Make Homemade Fermented Sauerrüben

Sauerrüben is similar to sauerkraut in regard to the method used to ferment it and also by how it’s enjoyed. But instead of cabbage, it’s made with turnips and rutabagas.

by Stephanie Thurow
PHOTO: nat2851terry/

Do you know how to make homemade fermented sauerrüben? We pretty much always have some blend of homemade sauerkraut bubbling away on the counter or stashed away in the refrigerator. But years ago, while looking through my mother-in-law’s German cookbooks, I saw a recipe for sauerrüben.

Sauerrüben is similar to sauerkraut in regard to the method used to ferment it and also by how it’s enjoyed. But instead of cabbage, homemade fermented sauerrüben is made with turnips and rutabagas.

As much as I like the traditional blend of root vegetables for sauerrüben, I actually prefer it made with just rutabagas. Unlike traditional plain cabbage kraut that ferments in five-plus weeks, this ferment only takes five to seven days. It’s a quick alternative to the usual plain kraut and a unique twist that isn’t quite as common here in the states.

Homemade Sauerrüben Recip

Yield: 1 quart jar



  • 2 pounds rutabagas (about 3-4 small rutabagas)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (more if desired)


Wash rutabagas, trim ends, but leave on the skin. Shred the rutabagas with a large coarse grater (not fine). Collect shreds in a nonreactive bowl, such as glass, plastic or solid stainless steel. Add in the salt and mix well.

Mix until you can pick up a handful and squeeze liquid from your fist. Once liquid accumulates, you can transfer the rutabaga into a clean quart jar. Leave 1 to 2 inches of headspace. Use your fist to tightly fill the jar, removing any air pockets. Pour in any excess liquid from the bowl in the jar as well. This liquid is the brine that the rutabaga will ferment in.

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Once the jars are filled there should be enough brine to cover the shreds. If there is not enough liquid, check again in the morning and more often than not, there will be enough. You will need some sort of weight to keep the grated rutabaga pushed under the brine.

Keeping the shreds submerged under the brine is the key to a successful ferment. There are weights specifically made to fit jars, but you can also get creative; see notes section below on alternative options. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean dampened towel, and add the mason jar canning lid and tightly screw on the ring.


This is a 5-to-7 day ferment. The temperature in the space where you are fermenting in will declare how long it takes. The warmer a room, the faster it will ferment. Ideally, ferment between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and keep out of direct sunlight.

Burp the jar daily, especially at first when the ferment is very active – unscrew the lid briefly and tighten it back on to allow any built-up gas to release. At least once per day, you’ll have to use a clean utensil to push down the weight and submerge the rutabaga again. Scoop away any pieces of food floating on top of the brine to avoid mold.

Taste test the ferment after 5 days. If it still tastes raw, allow it to ferment another couple of days and taste again. Once fermentation is complete to your liking, transfer the jar into the refrigerator, with the brine and all.

Fermentation doesn’t stop once the ferment is transferred to the refrigerator, however it does slow the process way down. The taste and texture will continue to change, therefore it’s best enjoyed ideally within 6 months.


As with traditional sauerkraut, this recipe can be tweaked to your liking by adding other vegetables, such as carrots, onions or hot peppers. Or, add additional seasoning such as toasted caraway seeds or bay leaves.

If you don’t have a glass jar weight, improvise by using an easily removable small food-grade glass dish that fits inside the jar. Or, if you have a smaller glass canning jar that can fit into the mouth of the jar you are fermenting with, you can use that to keep the produce pushed under the brine.

You may substitute fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt if you prefer. Consult a salt conversion chart.

This homemade fermented sauerrüben recipe has been adapted from Stephanie Thurow’s WECK Home Preserving, with permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. For another great fermenting recipe, try Fermented Dilly Pickled Cauliflower.