Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sauerkraut



I’ve been making sauerkraut for a few months now and I LOVE it!  Even my KIDS love it! Yay!
I’ve been reading about how to heal a leaky gut, and found that adding good bacteria is one of the ways to go.  The Specific Carbohydrate Diet that I follow includes  24 hour yogurt as a major part of its healing protocol, but I am intolerant to dairy.  So instead of the yogurt, I just take daily probiotic capsules.  This has worked well for me, but after 2 years on SCD, I started to wonder if I could improve further.  SCD is enough to keep me in remission, but how about actually HEALING my gut?
So I’ve been experimenting with fermenting.  My kids have been fairly tolerant (there have been a couple, ‘What is that smell, mum?’ questions, but they humour me). 
So far I’ve made sauerkraut, fermented tomato sauce and fermented carrot sticks.  I’ve also been experimenting with kefir, but that’s another story. :)
Firstly I tried buying sauerkraut from the supermarket, but then read that because it is pasteurized, it doesn’t contain the beneficial lactic acid bacteria. 
To get the good stuff, you have to make your own.

Having healthy gut bacteria is so important.  I think everyone should add sauerkraut to their diet to help their immune system.  It is also very high in vitamin C with good amounts of vitamin B6 and iron.  Awesome.
Thankfully, sauerkraut is really easy to make.  And fun!

Sauerkraut
Ingredients:
1 head of cabbage
Sea salt
Sauerkraut brine from previous batch (optional)

You’ll also need:
Chopping bowl
Large knife
Large bowl
Large jar or crock

Method:
Wash the cabbage, peeling off the tough outer leaves.
Use your knife (or a food processor) to quarter your cabbage and cut out the core. 
Finely slice or shred your cabbage. 
As you chop it, put the shredded cabbage into a large bowl.
Grind some sea salt onto each layer of cabbage as you add it to the bowl. 
(In total, you need around 2  tablespoons of salt for a medium cabbage).
When the bowl is almost full, spend a few minutes massaging or kneading the chopped cabbage in the bowl.  (I like this step; it’s therapeutic!)

Massaging the cabbage, along with the addition of the salt, draws out the moisture.  Time will also do this.  You can fill your bowl with the layers of cabbage and salt, leave it to rest for 30 minutes or so and it’s easier to release the juices.
Then spoon the cabbage and the released brine into your jar or crock.
Yes, it’s messy!  Mine goes everywhere. :)
Keep chopping up your cabbage and layering up your bowl with cabbage and salt.  Massage and/or leave each bowlful before adding it to your jar or crock.
Important note:  Do not fill your jar up to the top! 
I always find I actually need two jars, so have extras ready just in case.
Keep adding your cabbage and salt to the jars.
When your jars are three quarters full, leave them to sit for a while or if you’re impatient, just go to the next step:

Use the end of a rolling pin to squash down the cabbage in the jar.  This releases more juices. 
Keep squashing down the cabbage with the rolling pin until the brine covers the top of the cabbage.  This may take 5 – 10 mins.  Get the family to help!  (Again, very good therapy!)
If you have a tablespoon of sauerkraut juice from a previous batch, add it at this stage; it will help kick-start the fermentation.
If you can’t get enough brine to cover the cabbage, make up some brine by mixing 1 cup of boiled water with 1 teaspoon of salt.  (I’ve always had enough brine just from the cabbage.)

To ferment, the cabbage must be BELOW the surface of the brine.  The fermentation is anaerobic; without air. 
To keep the cabbage below the brine, there are a couple of options:
If you are using a crock, use an upside-down saucer weighted down with a sterilized rock (or something heavy) to keep the cabbage submerged.  (traditional method)
In my jars, I use an old glass jar that I’ve put some water in to weigh it down.
Then cover the whole thing with a tea towel to keep out any bugs, dust, etc.
You must leave a space (bigger than you think you’ll need) at the top of your jars, because the fermenting process causes much bubbling and overflow.  I put my jars out of the sun in a corner of my kitchen bench, but I must admit that each time I don’t leave enough space at the top of my jars and I have cabbage brine covering my bench top!  Still learning on this one. 
After a few days, you can close the lids of your jars.  I take out the weighted down with water jars, close the lids and store them in my pantry until they are ready. 
Leave your jars to ferment for at least one week.  In warmer temperatures they will ferment quicker than during winter.
I like my sauerkraut after it’s reached the 4 week mark, but my last batch I only left for 2 weeks as we had run out and couldn’t wait any longer.  So 2 to 4 weeks to ferment is my suggestion.
You can taste test your sauerkraut after one week and see how you like it.  Just make sure all the cabbage is under the brine if you decide to leave it for a bit longer.
Once it’s the taste you like, store your jar in the fridge.
I’ve left my second jar to continue fermenting until we finish eating the first one.
Apparently white mold can grow on the top of your sauerkraut as it is fermenting.  I haven’t had this happen, but the advice seems to be just to skim it off, that the sauerkraut beneath the brine is fine.

What do you eat sauerkraut with?
I like it on my salads or as a condiment to meat.  The sour, tangy taste really adds something special.
How do you get your kids to eat sauerkraut?
After I read the GAPS book, I tried the encouragement method with my teenagers.  At first they were reluctant to give the kraut a go, but after some encouragement, ‘No, you don’t HAVE to eat it.  Go on, give it a try!  Just a tiny bit!’ 
Followed by lots of over-the-top praise:  ‘Awesome!  Well done, sweetie, I’m so proud of you!’  LOL.  They all decided they like it and are eating it most days.  Yay! 
Isn’t cabbage hard to digest?
Yes, it can be.  I’ve found sauerkraut easier to digest than cooked or raw cabbage, but start slowly.  The GAPS book suggests starting with a teaspoon or so of the sauerkraut brine before eating the cabbage.  If you are having lots of digestive distress, this may be a good way to start.
It’s so great to have another delicious food I can eat that is really good for me.

A few variations I’d like to try:


  • Using red cabbage
  • Using a combination of green and red cabbage to make a pink kraut!
  • Experimenting with adding spices; caraway seeds are traditional but I’ve also heard of fennel or coriander seeds, ginger and chilli.


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