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Production of Sauerkraut

Ralf Aurich

1 History

Sauerkraut is 'powerkraut'. This vegetable is a must for your body. If we follow the history of
the last centuries, we learn that in the past famous people appreciated the salutary effects of

The Romans knew sauerkraut. Columbus nourished his sailors with sauerkraut to make them
resistant against scurvy and other diseases. Dschingis-Khan used sauerkraut as provisions and
a source of energy for his men during his famous campaigns. The Greek medic Hypocrites
recommended sauerkraut against overweight, metabolic disease and for a smooth
detoxification. With the migration of people this food came from China to Europe.

2 Contents

Sauerkraut is very healthy food. Finish researchers discovered that Sauerkraut prevents of
cancer. It’s also very good for a diet. A hundred grams only have 26 calories and a portion of
fat of 0,3 g. The fermentation of white kraut produces choline. This substance controls the
human digestion.

List of contents:
o vitamins
o minerals (iron, calcium)
o trace elements
o roughage
o lactic acid

3 Production

3.1 Plantation

Important parameters: the choice of the species, the method of cultivation and the time of

For the production of sauerkraut to be cut, particularly large cabbages (5 to 12 kg) are needed,
without any green leaves. After the seedlings have been planted in hot houses or under plastic
material, they are planted outside as from March/April. They are planted in different portions
to avoid having to harvest and process the entire quantity at the same (which would be
impossible due to lacking storage capacity). Up to the harvest, i.e. between the beginning of
August to the end of November, the farmers carefully check the growth of the cabbages, so
that the it will conform with the quality requirements.
The harvest

The cabbage is harvested manually, cleaned carefully and loaded onto carts. The rough
product is then supplied to the producers of Sauerkraut.
Plantations are found all over Germany. There is no special region.

3.2 Preparation of cabbage

Reception and unloading

Here the cabbage is thoroughly checked. Apart from external visual checks, the internal
values are also carefully inspected and registered in a protocol and the cabbage is then
transported to the hall on a large conveyor belt.


Before the cabbage is cut, the core of each plant has to be drilled out to ensure that there are
no tough and unappetising slices. For this purpose, a special machine is used. Loose leaves as
well as the drilled cores are collected separately and returned to the suppliers. After removing
the cores, the cabbage is finely sliced in an appropriate machine.

Before the sliced cabbage is stored in the fermentation silo, it is salted and sometimes a mix
of spices is added.

3.3 Fermentation

Lactic acid bacteria are the primary group of organisms involved in sauerkraut fermentation.
They can be divided into three groups according to their types and end products:

Leuconostoc mesenteroides an acid and gas producing coccus

Lactobacillus plantarum and bacilli that produce acid and a small amount of gas

L. Cucumeris

Lactobacillus pentoaceticus acid and gas producing bacilli

(L. Brevis)

In addition to the desirable bacteria there are a range of undesirable micro-organisms present
on cabbage (and other vegetable material) which can interfere with the sauerkraut process if
allowed to multiply unchecked. The quality of the final product depends largely on how well
the undesirable organisms are controlled during the fermentation process. Some of the typical
spoilage organisms utilise the protein as an energy source, producing unpleasant odours and
The fermentation process

Shredded cabbage or other suitable vegetables are placed in a jar and salt is added.
Mechanical pressure is applied to the cabbage to expel the juice, which contains fermentable
sugars and other nutrients suitable for microbial activity. The first micro-organisms to start
acting are the gas-producing cocci (L. Mesenteroides). These microbes produce acids. When
the acidity reaches 0.25 to 0.3% (calculated as lactic acid), these bacteria slow down and
begin to die off, although their enzymes continue to function. The activity initiated by the L.
mesenteroides is continued by the lactobacilli (L. plantarum and L. Cucumeris) until an
acidity level of 1.5 to 2% is attained. The high salt concentration and low temperature inhibit
these bacteria to some extent. Finally, L. pentoaceticus continues the fermentation, bringing
the acidity to 2 to 2.5% thus completing the fermentation.

The end products of a normal kraut fermentation are lactic acid along with smaller amounts of
acetic and propionic acids, a mixture of gases of which carbon dioxide is the principal gas,
small amounts of alcohol and a mixture of aromatic esters. The acids, in combination with
alcohol form esters, which contribute to the characteristic flavour of sauerkraut. The acidity
helps to control the growth of spoilage and putrefactive organisms and contributes to the
extended shelf life of the product. Changes in the sequence of desirable bacteria, or indeed the
presence of undesirable bacteria, alter the taste and quality of the product.

