Sauerkraut contains no vinegar; instead, it gets its strong tangy aroma and flavor from the liquids produced during fermentation, a biological process that can take several days. During that time, the finely shredded cabbage actually starts to decompose, but the liquid it produces magically keeps it from going over the edge into complete spoilage. Finished sauerkraut can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely or processed in a water bath canner for longer storage of up to a year or more. You will need the same standard canning equipment to preserve sauerkraut as if you were canning pickles, tomatoes or other high-acid foods.
Place the canning jars in a large pan and add warm water to completely cover them. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to simmer; leave the jars in the water until you are ready to use them.
Place new jar lids in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; reduce to simmer and keep the water hot, but not boiling.
Place the sauerkraut in a second large pan and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring it frequently to prevent sticking and burning. Reduce the heat when it comes to a boil and keep it hot as you prepare the jars.
Remove the canning jars from the pan with tongs and place on a solid surface. Fill the jars with sauerkraut to about 1 inch from their tops and add enough of the brine to cover.
Use paper towels to wipe any residue from the jar rims; remove the jar lids from the small saucepan and place them on the jars. Place bands on the jars and screw them tightly by hand.
Set the water bath canner on the stove and lower the jars onto the rack. Fill the canner with hot water until it covers the jars by about 2 inches and bring to a full boil on high heat.
Cover the canner and keep the water boiling. Process the quarts for 15 minutes and pints for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the water to stop boiling; remove the jars carefully and place them on kitchen towels. Allow the jars to cool completely before labeling them with the contents and date of processing. Store in a cool, dark place.