Eating fermented foods on a daily basis is a terrific way to make sure our bodies have plenty of probiotics (i.e. good bacteria), which keep our gut healthy. Probiotics not only help treat digestive issues, they can also help treat other health issues such as:
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
I’ve written about how to make yogurt and milk kefir before, both of which are excellent fermented foods to incorporate into your diet. Now I’ll show you an easy way to make homemade sauerkraut, which has shown to contain even more bacteria than over-the-counter probiotics!
The recipe below is adapted from the kitchn.
- 1 medium size head of green cabbage (or other types of cabbage such as red cabbage, napa cabbage, savoy, etc.)
- 1 1/2 tbsp salt
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Large mixing bowl
- 2-quart wide-mouth jar with a lid
- Smaller jelly jar that fits inside the larger jar, filled with clean stones or marbles
- Cloth for covering the jar
- Rubber band for securing the cloth
- Clean your equipment well to ensure the good bacteria is allowed to flourish. This includes your hands, which you’ll be using to massage the cabbage.
- Cut up the cabbage. Remove and compost the wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Slice the cabbage into quarters and trim out the core. Slice each quarter down its length, making 8 wedges. Cut each wedge crosswise into very thin ribbons.
- Put the cabbage into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Massage the salt into the cabbage with your hands, squeezing the cabbage as you do it. The cabbage will gradually become watery and limp and resemble coleslaw. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. At this time, you can add in caraway seeds (optional).
- Pack the cabbage into the jar using your hands. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar. It’s also recommended that you place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
- Weigh the cabbage down with the smaller jelly jar, which should be filled with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.
- Cover the jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band to maintain airflow while preventing dust from getting into the sauerkraut.
- Press down the cabbage every few hours over the next 24 hours using the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases more liquid, it will become more compact and more submerged by the liquid.
- Add extra liquid if after 24 hours the liquid has not risen above the cabbage. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
- Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days, keeping it away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature – ideally 18-24 degrees Celsius (higher temperatures can make the cabbage too soft or go bad). Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid. You ca ferment it for up to 10 days, but start tasting it after 3 days. When the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, secure the lid, and refrigerate. While it’s fermenting, bubbles might come through the cabbage, or there might be foam or white scum on the top. These are all normal signs of fermentation. The scum can be skimmed off either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If there is any mold, remove all moldy parts immediately and make sure the cabbage is fully submerged; the rest of the sauerkraut should be fine to eat.
- Store sauerkraut for up to several months in the refrigerator. As long as it still tastes and smells fine, it is good to eat. Keep an eye on it and make sure that the sauerkraut is always submerged within the brine to prevent the growth of mold. If it’s not, add more brine using the same ratio of salt to water as before (1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water).