Who would have thought that the crunchy sour condiment that some of us love to put on a hot dog could be good for you? Well, the original fermented version is very good for you! Some of you may not have even tasted sauerkraut or even know what it is.
Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage.
People have been using fermentation to preserve valuable vegetables and other perishable foods for long periods without the use of modern-day refrigerators, freezers or canning methods. It sounds a little disgusting to be eating food that has been sitting out on the cupboard for days, but actually it is so healthy.
Sauerkraut is chuck full of bacteria strains that include Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus that populate your gut environment. These live and active probiotics have beneficial effects on the health of your digestive tract, and the rest of your body too. That’s because a very large portion of your immune system actually lives within your gut and is run by bacterial organisms.
“The good bacteria living in someone’s healthy gut environment have been proved to be crucial for lowering the risk of just about every form of acute or chronic illness there is”.
“Most people, including children, are in need of a probiotic boost due to the use of prescription medication particularly antibiotics as well as high carbohydrate diets, the consumption of chlorinated and fluoridated water, and conventional foods such as non-organic meat and dairy that contain antibiotic residues. These chemicals kill off probiotics in your system, which over time will damage your digestive tract”. Dr. Axe
As you can see, we all need good bacteria. Yogurt and supplements are not the only place to get these yummy probiotics. Fermented foods of all kinds are a great way to supply your body with these needed good bacteria, and sauerkraut is one of them.
In a nut shell, here are some of the benefits of eating sauerkraut.
What it does:
- Improves immune function
- Aids in digestion and the absorption of various nutrients
- Helps prevent infections and combat toxins living within your digestive tract
- Supports brain function and cognitive health
- Control inflammation
What it can help PREVENT:
- brain disorders and mental illness
- digestive disorders like leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis and IBS
- mood disorders like depression and anxiety
- hormonal imbalances
- food allergies and sensitivities
- metabolic conditions such as diabetes
- obesity or weight gain
- various autoimmune diseases
Are you ready to start implementing this super food into your diet? You can buy sauerkraut at the store, but make sure it is raw and unpasteurized. It will be in the refrigerated section of the store.
Making your own sauerkraut is so quick and easy. It only has TWO ingredients (3 actually if you want to add any garlic or caraway seeds)and takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare and a few days to ferment.
All you need is:
- a big bowl
- cutting board
- 2 wide mouth quart mason jars
- 2 medium heads of cabbage
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined sea salt
- Optional crushed garlic, or caraway seeds
Remove the outer layers of the cabbage and discard. Take one more leaf off. Using the lid as a guide, cut a circle out of the cabbage. You will use this to cover the top of the cabbage while fermenting.
Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the hard center core. Slice and shred the cabbage to desired texture.
Place the shredded cabbage in a big bowl. Add salt and other flavorings. I like to add a few tablespoons of caraway seeds.
Toss cabbage and salt together in a large mixing bowl and begin to squeeze the cabbage, kneading it thoroughly to break up the cellular structure of the shredded cabbage. (This is a good time to get out any frustrations you may have).
Continue to knead the cabbage until it starts releasing its juices. Don’t over knead or you will have soggy limp sauerkraut.
Transfer cabbage to the jars and pack in tightly! Pack until it is full, eliminating any air bubbles.
Keep packing the cabbage until it is completely covered with brine.
Place the cabbage leaf circle on top of the shredded cabbage and pack down until covered with brine. This helps keep the cabbage from molding.
Put a clean rock or a pint size jar filled with water on top of the cabbage to keep the cabbage submerged in liquid.
Place the jars on a plate or tray to catch any seeping brine that occurs while fermenting.
Cover lightly with a cloth and store at room temperature for 3-10 days, checking every day to make sure the brine is covering the cabbage and to press down on the weight to burp the veggies and allow the gas bubbles to dissipate.
After 3-10 days cover jar with a lid a place in the refrigerator, use within 4-6 months.
Lacto-fermented vegetables increase in flavor with more time, at least according to fermentation experts. One of the best thing about lacto-fermented vegetable condiments is that they’ll stay fresh and “alive” when stored in a cold place like the refrigerator for several months, instead of going bad within a week like fresh veggies do.
How do you incorporate this yummy fermented food into your diet?
This post has a lot of great ideas on how to eat it. It’s not just a condiment, I like to think of it as a supplement. Some days I just get out the jar and put a few tablespoons on a plate and eat it down. It really does help my digestive system. You can even just drink a little bit of the brine.
Adding fermented foods to your diet can be an easy process (and can save you money on probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements!) I hope you will give it a whirl.