There is something therapeutic about getting a wooden spoon and bashing the kajeebies out of cabbage. Mix in some sea salt, whey, caraway seeds, and a bit of strong girl grit, and you will have the most gut-worthy spoonful of cuisine ever known to wo/man.
Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage and is super good for your belly. It acts as a mild probiotic, benefiting your digestion. Everyone should eat fermented veggies, most especially those who suffer with autoimmune issues, bloating, and even those who are plighted with sugar cravings (ahem…like…99.9% of the population!). Just a word of caution, however: fermented foods such as sauerkraut are high in histamines. While this isn’t an issue for most people, large consumption of fermented foods (and other foods high in histamines) can cause allergic-like reactions in some people who are histamine-intolerant. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat fermented foods, it just means you should start off very small, and keep an eye on your symptoms. Go here to learn more about this, and how you can bring balance back.
Fermenting vegetables may sound kind of hippy, or grandma-ish, or even slightly witchy, but once you get into the habit of fermenting and eating fermented foods, it’s as normal as eating sautéed cabbage. Fermenting veggies is in fact super normal and has been around for thousands of years in many cultures. Back before refrigerators and freezes, fermenting foods worked to preserve foods by turning sugars into cellular energy and lactic acid. When the acidity rose due to lactic acid-fermenting organisms, harmful bacteria were killed.
Here are some reasons why fermented veggies, such as sauerkraut, are good for you:
- The lactic acid produced during fermentation begins the digestion process of foods, making it easier to digest when it reaches the body.
- Lactic acid also increases vitamin C and A levels.
- Fermentation produces a heap of beneficial food enzymes and antibiotic substances.
- Lactic acid also produces healthy bacteria
- Fermented foods are rich in vitamin K – a known cancer fighter
How to make sauerkraut:
Sauerkraut is easy to make. However it does require a bit of time to prepare as you need to bash or massage the cabbage to release its natural juices. I like to pop a movie on or an interesting doco and bash away during my viewing. Also, don’t expect to eat your sauerkraut straight away as it needs at least three days to ferment. I ferment mine for longer – a month or three. Captain Cook stored his sauerkraut for many, many months during his long voyages out at sea. Go Captain Cook!
- 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 tbsp sea salt or pink himalayan crystal salt
- 4 tbsp whey (if you don’t have whey, use an extra tbsp of salt instead)
- Core and finely chop the cabbage. I use my Thermomix at Speed 5 for 1 – 3 seconds (don’t mulch the cabbage!).
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer (I use the end of a big, fat wooden spoon) for 10 minutes to release juices. Alternatively, you can squeeze and massage the cabbage to release juices, if you’re not feeling so energetic! Depending on your cabbage, you may find it takes longer than 10 minutes. I’m usually there bashing away for about half an hour. Don’t stress. Enjoy the process!
- Spoon into a sterilised mason jar and using the pounder or meat hammer press down until juices come to the top of the cabbage and cover it. You want a good centimetre of juice to cover the top. You also want about an inch of space left over at the top of the jar. The sauerkraut will expand as it ferments. I learnt the hard way…I woke up one morning to find purple juice had exploded from the jars and had run rivers all along my kitchen bench and floor!
- Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Some people in warmer houses or hot climates store their sauerkraut in the fridge. Us Tassie peeps will be right keeping the sauerkraut fermenting in the kitchen cupboard out of sunlight. A garage would work just fine as well.
You can eat the sauerkraut after three days, however the longer it ferments, the better it gets in both flavour and health benefits. Don’t be afraid to eat six-month old sauerkraut! And the taste…well it is difficult to describe. It’s kind of sour and salty tasting. It’s definitely an acquired taste. I don’t think I could eat a whole bowlful of it. It’s very strong. I do, however, add a tablespoon or two of it to my salad for lunch, or mix it into a casserole, soup or stir-fry for dinner.
Have you ever made sauerkraut or fermented veggies? How did you go?
Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods, by Jill Ciciarelli
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook the Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon