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Kapusta Kiszona – Homemade Polish Sauerkraut Recipe

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A glass bowl filled with shredded sauerkraut and carrots sits on a wooden board, showcasing a classic kapusta kiszona recipe; beside it are two jars of sauerkraut, one open and one closed with a kraft paper lid.

Kapusta kiszona is the traditional Polish sauerkraut. Easy to make, all it requires is time and patience to form the perfect healthy meal!

I remember, when I was a kid, we would make kapusta kiszona in a big barrel. Everyone had different roles. One would remove the top leaves, another would wash the cabbage, and yet another would shred the cabbage. 

Next, we would salt the cabbage and then we would press the sauerkraut down and knead it by walking on it with clean feet. This traditional method of making kapusta kiszona is still popular in some places across Poland. 

Don’t worry though. There weren’t any chances of catching infections. Anyone who entered the barrel had to wash their feet a few times before going in, just like they do in France while making wine. 

If you come across it, it definitely is a must-see process to make real kapusta kiszona.

Shredded cabbage and carrot.
Shredded cabbage and carrot

What Is Kapusta Kiszona?

Kapusta kiszona is the traditional Polish version of sauerkraut, a dish made and loved by every Pole in Poland and across the world. It’s also a national dish in Germany and a popular dish in many Central European countries. 

The production of lactic acid bacteria during the fermentation process has a positive effect on the flora of the gut, and hence it’s considered a very healthy dish. 

In fact, sauerkraut is so popular that a sauerkraut festival is held in Phelps in the US every year. Another festival called Krautfest is held in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany, and see almost 40,000 visitors every year.

Even in Poland, there’s a cabbage festival in Charsznica every September and if you visit, you’ll find a lot of amazing kapusta on sale here.

How To Make Homemade Sauerkraut?

Here’s a video where I am showing how to make Polish sauerkraut step by step.

Step 1 – Prepare the cabbage and leave overnight.

A woman with long hair is chopping cabbage on a wooden cutting board in a kitchen, preparing for her kapusta kiszona recipe. She is wearing a green top and smiling at the camera. Kitchen appliances and utensils are visible in the background.

Wash and finely chop the cabbage. Now weigh it.

You need 1 tbsp of pickling salt for every 1 kilo (2 lbs) of sauerkraut. Mix the cabbage with salt and leave overnight.

Person chopping cabbage on a wooden cutting board in a kitchen, preparing for a kapusta kiszona recipe. Various appliances, including a blender, coffee maker, and cooking device with a screen, are neatly arranged on the counter.

Step 2 – Drain the cabbage and prepare add-ons.

The next day, drain the cabbage. Leave the cabbage juice for later.

If you want to add carrots, or any other veggies, prepare them now.

Step 3 – Prepare the jar(s) and herbs.

Sterilize pickling jar(s). Place a bay leaf and 2 allspice berries on the bottom of each jar.

If you don’t have them, don’t worry! They are not necessary.

Step 4 – Place cabbage in the jar(s).

Take a handful of cabbage inside the jar. Knead to remove all the air from the cabbage.

Repeat the process until the cabbage reaches ¾ of the jar’s height. Pour out all the excess water that shows up.

Step 5 – Add cabbage juice and twist off the jars.

After you are done kneading the cabbage, cover it with the water you have left. It should reach ½ inch above the cabbage level.

Twist off the jar(s).

Step 6 – Wait for a few weeks for the cabbage to be ready!

You can keep the jars in the fridge or in a kitchen. If it stays in a room temperature, it’s ready to eat after about 3 weeks. If you keep it in a cold place, you will need to wait for about 2 months.

After you open up the jar, you need to keep it in a fridge.

Who Invented Kapusta Kiszona?

We love sauerkraut so much. We’d love to think that one of our ancestors invented it. However, sauerkraut is not originally Polish or German or for that matter European. 

Kapusta kiszona most probably originated in China and was brought to Europe by the Tartars. History tells that the practice of ‘suan cai’ or fermenting of foods was in practice in China as far back as the 7th century when the Great Wall was being built.  

Kapusta kiszona in a glass jar.
Sauerkraut with carrots in glass jars

What Other Dishes Is Homemade Polish Sauerkraut Used In?

