Sauerkraut is a wonderful addition to any diet. It is fantastic source of beneficial bacteria which are gut will thank us for. We don't eat enough cultured and fermented foods. Our ancestors would have included these types of foods frequently as they did not have refrigeration methods to keep their foods fresh. Not only did this mean foods which would only be available for short periods of time remain on the table for longer periods of time, they were also serving another important process: improving gut health.
Our guts are probably the most neglected system in the body! We often feed it bad foods and do not provide it with enough goodness. You don't get much more health giving than sauerkraut. Probiotic supplementation has become popular in recent years to help replace beneficial bacteria in the gut. It is something that is very useful in a clinical situation but can sometimes be quite expensive to implement, especially where large numbers of bacteria are required. Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are an inexpensive way to get in these good bacteria and are up to 20 times more bio available than probiotic supplements.
Sauerkraut Saved the Seven Seas!
A fun fermented fact for you all to share with all your friends: Sauerkraut actually helped save the seas by preventing scurvy amongst seamen! Scurvy is a disease brought on by severe depletion of Vitamin C and was common amongst sailors due to the shortage of fresh produce on long voyages. It caused over 2 million deaths from the 16th to 19th century. Sauerkraut is high in vitamin C and B vitamins which are created as a result of the fermentation.
How is Sauerkraut Fermented?
Sauerkraut is made by lacto-fermentation: the beneficial bacteria is present on the surface of all fruit and vegetables such as cabbage. Lactobacillus is a strain of good bacteria which is present in probiotic supplements and yoghurt. When submerged in the brine lactic acid is formed which inhibits production of bad bacteria. It is important that if you buy sauerkraut that it is raw and unpasteurised. Otherwise there is no good bacteria in there.
How Can I make my own Sauerkraut.
Not only is this fermented delight healthy, it is also super easy to make. It so much nicer than any store bought version you will buy and although it is an acquired taste at first you learn to love it!
This mixture will make enough to fit about 6 x 2lb Kilner jars or whatever jars you have.
You will also need rubber bands, cloths to cover the jars, a large mixing bowl and a sharp knife.
1 medium head of green cabbage (or red which makes a beautiful and pretty kraut!)
1 1/2 tsps of sea salt
1. Make sure everything is very clean. It is very important that you do not give pathogenic bacteria of any type the opportunity to grow. Ensure clean equipment and clan hands.
2. Slice the cabbage by cutting into eight pieces and discard the cord and outer leafs. Slice in to thin ribbons. I used a food processor to do this stage and it worked well.
3. Place the cabbage in a bowl and add the salt.
4. Massage the salt into the cabbage squeezing as you go. This will take at least 10-15 minutes and it may seem initially like there is not enough salt but bear with it. The cabbage will begin to wilt and water will start to be extracted. Keep going until the cabbage is soft and watery - almost like coleslaw.
5. Pack the cabbage into the jars. You need to ensure they are tightly packed. Use your fist to push it into the jar. This will ensure that the cabbage remains beneath the surface of the water which will eventually be extracted. Leave a gap at the top of the jar.
6. Cover the jars with a clean cloth and secure with a band to ensure no insects or dirt in but allows air to circulate.
7. Ensure you pack down the cabbage every few hours. If the liquid is not covering the cabbage after 24 hours make up a mixture of 1 cup water to 1tsp sea salt and top it up . It is important the cabbage does not go over the water or it will go off.
8. After about three days you can put the lids on and put it in the fridge. You should taste it first to see if it is to your liking. It will continue to ferment in the fridge but it is perfect to eat.
When you choose to eat it, start with a small amount to begin with - about a tsp. Build it up gradually as some can experience a "die off" effect as the good bacteria grows pushing killing the pathogenic, which causes the release of toxins.
Sauerkraut is an acquired taste but you grow to love it. And your digestive system definitely thanks you for it, as will your overall health!