Effects of temperature on sauerkraut process

The optimum temperature for sauerkraut fermentation is around 21ºC. A variation of just a
few degrees from this temperature alters the activity of the microbial process and affects the
quality of the final product. Therefore, temperature control is one of the most important
factors in the sauerkraut process. A temperature of 18º to 22º C is most desirable for initiating
fermentation since this is the optimum temperature range for the growth and metabolism of L.
mesenteroides. Temperatures above 22ºC favour the growth of Lactobacillus species.

Effects of salt on the sauerkraut process

Salt plays an important role in initiating the sauerkraut process and affects the quality of the
final product. The addition of too much salt may inhibit the desirable bacteria, although it may
contribute to the firmness of the kraut. The principle function of salt is to withdraw juice from
the cabbage (or other vegetable), thus making a more favourable environment for
development of the desired bacteria.

Generally, salt is added to a final concentration of 2.0 to 2.5%. At this concentration,

lactobacilli are slightly inhibited, but cocci are not affected. Unfortunately, this concentration
of salt has a greater inhibitory effect against the desirable organisms than against those
responsible for spoilage. The spoilage organisms can tolerate salt concentrations up to
between 5 and 7%, therefore it is the acidic environment created by the lactobacilli that keep
the spoilage bacteria at bay, rather than the addition of salt.

In the manufacture of sauerkraut, dry salt is added at the rate if 1 to 1.5 kg per 50kg cabbage
(2 to 3%). The use of salt brines is not recommended in sauerkraut making, but is common in
vegetables that have a low water content. It is essential to use pure salt since salts with added
alkali may neutralise the acid.

Use of starter cultures

In order to produce sauerkraut of consistent quality, starter cultures (similar to those used in
the dairy industry) have been recommended. Not only do starter cultures ensure consistency
between batches, they speed up the fermentation process as there is no time lag while the
relevant microflora colonise the sample. Because the starter cultures used are acidic, they also
inhibit the undesirable micro-organisms. It is possible to add starters traditionally used for
milk fermentation, such as Streptococcus lactis, without adverse effect on final quality.
Because these organisms only survive for a short time (long enough to initiate the
acidification process) in the kraut medium, they do not disturb the natural sequence of micro-
organisms. On the other hand, if Leuconostoc mesenteroides is added in the early stages, it
gives a good flavour to the final product, but alters the sequence of subsequent bacterial
growth and results in a product that is incompletely fermented. If gas producing rods (for
example L pentoaceticus) are added to the sauerkraut, this disturbs the balance between acetic
and lactic acids - more acetic acid and less lactic acid are produced than normal - and the
fermentation never reaches completion. If lactic acid, non-gas producing rods (L. Cucumeris)
are used as a starter, again the kraut is not completely fermented and the resulting product is
bitter and more susceptible to spoilage by yeasts.

It is possible to use the juice from a previous kraut fermentation as a starter culture for
subsequent fermentations. The efficacy of using old juice depends largely on the types of
organisms present in the juice and its acidity. If the starter juice has an acidity of 0.3% or
more, it results in a poor quality kraut. This is because the cocci which would normally
initiate fermentation are suppressed by the high acidity, leaving the bacilli with sole
responsibility for fermentation. If the starter juice has an acidity of 0.25% or less, the kraut
produced is normal, but there do not appear to be any beneficial effects of adding this juice.
Often, the use of old juice produces a sauerkraut which has a softer texture than normal.

Emptying the silo

Once the fermentation is completed, the water bag is removed and the sauerkraut is lifted out
of the silo by means of a crane and then filled into smaller containers for further treatment.

3.4 Treatment after fermentation


The raw or cooked sauerkraut is packed into pouches of 500 g or 750 g. Each pouch is
checked individually with regard to its weight. Too light and too heavy units are eliminated
automatically. The loose sauerkraut is packed in 5kg, 10 kg or 25kg buckets.


After the weight has been checked, all the pouches are pasteurised by means of continuous
pasteurisation machines. As these facilities heat the goods up rapidly and chill them again
quickly in a single operation, thereby preserving the precious ingredients.
Packing in containers for transport

After the pasteurisation, the pouches are checked individually for tightness and for the
correctly-declared contents, after which they are packed in containers for transport.