Making sauerkraut and pickles requires very simple equipment such as kitchen knife, food grade plastic bucket, a clay jar and wooden weight. There is also a variety of professionally made sauerkraut fermentation crocks made from baked clay such as the German Harsch or Polish fermentation crocks.
If you plan on making enough sauerkraut to just meet your own or a small family's needs, you can slice cabbage with a kitchen knife, just make your cuts 1/16-1/8" thin. Keep in mind that the cabbage has to be cored and is normally cut into quarters, even if a mandoline slicer is employed. In some cases, for example when shredding Chinese soft textured cabbage, the knife is the most practical tool.
Cabbage has to be cored and is normally cut into quarters, even if mandoline slicer is employed. A quarter of the cabbage rests firmly on its flat side and you can easily shred the other flat side with a knife. And if you slice cabbage into 1/16", 3/16" or 1/8" slices who cares? It will still ferment and your sauerkraut will be just fine.
Mandoline sauerkraut slicer.
Mandoline sauerkraut slicer.
Four fingers on the cabbage, thumb behind the sliding box and the cabbage is shredded in a few moves. In order not to cut your fingers you have to stop shredding when little cabbage still remains. A new cabbage quarter is placed on those remaining leaves and the operation continues.
Small mandoline sauerkraut slicer.
There is a variety of small mandoline slicers, general purpose slicers, and other gadgets available on the Internet that will shred cabbage and other vegetables very well.
The process of making sauerkraut is very forgiving as sauerkraut is one of those great foods that needs very little help on our part and it always turns out great. There is a variety of containers will do a nice job. Fermented containers should not be made from regular metals (stainless steel is the exception), as the fermentation produces lactic and acetic acid, which will react with metal.
Plastic buckets make wonderful fermenting crocks as:
Supermarkets get their foods delivered in such buckets. Their capacity is usually 3-5 gallons.
Three gallon food grade bucket.
Five gallon food grade bucket.
If you are not sure of the origin of the bucket, you may line it up with a plastic cooking bag. There are general purpose and turker roasting plastic bags available.
Those buckets have an inside diameter of 11.25" (28.5 cm) and a large dinner plate fits well.
Fermenting bucket plate.
Fermenting weight plate.
Fermenting weight plate. A little rock will provide weight.
Glass jars are the great solution for people who want to make 1-2 gallons of product or who want to try out different recipes or ideas. One gallon glass jar can be placed anywhere in the kitchen and one can see what happens during fermentation. A wide mouth opening is preferrable as it allows for easy placement of a weight.
Fermenting glass jars should be kept in a dark place.
The type of weight is of little imortance what is important is that sauerkraut or pickles should be submerged in brine in order to create a barrier between the product and the air above. This prevents yeasts and mold from going on top of the product. Originally wooden covers were placed on top of the fermenting product and the additional weight was placed on the cover. Rocks, bricks or large gravel are often placed directly on top of the whole leaves.
Small fermenting glass jar.
An inverted dinner plate makes a great cover and additional weight is placed on it. That could be a plastic bag filled with brine or a glass jar filled with similar strength of a brine.
In many jars and crocks the mouth of the container is narrower than its body and a split weight plate must be used.
Weight plate holes.
For a straight jar one piece weight plate is the best solution. Include 1/4" clearance for one piece wood weights as they have a tendency to warp when wet. Such a tightly fitting weight may get jammed inside the jar making removal impossible.