Kapusta kiszona is a must-have Polish dish. You can eat it solo, cold, or warm. It’s also used as a base for many famous Polish dishes including:

Tips For Making Kapusta Kiszona At Home

  • It is not essential to add carrots.
  • Make sure you use pure water for the kapusta. Chlorine will inhibit the formation of the bacteria. 
  • Did you know that sailors once ate kapusta to cure them of the flu?
  • Cabbage is a great source of dietary fiber!
  • Store the kapusta kiszona jar in a cool dark place till you open it. 
  • You may make sauerkraut from baby cabbage as well.
Polish sauerkraut in glass jars.
Store the Polish sauerkraut in glass jars

What Can Go Wrong And How To Fix It?

Fermentation Fails

  • No Bubbles or Activity: This might indicate insufficient salt or the wrong temperature. Ensure you’ve added enough salt and maintain a cool room temperature.
  • Mold Growth: Mold growth signifies spoilage. This can happen if cabbage isn’t submerged completely in the brine, or if there’s outside contamination. Use clean equipment and ensure the cabbage stays submerged under the brine using a weight.
  • Sauerkraut is Slimy: This is usually caused by the wrong type of bacteria. Lactobacillus bacteria are the good guys responsible for fermentation. Using unwashed cabbage or not creating an oxygen-free environment can encourage unwanted bacteria growth, leading to a slimy texture.

Taste Issues

  • Too Sour: Fermentation continues even after you refrigerate your sauerkraut. If it becomes too sour for your taste, simply consume it sooner or try using less salt in your next batch.
  • Off Flavors: An unpleasant smell or off-putting taste can indicate spoilage caused by factors like unclean equipment, using the wrong type of cabbage (use firm green cabbage varieties like Napa), or contamination.

FAQs About Homemade Polish Sauerkraut Recipe

What Kind Of Cabbage Should I Use?

The most popular cabbage for sauerkraut is white cabbage. You may use any other cabbage as well, including baby cabbage, napa cabbage, green cabbage, and more.

Why Do You Not Fill The Jar Completely?

Kapusta will grow and fill the entire jar eventually, that’s why you need to fill only 3/4 of the jar. You don’t want to risk the jar bursting. 

What Size Jars Should I Use?

You can use 2 big jars or several small ones. As long as you make sure they are clean and sterilized.

What Illnesses Is Kapusta Kiszona Good For?

Kapusta kiszona is a natural probiotic meal. It’s believed to cure a lot of illnesses, from the common flu to stomach disorders, to constipation and more. But to be sure, check with your doctor or dietitian. 

How Long Can The Kapusta Jars Be Stored?

Jars of kapusta kiszona can be stored in a cool dry place for weeks or months. Refrigerate after opening or use within a few days. 

When It’s The Right Time To Make Sauerkraut?

In Poland, people usually make homemade sauerkraut in October.

You may pickle baby cabbage as well, so you may do it as early as in May. I believe fall is the perfect time for it though!

Kapusta Kiszona – Homemade Polish Sauerkraut Recipe

Yield: 2 jars

Kapusta Kiszona - Homemade Polish Sauerkraut Recipe

A glass bowl filled with shredded sauerkraut and carrots sits on a wooden board, showcasing a classic kapusta kiszona recipe; beside it are two jars of sauerkraut, one open and one closed with a kraft paper lid.

Kapusta kiszona is the traditional recipe for Polish sauerkraut. Easy to make, all it requires is time and patience to form the perfect healthy meal!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 14 days
Total Time 14 days 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) of cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tbsp of pickling salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 allspice berries

Instructions

  1. Wash and finely chop the cabbage.
  2. Mix it with salt and leave overnight.
  3. The next day, drain the cabbage. Leave the cabbage juice for later.
  4. Peel and grate the carrot. Mix it with cabbage. [Adding carrot is not necessary].
  5. Sterilize two large (1 galloon) pickling jars.
  6. Place a bay leaf and 2 allspice berries on the bottom of each jar.
  7. Take a handful of cabbage inside the jar. Knead to remove all the air from the cabbage.
  8. Take another handful of cabbage, place it in the jar and knead.
  9. Repeat the process until the cabbage reaches ¾ of the jar's height. Pour out all the excess water that shows up.
  10. After you are done kneading the cabbage, cover it with the water you have left. It should reach ½ inch above the cabbage level. Kapusta kiszona in a glass jar.
  11. Twist off the jar and repeat the process with the second jar.
  12. You can keep the jars in the fridge or in a kitchen. If it stays in a room temperature, it's ready to eat after about 3 weeks. If you keep it in a cold place, you will need to wait for about 2 months.
    After you open up the jar, you need to keep it in a fridge.

Notes

  1. Adding carrot is not necessary.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 80Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 318mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 7gSugar: 9gProtein: 3g

These data are indicative and calculated by Nutritionix

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