How to Make the BEST Sauerkraut and Improve Your Gut Too
It's cabbage harvest time! That means it's time to make sauerkraut! I LOVE sauerkraut! Even when I was a kid, I could eat it constantly. Now, I know not everyone likes it as much as me...or perhaps not even at all. But there are a LOT of great reasons to eat it up every chance you get! And, it's SO EASY to make, too.
Watch out, though! If you decide to buy it in the stores, chances are it's been pasteurized or otherwise heat processed for preservation, and that strips it of many of its special probiotic qualities because the pasteurization process kills all the good bacteria that are what help your digestive and intestinal tract. If you do decide to buy it, make sure the label states "raw," "not pasteurized," and that it's refrigerated. If it is bottled and sitting on a shelf at room temperature, the probiotics are dead. GONE to another place.
What to do with the Cabbage? Make your own Sauerkraut!
You'll save money, you get to taste test and finish it when you feel it's ready, and you'll be providing additional probiotics for your family! Best of all---it will inspire you to continue to make more of your own things!
Ingredients for Amazing Sauerkraut
1. Red or Green Organic Cabbage---They are both delicious!
2. Sea Salt
3. Whey as a starter (optional). Click for directions on how to make your own whey.
5. If you like spice, a couple of cut of jalapeño peppers
Tools for Making Sauerkraut
1. A large bowl
2. Some type of pounder
3. Fermenting vessel of some sort. Most of the time, I just use a half-gallon or quart size Mason jar.
Directions for Making Amazing Sauerkraut
1. Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage.
Set these aside, as you may want to use one to help keep the kraut covered later.
2. Cut up your cabbage.
The best way to cut up your cabbage (in my experience, at least---some of you may have better ideas) is to cut it in half. Then slice the core out on an angle on both sides. Cut into fourths. Proceed to cut it up into little shreds or pieces from there!
3. Salt and pound your cabbage shreds/slices
This is the fun part. Using about a tablespoon or a little more of sea salt, sprinkle it over the cabbage. Then, pound it good! It's a great stress reliever too! :-) Seriously, though, the pounding along with the salt at this point helps to release the juices from the leaves, creating its own special briny awesomeness!
4. Add your whey, garlic & jalapeño (optional).
Here is where I add the slices of jalapeño pepper, garlic, and whatever else I'm going to add. Be creative! You seriously can't mess this up!
**A NOTE ABOUT USING WHEY: If you are lactose intolerant, you can skip adding the whey. What the whey does in fermenting foods is speeds up the process a bit. You may need to add just a little more salt, which will make for a stronger brine (salt and liquid) if you want. At any rate, I like adding whey. Some of the purists out there just leave it out. It's up to you!
5. Jar it up
Once you have let it sit and/or pounded away, and you feel you have gotten a good amount of the juice out of the cabbage, just put it into a Mason Jar (or other fermenting vessel). You'll want to pack it very tightly and get rid of any air pockets.
You may have enough liquid from the released juices to cover the cabbage. If you still have cabbage at the top that's not covered with juices/liquid, just add a bit of filtered water to cover.
Be sure to leave about an inch or a little more of headspace at the top, because once it starts fermenting, your liquid will probably rise somewhat.
6. Cover the Cabbage and Weigh it Down
Here is where you take that piece of cabbage you set aside and tuck it on and around the top of the veggies. Then, use some type of weight to be sure everything stays submerged in the liquid. I've gotten pretty creative over the years, and sometimes I even use boiled rocks. You can use anything that will hold the veggies under the liquid.
7. Let it Ferment!
This is the fun part! Well...the other fun part. Here is where your ferment starts bubbling, turning those crisp veggies into goodness for your body. The bubbling may take a couple of days, but be patient. When you see those exciting bubbles perking to the top---you'll know things are working!
Here are a few tips: If you use an airlock or a "nipple," you don't have to "burp" your lid. However, if you use a regular Mason jar lid, you will have to just open it slightly a couple of times a day to allow the gases out. Ferments can build up quite a bit of pressure, and that is the reason for the airlock or nipple. However, I have been fermenting for a long time, and I'll often just choose to "burp" my ferments and use a regular old lid. I personally think it's fun to watch the rush of bubbles come to the surface!
Let your cabbage turn into sauerkraut over the course of a week minimum. I have left my ferments for up to a month with no issues. The longer it ferments, the stronger it will be, and the more probiotic gut-healing goodness you will get!
A note about using spices: Spices become stronger the longer you let the fermentation process go. Just keep that in mind when using spicy things like peppers.
A note about mold: It's actually pretty rare to see mold on fermenting food. However, it happens. If you see any type of white, black, green, etc. mold---dump the whole thing in the compost bin and try again. You're less likely to ever see mold if you keep the veggies submerged and pack them in good to remove air pockets. I've never had a problem with fermenting vegetables----but just letting you know as a precaution.
8. Move your jar to cold storage and Enjoy!
When you feel like your sauerkraut is finished to your satisfaction, just move it to the refrigerator to store. If you are lucky enough to have a root cellar that stays around 50 degrees or below all year, you can even store your ferments there. I don't have that luxury, though, so into the fridge it goes!
This sauerkraut is SO good that it won't last that long....I promise!
Have you tried making your own sauerkraut? I'd love to know your experiences!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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Tools I Couldn't Live Without
These are great for pounding the cabbage and being large enough for movement.
You seriously need one of these inexpensive pounders. Pounding the cabbage and salt is the best way to get those juices going!
These aren't the exact ones I use, but they serve the same purpose. Designed to fit into the mouth of a wide-mouth Mason jar, they effectively hold the veggies down into the liquid to prevent molding. I actually bought mine from a seller on etsy, but I think I'm going to try these because they are a bit less expensive.
This is a great set up for the beginning fermenter. You just can't go wrong with this set.
Can't live without wide mouth quart size Mason jars!!!
This is a great book! It is extremely complete and covers every single thing you have ever wanted to know about fermentation. It gets a bit technical, and it is very interesting.
This is the book that was my introduction into fermentation, as well as the book below, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. GREAT book.
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I hope you will give fermentation a try! I firmly believe this is the best way to preserve food while also maintaining the nutritional value as well as adding the benefits of probiotics to your diet.
Be encouraged! :-)