That good old pickled sour cabbage recipe… How to pickle it as a whole for stuffed cabbage rolls.

Have you tried this old school method of pickling whole heads of cabbage? This sour cabbage recipe has been in my family since my grand grand mother was around. You can definitely trust this method of preserving cabbage, as it has been tested and perfected over time.
How to pickle whole cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls

You could get away just with buying sour cabbage, but it’s probably never be as good as the ones you can make at home. So if you’ve wondered how to pickle whole cabbage heads… keep on reading or go straight to the video below for instructions.

I know… it’s supposed to be a “grandma” thing… the whole pickling thing. But when grandma’s not around to serve you with her pickles you have got to learn how to do it yourself. 

I really wanted to preserve my family’s recipe, as they have been passed down from generation to generation and more than that, each and one of them has been perfected over time, so you cannot go wrong with them. 

Posting this sour whole cabbage pickling recipe on my blog is my way of honoring and preserving our family tranditions.

How to pickle whole cabbage heads - VIDEO RECIPE

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The ingredients for making sour cabbage at home


  • 3 medium-sized cabbages; 

If you’re planning to go for the stuffed cabbage rolls at some point, choose the variety of cabbage that has greener and thinner leaves, as well as smaller stalks. For this particular dish, you need to pickle the whole cabbage to have the leaves available for wrapping. 

The variety that has whiter, thicker leaves, as well as larger stalks, is okay for salads or cooked meals, where you’re just using chopped pieces of cabbage. 
Ingredients on how to pickle whole cabbage heads
  • 1-2 horseradish roots – peeled and chopped as you wish; 
  • 4-5 fresh celery leaves;
  • optional: 1 quince fruit (gives a nice colour and flavour);
  • optional: 1 red cabbage (adds a purple tint).
  • peppercorn – 1-2 Tbsp;
  • 1-2 dry bay leaves;
  • dry dill flowers and stems;
Note: If you can’t find these, you can use dry dill seeds. Alternatively, if none of that is available for you, just use fresh dill. Dill is exactly what gives the sour cabbage that distinctive and addictive flavour.
brine containing salt and water for making sour cabbage at home
BRINE – quantities for 1l of brine (1 qt):
  • Mix 50 g (1.8 oz or 3 Tbsp) coarse salt without iodine for each litre of water and stir to until it has dissolved.

Note: These are the quantities for 1 litre (1 qt) of brine. You should multiply them to get as many litres as your container calls for. I used about 8 litres for mine.

  • A container with a larger opening, where everything will fit nicely. Or you can go for smaller jars if you only go for the chopped cabbage Sauerkraut style.
  • Our family tradition calls for a clean tube (any kind you can find) to help the fermentation process in the first 10 days. 

Pickle cabbage with this reliable and proven method.

Make sure your container is clean. Have all your ingredients at hand. Don’t forget to peal and chop the horseradish. 

Add all the spices, together with the horseradish and celery stems & leaves. Place a whole cabbage and complete the empty space in between with pieces of quince, red cabbage or quarters of white cabbage. Whatever suits you. 

You just need to stuff your container as much as possible with a combination of all ingredients. The order in which you place them is not important. 

At some point place the tube inside the container. 

When all ingredients and the tube are already inside the jug, try to estimate how much liquid you will need to fill it up to the top. Prepare your salt and water solution by multiplying the quantities describe for 1 liter (1 qt). That’s 3 Tbsp for each liter (each qt) so you can do the math. Stir till the salt is completely dissolved. 

Pour the brine until it covers all that’s inside. Shake your jug a bit for some of the air bubbles to come out and then put the lid on but not quite tightly. 

Place the future pickles container in the darkest, coolest place you have around.

After the first 3 days, you need to open the container, get one side of the tube out and blow some air inside a few times. You need to repeat this process 2 more times, at a 3 days interval. This means that in the 9th day you can remove the tube and close the lid tightly. 

Now just abandon it in your cellar or other cool place you have, anywhere between one and a half up to 2 months. 

Why do we even pickle cabbage? What is it used for?

The answer to this question depends on where in the world you’re at. Some nations like the Eastern Europeans for example, go crazy after eating it as a salad, topped with sweet paprika and sunflower oil. 

Some nations pickle the cabbage as a whole especially to have the cabbage leaves available for wrapping the super delicious Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Here’s what I’m talking about…


The "Romanian Sarmale" recipe. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with pork, veal and rice.

A very popular name for the sour cabbage is the German version “Sauerkraut” but it mostly refers to finely chopped cabbage in brine. 

A very nice way of serving pickled cabbage is roasted in the oven with tomatoe sauce, thyme, onions and of course … smoked meat accompanies the sour cabbage in the most perfect way possible.


Is sour cabbage healthy?

Anyhow you choose to serve it, the sour cabbage is super healthy for your digestive system, it supports the gut, thus helping with your immune system. Yes, it is super healthy and tasty in the same time, and you should definetely add it to your diet.


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