We all need friendly digestive flora as a health-promoting probiotic, and fermented foods have been used by different civilizations for hundreds of years for this purpose. Today, sauerkraut is one of the most popular probiotic foods, happily consumed by many different peoples around the world. The French eat choucroute, the Germans of course sauerkraut and the Koreans kimchi.
If you would like to make your own sauerkraut, here is the recipe from a friend. She is a mine of information for all those good and healthy recipes we should all be using but so often don't have the time or the inclination.
Recipe ingredients and equipment
- 1 half gallon glass jar for storage.
- 1 medium sized cabbage shredded (preferably in your food processor).
- Optional extras: half a daikon radish, shredded carrots, juniper berries plus a tiny amount of red pepper flakes.
- half cup of pure filtered water with 1 tablespoon of natural sea salt dissolved.
- 1 cup water kefir as a starter (although not absolutely necessary, this will help to speed up the process). Incidentally, water Kefir is a lacto-fermented beverage made from sugar water, juice or coconut water. Here is a link to how to make your own.
What to do
Pack all the cabbage and optional extra ingredients into the jar as tightly as possible using 2 or 3 cups at a time. Between each addition, use a potato masher to compact the cabbage even further before adding more and compacting again. Carry on until the jar is completely full.
Mix the salt water and water kefir and slowly pour over the cabbage mixture, giving it time to soak all the way through until the top of the cabbage is completely covered. Cap the jar with a plastic lid so that it is not quite air tight and place it in a pan (because the jar will leak) and cover with cloth to block out the light. Leave it on the kitchen counter for 3 days but check daily and add more water as necessary to ensure the cabbage is covered. After 3 days in the summer or 4 to 5 days in the winter, place in the refrigerator for another week or two. You can start to eat it as soon as it is in the refrigerator but if left a bit longer, the flavor develops more.
Don't be put off by the fact that naturally occurring bacteria on the surface of the cabbage leaves thrive in this environment, chemically changing the cabbage and increasing its B vitamin content. We all know how long fresh cabbage can last in the refrigerator. Fermented cabbage lasts much longer than that – for weeks if not months.
How to serve sauerkraut
Ideally, serve sauerkraut as an accompaniment to cold beef or sausage or as a side dish to pork chops or a pork roast. Another way is to brown pork chops in a pan and place on top of the sauerkraut in a casserole dish before baking at 320 degrees until the meat is tender.
Healthy sauerkraut is tasty, very low in calories, with no fat and no cholesterol but with plenty of fiber. Serve it at least once a week and you will get all sorts of nutrients - vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.
No time to make your own?
If you want to get hold of ready made sauerkraut, you need to look for unpasteurized fermented cabbage. It is harder to find but you may be lucky at a health food store or you can order online.