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What’s So Special About Sauerkraut?

I don’t know about you, but I grew up on southern food which included coffee so strong it would “make you grow chest hair” (as my daddy put it), buttermilk biscuits (YUM!), fried foods like chicken, and desserts like Coconut Cake, Coconut Cream Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie. Oh, and that’s not all. Summer time meant ice cream, ice pops and snowcones, and getting not only a Bismark doughnut to munch on in the grocery store to keep me quiet while my mama shopped (like a white glazed doughnut with a thick cream down the center…looked a bit like a hotdog bun only MUCH tastier!), but candy at the checkout. The holidays brought all kinds of yummy baked goods like Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potato Pie (my favorite), Divinity Candy, Fudge, cookies, cakes and brownies GALORE. I didn’t much care for vegetables growing up and wasn’t forced to eat them, although I DID have to at least try them before deciding not to eat them. Oh, I can’t forget the most important thing to us southerners: SWEET ICED TEA! And I’m not talking about tea sweetened with enough sugar to make it taste delicious, it was basically tea flavored sugar water! Times haven’t changed, either. Although now when you go to a restaurant or buy tea premade in the grocery store, you’re buying tea that is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which has very recently been changed to just Fructose, or Fructose Syrup. Unless you read and do your research, you may think “hey, doesn’t fructose come from fruit?” Yes, and this is Big Ag’s way of fooling the public while continuing to poison us. Always be on your guard!

In that vein, there ARE ways you can counteract these foods. First of all, STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS! If it has more than 3 ingredients (actually, should eat whole food that is just ONE ingredient), particularly ingredients you can’t pronounce, then DON’T EAT IT. Secondly, fermented foods. Preferably homemade fermented foods. When you buy fermented food at the store, it is ALWAYS pasteurized. Yogurt is pasteurized (and I have a hard time eating pasteurized food…always wind up with severe gastrointestinal pain), Kefir is pasteurized and pickles (if you can even find some that are actually lacto-fermented in the refrigerated section…the ones on the store shelf are made with vinegar, thus NOT fermented and offer no real health benefits) are pasteurized. Even the best sauerkraut in the refrigerated section with just cabbage and sea salt says it is lightly pasteurized.

There are plenty of sites that talk about the benefits of probiotics from fermented foods and there are lots of recipes to be had. I started out eating Bubbie’s Sauerkraut which was actually very good considering I had always been offput with just the smell of the stuff growing up. But as the container is on the small side and cost $7, I was determined to find a way to get fresh sauerkraut that didn’t break the bank. Guess what? You can buy cabbage (I buy both green and red…and according to EWG as posted here, cabbage is part of the “Clean 15”) for about $5 for 2 heads which last 2 to 3 months compared to a week or two! Cabbage is naturally resilient to bugs and the outer leaves are able to shield it from most toxic sprays. When consuming cabbage, make sure to remove and discard these outer leaves.

Okay, I’ll stop yapping and share my recipe. It’s a mix of red and green cabbage as they both have their own nutritional benefits! They share some of the same, but also very different ones. Dr. Mercola had his sauerkraut sent to a lab to test for probiotics and the results were astounding! “We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of the fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria.” That means 2 ounces of home fermented sauerkraut had more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules. Translated this means one 16 ounce of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics.” (via Nourishing Plot). After the recipe, I’ll post some links to read that list health benefits as well as nutrition information.

Homemade Sauerkraut

Beginning with a head of Red cabbage and a head of Green, remove and discard the outer leaves and rinse the cabbage and set aside to dry. Cut in half, then remove the core.
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Thinly slice and add an inch or 2 layer of cabbage at a time, adding salt (and Caraway seeds if you like) after each layer, scrunching well to release water (make it sweat!). Keep doing this until all the cabbage is used.

*Always make sure to use either a clean, sterilized glass bowl, ceramic, stone or stainless steel bowl.

After washing a large mason jar, ceramic or stone jar, sterilize by pouring boiling hot water into jar and lid and rinsing well, put in warm oven for a few minutes (I’ve read in places that this is how some people sterilize their jars) or wash in dishwasher and run through sterilizing heat cycle. Once clean and sterilized, add the cabbage in handfuls to the jar, pressing down to help release juices and cover with a saved leaf or 2 (not the outermost leaves, but a couple 2 to 3 layers down in the cabbage), then cover either with a towel, cheesecloth, or lid loosely fit on. Set in a dark place where the temperature is stable and not cold. How long it takes to ferment depends on how warm or cold it is. If it is warm, it will ferment and be ready to be refrigerated in about 5 days or so, perhaps less, but my experience is 5 days in the summer, and a good week or more in the winter. Sauerkraut has a tangy smell and taste which you will recognize once it is properly fermented. It’s really a no-brainer!

*ALWAYS make sure your hands are CLEAN before you begin and wash only with non-antibacterial soap and water and dry with paper towel. You sure don’t want to add any bad bacteria to the cabbage!

Tomorrow, we will check on the cabbage to see how it is doing. You need to “burp” it daily (releasing air bubbles) by getting a jar or plate (whatever fits in your container) and press down. On the first day, check to see if it has released enough liquid to submerge it. It most likely will have juice, just not enough to cover it. If that is the case, mix up 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per 1 cup of filtered water and add till the cabbage is covered.

Links to check into:

Sauerkraut is the Original Probiotic Superfood

Sauerkraut Test Divulges Shocking Probiotic Count

Sauerkraut Offers A Spectrum of Health Benefits

Tips for Fermenting At Home