It has taken me a long time to write about sauerkraut. Some might wonder why it wasn’t one of my first posts. It’s because I’ve been nervous, probably as nervous as anyone who is considering fermenting for the first time. But thankfully I can now dispel your sauerkraut making fear. It’s easy!
I’ve been pickling veggies for a few years now although I kind of skipped past the kraut; and trialed the fermenting craft with sweeter vegetable varieties – like carrot and beetroot. I didn’t see the point in making something I was sure to find disgusting.
Ha, how funny that is. You see, I was still in the mindset of my former self. I went from being a sugar loving, cake eating, 4 o clock low kind of girl to being gluten free, sugar free and grain free in a whirlwind. That’s just they way I roll. I have a bull at a gate, perfectionist personality with impatience to match. I didn’t reconsider my stance on Sauerkraut for quite a while however, despite the health findings in its favour.
That’s not such a bad thing, for it built my confidence and my lacto-fermenting palette. Over time I’ve braved the cabbage, I’ve added other veggies, herbs, spices, apple; it’s very difficult to go wrong.
This post is the original, 2 ingredient, jar of wonder.
I make the ‘oh pure sauerkraut’ in the name of Dr Natasha Campbell Mc Bride and the GAPS diet!
By the way, I genuinely love it now…. So I can tell you all about it with genuine kraut enthusiasm.
Why is Sauerkraut especially necessary?
It’s just medicine for your digestive system. The beneficial probiotics in sauerkraut inoculate the gut and strengthen the immune system. In Dr Natasha Campbell Mc Bride’s words
“Sauerkraut is a wonderful healing remedy for the digestive tract, full of digestive enzymes, probiotic bacteria, vitamins and minerals”.
Can’t I just take a probiotic pill?
Probiotic supplements are important but they tend to stop in the upper parts of the digestive tract and don’t make it to the bowel where most of the dirty work needs to be done. Fermented food, on the other hand travels all the way down to the end of the digestive system, repopulating the entire digestive tract with beneficial microbes. Homemade ‘live’ fermented food furnish the body with enzymes that protect against stress and disease.
Additionally, the process of fermentation predigests food, making it easier for the digestive system to handle what you eat. Quite simply, fermented foods are a foundation for healing and gut repair. Learn more here.
Fermented foods care for your digestion and Sauerkraut in particular is a winner. Homemade is best, of course!
What’s so good about cabbage?
Raw cabbage on its own contains a healthy dose of vitamin C but when you ferment it into sauerkraut, its vitamin C and antioxidant levels skyrocket. Get this:
Sauerkraut contains 20 times more bio-available vitamin C than fresh cabbage.
How to eat Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut stimulates stomach acid production and aids the digestion of meats. No surprise that European traditions served sauerkraut as a condiment to be eaten along side meat or the main meal. But there are no rules. Sauerkraut can be enjoyed at any time of the day. For medicinal purposes you can eat a teaspoon after meals? The juice alone is a powerhouse.
Quality ingredients make the difference.
Always use fresh, organically grown cabbage. Organic veggies are naturally populated with local bacteria from the earth. Just remove the outer leaves and it’s ready for your jar.
Good quality salt makes the Brine
Brine is simply water with salt dissolved in it. A good quality unprocessed pink Himalayan salt is best. (Do not use iodized table salt) In sauerkraut, salt is used to draw water out of the cabbage to produce the pickling juice – brine.
All you need
- 1 organic cabbage (approx 1kg)
- 2 tablespoons of fine pink Himalayan salt
- filtered water (may be required to top up the brine) or cooled boiled water
Getting Started – How to make sauerkraut.
Remove the tired outer leaves and discard, then carefully remove about 4 or 5 leaves to use as a barrier and weight on top of your sauerkraut. (explained below)
Remove the centre core of the cabbage. I reserve that for later too.
Finely chop the cabbage into shreds. Grate or feed the cabbage through a food processor for speedy shredding.
Put the cabbage into a large ceramic bowl. Evenly sprinkle with salt. Turn a few times to ensure coverage.
Leave the cabbage to sit for 10 minutes or so. This allows the cabbage to sweat and pull the water out of its leaves to create the brine for fermentation.
With your hands knead and squeeze the cabbage mixture. The cabbage will reduce in volume as it releases juice from the leaves.
Add handfuls of mixture to the sterile jar. When half full begin to pound down into the mixture with your fist or anything suitable. I’m using a stick that came with an electric blender.
Pound away until loads of cabbage juice is released. Add the remaining leaves and repeat the process. The pounding is complete when there is enough brine to adequately cover the cabbage.
It is necessary to create a ‘weight’ to push the cabbage down.
The brine must cover the cabbage by at least 3 cm. Without a weight the vegetables will float to the top, get exposed to air and grow mold. If your cabbage hasn’t created enough brine, some salted filtered water can be added.
How to easily create a weight.
Fold up a few cabbage leaves and push inside the jar.
Use a ‘weighting stone’ if you have one. Or be resourceful! A sterile garden rock can be wrapped in another cabbage leave or simply reuse the core of the cabbage as a plug. (Cut all the dirt off first)
Allow at least 3 cm space between the brine and the lid. Tip some brine out if it is too full. Then put the lid on securely.
UPDATE (2016) – This fermentation was made using a recycled glass jar. I now recommend inexpensive fermentation jars such as ‘Fido’, that have lids that allow the fermentation to ‘off-gas’. Fido jars are less likely to grow mold or explode.
Allow to sit somewhere out of direct sunlight for 3 weeks – 3 months. In the summer months, veggies culture faster. When the fermentation is done, transfer to the fridge. Sauerkraut can sit in your refrigerator for months without spoiling.
Twists on the original
Don’t be afraid to play around. Once you have a bit of home fermenting confidence you will quickly realize the possibilities are endless. Some popular variations: Add onion, red & white cabbage, green apple, sultanas, grated carrot, herbs, caraway seeds or chili. Why not try a Kimchi?
Play around, taste test. It’s really simple and requires no equipment. If you have a glass jar you can make sauerkraut!
- 1 organic cabbage (approx 1kg)
- 2 tablespoons of sea salt
- filtered water (may be required to top up the brine)
- Remove the tired outer leaves and discard.
- Then carefully remove about 4 or 5 leaves to use as a barrier and weight on top of your sauerkraut. (explained below)
- Remove the centre core of the cabbage. I reserve that for later too.
- Finely chop the cabbage into shreds. Grate or feed the cabbage through a food processor for speedy shredding.
- Put the cabbage into a large ceramic bowl.
- Evenly sprinkle with salt. Turn a few times to ensure coverage.
- Leave the cabbage to sit for 10 minutes or so. This allows the cabbage to sweat and pull the water out of its leaves to create the brine for fermentation.
- With your hands knead and squeeze the cabbage mixture. The cabbage will reduce in volume as it releases juice from the leaves.
- Add handfuls of mixture to the sterile jar.
- When half full begin to pound down into the mixture with your fist to compact and release the brine.
- Add the remaining cabbage and continue pressing down.
- Compacting the cabbage is complete when there is enough brine to adequately cover the cabbage.
- It is necessary to create a ‘weight’ to push the mixture down below the surface of the brine by at least 3 cm.
- Without a weight the vegetables will float to the top, get exposed to air and grow mold.
- If the brine is lower than this, some salted filtered water can be added.
- How to easily create a weight.
- Fold up a few cabbage leaves and push inside the jar.
- Use a ‘weighting stone’ if you have one or simply use the core of the cabbage. Cut all the dirt off first.
- Allow at least 3 cm between the brine and the lid