I would venture to guess that there is not one pharmaceutical that can :
- Help improve digestion
- Improve immune function
- Reduce inflammation and allergies
- Support cognitive health and mood
- Provide cancer fighting anti-oxidants
but according to this article eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods can do all those things. This post is part of a series I am writing on fermenting foods and for anyone who has come across this post but has not read my introductory post – you can find it here with more information about the health benefits of fermented foods.
For those who are not familiar with it sauerkraut is fermented (pickled) cabbage. I have been eating and enjoying sauerkraut for as long as I can remember. Sauerkraut and sausage has always been a family favorite and a I have always loved a Rueben sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese stacked on rye bread and then grilled. Growing up our sauerkraut was purchased in cans or jars at the grocery store.
I have made homemade sauerkraut with some degree of success in the past, which also means some degree of failure. 😦 The major “failure” was a large batch that went bad during the fermentation process. I could tell it was “bad” because it had a rotten – putrid smell to it. Eww! I can’t say for sure what caused it to go bad, but knowing what I know now I’d guess it was that the salt I used had an anti-caking agent added.
The batch the was a success had the smell that is unique to sauerkraut ( I’m not sure how to describe it but it does make my mouth water). It also had the wonderful and hard to describe flavor of sauerkraut – tangy – somewhat sour – somewhat sweet – somewhat salty all in one and it still had a some of the raw cabbage flavor which seems to disappear once sauerkraut had been pasteurized or canned. During the fermentation process the texture of the cabbage softened some but it did retain some of the crunchiness. Since this batch was 3 or 4 gallons I found it necessary to can most of the sauerkraut in order to preserve it. Although we were able to enjoy it for months to come, and there is certainly nothing wrong with eating cooked sauerkraut, (at minimum it still provides some good fiber) it no longer contained the beneficial probiotics that developed during the fermentation process.
Remember probiotic food needs to be consumed raw.
After successfully fermenting our garlic I decided it was time to make some sauerkraut. Since cabbage is not in season this time of year I purchased one when I was doing my grocery shopping. I decided to make only one quart in a wide mouth canning jar and found a recipe that told me I would need about 1 3/4 lbs. (.68039 kg) of cabbage and 1 table spoon of salt. I again used the Pink Himalayan salt. I also decided to keep it simple – there are many recipes out there that add different vegetables and herbs to sauerkraut – but I really like just plain (fermented) cabbage.
The process for making sauerkraut is different than fermenting garlic because instead of making a brine to pour over the vegetables, cabbage makes it’s own brine. I sliced the head of cabbage in thin strips and weighed out 1 3/4 lbs. I put it in a bowl then I sprinkled the salt on the cabbage and worked it in with my hands. The salt helps pull the water out of the cabbage. I then packed all of the cabbage into a wide-mouth, quart size canning jar. It is a tight fit and needs to be packed very tightly. There are tools designed to assist in this process. They are called sauerkraut stompers or pounders and although they vary in design they are consistently some type of fat wooden stick. I don’t own a sauerkraut pounder but I do keep a rubber mallet with a wooden handle among my kitchen utensils. The wooden handle was perfect for pounding or packing the cabbage into the jar. The reason for pounding or packing it tightly is to squeeze the water out of the cabbage thus mixing with the salt and creating the brine. Once the cabbage is packed tightly into the jar there should be enough brine to fully cover the cabbage. It is important that the cabbage be fully submersed, so if I ever come up a little short I will make up some brine to add.
I then placed my smaller jar (see fermenting our garlic post) inside the wide mouth jar as a weight to hold the cabbage beneath the brine. I covered it with a jelly bag (again another type of cloth would work) and placed a rubber band on the secure the jelly bag.
I began tasting the sauerkraut on about the third day and by the seventh day I decided it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator. We have been enjoying a couple tablespoons as a side dish with either lunch or dinner usually every other day or so.
Now I think it is time to start another batch. 🙂
Next up – sour dough bread.
What is your favorite way to eat sauerkraut? Do you eat it raw? Have you ever made your own?