Okay, so I know that this has been sort of answered before to some degree, but I'd really like to avoid throwing it out. After reading one of the links posted in that answer (specifically mistake 2), it leads me to believe I can salvage it but maybe shouldn't?

I'm looking for more experienced sauerkraut/fermentation makers to give advice. I make tomato sauce a lot, and my rule-of-thumb with that is "if the jarred lid hurts to pry off because of the seal, it's fine to eat" (with the reasoning that if the lid is that sealed down to the jar, then bacteria haven't been creating gasses to push the lid off, so there effectively aren't bacteria in the jar), but I have zero experience with fermentation and jarring sauce requires heat-treating the jar/sauce and cooling it to cause the seal, and this fermentation does not... so I'm a little out of my depth.

My situation:

Here is my sauerkraut, made using MasonTop's pickling kit:

enter image description here

As you can see, the lid is sunk in quite a bit. This picture was taken a little while ago, so the liquid is still quite high... but now the liquid is below the top cabbage level and the lid is still sunken in to the same degree. It hasn't been below the brine for too long, 5-7 days at the most (I forget the last time I checked it, exactly). My brother, also a first-time sauerkraut maker, said to just add brine but I questioned this as I know keeping it as oxygen-free as possible is better.

So here's my conundrum:

Given that information, which option is better:

  1. Open the lid, releasing the air-proof seal, and adding brine to level it over the cabbage?
  2. Leave it as it is to maintain the seal, but have the brine level beneath the top bit of cabbage?

Please, any information/advice is helpful! Thanks!

3 Answers 3


As you know, the salt in the brine keeps bad things from growing. The cabbage above the brine is at risk of mold or undesirable bacteria growing.

When your cabbage is actively fermenting it generates a good amount of CO2. Your lid is designed to bleed off the extra pressure without letting any O2 leak back in. Additionally, the CO2 is heavier than air and will displace residual oxygen in the jar.

You can open your lid and top off your brine. If it is fermenting as it is supposed to, the little oxygen in the jar will be consumed or displaced in short order and you will have your lovely anaerobic environment back. Just don't open it often.

In the future, I would recommend using a larger jar (or less cabbage) and give yourself a good inch or two of brine above the cabbage. Use a weight to keep the cabbage submerged. (I can't tell from your picture if your cabbage is weighted or not)

  • Yes, there is a glass disc weighing down the cabbage, and I also have a piece of cabbage leaf over the top of the sauerkraut beneath the weight. The 'recipe' I used for the sauerkraut came with the kit from MasonTops (link is above the image in the question), and it didn't say to add brine; it said to salt and mash the cabbage to release the juices, then cram it into the jar to have as few air pockets as possible. The liquid rose to above the cabbage by the next day, and stayed like that for 2-3 weeks, but just now I noticed it below. Regardless, thanks for the info and quick response!
    – Daevin
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 17:43
  • Oh, additionally, what is the proper ratio of salt-water I want to use for the brine? 1tsp pickling salt : 1cup water (i.e. the standard brine), or something specific for sauerkraut?
    – Daevin
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 17:44
  • 1
    It's normal to just rely on your cabbage to provide all the liquid necessary for your brine. I find it a little concerning that you seem to be losing water. The lid should prevent evaporation. The cabbage can grow in volume as CO2 is produced but the weight should keep it down. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    I have to look up the brine concentration whenever I need some. The first google result matches your 1cup water + 1 tsp pickling salt. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 19:11
  • 1
    I don't think it would absorb the liquid back. It's more likely it has a bunch of CO2 fluffing it up. If you press down on the cabbage and a bunch of gas bubbles up then that is the culprit. The weight is supposed to help prevent that. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 20:04

I would not recommend adding more brine at this point. A few key points:

The cabbage is still sealed under the weighted lid, so oxygen exposure has been minimal. This is the main thing to avoid for a safe ferment. The liquid level dropping a bit below the cabbage after 5-7 days is normal as the fermentation process progresses. The cabbage breaks down and releases more liquid.

As long as the cabbage is still fully submerged when you press down on it, the environment is still anaerobic under the weight. A little bubble release is expected.

Adding brine now would disturb the seal and introduce new oxygen. Best to let the natural fermentation take its course.

My advice would be to leave it undisturbed for at least 2 more weeks to complete the fermentation process. Monitor for mold (unlikely if sealed well) but don't open until tasting. The color and flavor will deepen over time. Trust the process and your sealed jar method. In the future, a bit more headspace above the cabbage helps prevent these concerns. But this batch should ferment safely as-is.

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    – Stephie
    Commented May 28 at 7:53

It seems lot a lot of trouble for such a small quantity.Smallest quantity I have made is 2 gallons. As noted, you should not need to add water ; the salt draws water out of the cabbage . I never sealed it, when finished just pick off any moldy cabbage. I started mine with a little yeast and sugar ; that worked well.

  • There is no reason to add yeast to sauerkraut (S. cerevisiae is uninvolved in the fermentation and would be unwanted), and little reason to add sugar. Cabbage already has everything it needs to kick off fermenting.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jun 2 at 8:00

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