5 stars 🙂

it’s good in the fridge for a year or more! I generally eat it all before that point.

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Megan August 10, 2022 - 6:58 pm

Loved this recipe! So easy to follow and turned out perfect!

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Alyssa Meier August 6, 2022 - 7:52 pm

I have a strange question, but how strong does this smell? How does it compare it canned sauerkraut? Does the whole fridge smell like it? My husband is particular about smells and I don’t want to make it and then not have him like it.

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 7, 2022 - 4:27 pm

It can smell during the bubbly part of fermentation, but I don’t think it’s bad. I’ve been fermenting for over 10 years though, so I don’t really notice the smell.

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Kristina Mott August 19, 2022 - 3:09 pm

I just tried this recipe for my first time, forgot
To burp daily, maybe only did it a couple of times. I’m on day 23 and I tested it and it didn’t taste good. Is that mean I let it go too long? Or do I need to keep letting it ferment?

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 20, 2022 - 7:06 pm

Are you familiar with the taste of sauerkraut? “didn’t taste good” does not tell me enough about your experience. If you can elaborate more, I can help you determine what, if anything, went wrong.

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Janice September 7, 2022 - 11:16 am

Hi Kaitlynn, I have just made my first batch of sauerkraut and I can not get all of the caraway seeds to stay under the ferment weight. Do I need to be concerned about this?

Thank you!

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Kaitlynn Fenley September 8, 2022 - 10:56 am

It should be fine, mine do not all stay under. I just make sure the seeds don’t stick to the lid. When it is bubbling and you burp the jar just open it up and rinse the lid off if there are seeds stuck to it.

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Anonymous September 9, 2022 - 7:20 pm

Thank you!

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Tom September 20, 2022 - 2:57 pm

Hello, discovered your recipes today and have spent some time printing a # of them. I really appreciate your back ground as a micro biologist ! Since it is an anaerobic process promoting lactic acid why do you recommend removing the rubber seal from the jar ? Could you use what I would call a French jar with the spring loaded sealed jars ? I have occasional flare ups of Diverticulitis & store bought sauerkraut helps. Can’t wait to make my own , I think it would be much better. Thanks again for your expertise . Tom 🙂

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Kaitlynn Fenley September 21, 2022 - 9:04 am

hi there! I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes. I recommend removing the seal from weck jars so that gas can escape from the jar without needing to burp it, and it won’t break. Yes, vegetable fermentation is an anaerobic process… within the brine. Everything submerged in the liquid is anaerobic. It doesn’t matter if a little air gets in the top of the jar as long as everything is submerged in the anaerobic brine with a fermentation weight.

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Kathy October 13, 2022 - 11:14 am

First of all, LOVE your web sight – wonderful recipes! I’m quite a cook and read recipes for fun; your recipes are fantastic. I’ve made sauerkraut before to poor results. I like the measuring in gms – very accurate.
When I made sauerkraut via your recipe & it smelled wonderful but the liquid got below the level of the cabbage because it kept seeping out of my airlocks (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LRMRDQ?ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details&th=1). The top level of sauerkraut had what looked like black stuff on it so I sadly threw the batch out (tho again, it smelled GREAT).
My question is – should I try again using airlocks? If liquid seeps out, should I add more brine? If so, what would the water to salt measurement be?

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Kaitlynn Fenley October 14, 2022 - 9:21 am

So glad you are loving the website. I don’t suggest using airlock lids, they cause issues. I recommend using fermentation weights.

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Mark October 29, 2022 - 11:45 am

Hi Kathlene,

I have a question about the green sauerkraut recipe. The jar I am using may be larger than the standard (I looked at the Quatro Stagionie jar and it does not say how many ounces it is) but anyway, the 550 grams of cabbage only fills it 3/4 full. Therefore I want to add more cabbage. Say I need 750 grams of cabbage (instead of 550) to fill it up; how much more salt and water would I need? How is this calculated? Thank you!

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Kaitlynn Fenley October 30, 2022 - 8:07 am

multiply the total weight of cabbage and water added by 2.5%

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Mark October 30, 2022 - 6:00 pm

Thanks, but how do I know how much more water to add (If I’m using more than 550 grams of cabbage).?

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Gina December 3, 2022 - 8:10 am

What do you mean by burp, please?

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Kaitlynn Fenley December 4, 2022 - 8:09 am

Open up the jar to let the gas out, and make sure the lid and rim of the jar are staying clean.

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Eva December 4, 2022 - 7:37 am

Hello Kaitlynn
I have made this sauerkraut based on your recipe several times, it always turned out super well! But, I just opened the last batch. Its day 29, smell is just like it should be, nothing off. Taste is also good. No marks of mold or anything bizzare- apart from the brine- that is slimy.
Why do you think it could happen? Could it be safe to eat?
Thanks a lot!

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Kaitlynn Fenley December 4, 2022 - 8:05 am

You have viscous brine! It’s perfectly safe and normal, especially common in the wintertime. The same microbes that make bubbles can make oligosaccharides when the temperature is just right and the cabbage is in season. Those compounds make the brine vicious (and they’re good for you!)

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