Wednesday, July 22, 2015

homemade sauerkraut

Well, I did it. I fermented something! And it worked! This is going to be the beginning of something, I can tell. I have already started looking for a fermenting crock on Amazon! I have started with the simplest sauerkraut (just cabbage and salt) and will get more creative from here.

So let's break it down. The fermentation that takes place to produce sauerkraut is done by a natural bacteria that is present on fresh produce. The bacteria feed on sugar and starch, ultimately breaking down the food. So, why is this good for you? Number one, cooking veggies kills this good bacteria. Number two, fermented vegetables are easier to digest. This bacteria is a beneficial one, one that helps our digestion and keeps our gut in tip top shape. By eating fermented foods we are getting all of the benefits of eating something raw (i.e. delicate nutrients that are otherwise killed during cooking) but because it is partially broken down, it is easier for us to digest!

Fermented foods have also been linked to other health benefits, such as a strong immune system, reduced inflammation, and weight loss and maintenance. I would suggest doing some research of your own because I am no expert. Here are a few articles to get you started: health benefits of fermented foods, health benefits of sauerkraut, and the real reason your gut needs fermented foods. There is tons of information out there and it is all good news about fermented foods :)

homemade sauerkraut
  • 1 medium head of cabbage (purple or green, or a combination of both. I went with combination because I love the fuchsia color it makes!) 
  • 4-5 tsp salt
Chop up cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl. I was worried that 5 tsp salt would be too much because I read a few different recipes that were all slightly different and went by weight. I don't have a kitchen scale so I had to estimate. And it turned out perfect :)

Massage the salt into the cabbage until it softens and starts to release some water. This is called the brine and is essential for a safe fermentation. The saltwater brine protects the cabbage from oxygen and therefore growing mold or any unwanted bacteria. 
When the cabbage looks wilted, as in the photo above, cover with a kitchen towel and let it sit for about an hour. 
Transfer the cabbage to a clean jar with a wide mouth, one handful at a time. It is essential that your hand can fit inside the jar because with every handful you need to pack it down as tight as you can, in the end making sure that all the cabbage is covered in brine. Now you need to weigh it down. I used a small jelly jar filled with water and pressed it down inside the big jar. 

The fermentation needs to happen at a certain temp so find a place that is dark and not too hot. I placed mine in a dish in case it overflowed during fermentation, which is exactly what happened! Cover with a kitchen towel so no dust or bacteria can find it. 

After about three days I cleaned it up a bit. There may be foam forming on the top that can be scraped off. I also had a little taste! Pretty good! At this point it wasn't going to overflow anymore so I took it out of the dish and covered it with a coffee filter instead. 

I kept my kraut out on the counter for 8 days. It was much better than at 4 days! The minimum for fermenting sauerkraut is 3 days and it can actually go for months. This was the benefit of fermented foods long ago, no need for refrigeration! I am always afraid of growing unwanted bacteria though, mostly because of the hot weather here! Next time I'll leave it out longer and be a little more adventurous! 

This sauerkraut is sooo good on any kind of salad, sandwich, or even by its self!  Once desired fermentation is reached store it in the refrigerator.

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or fermenting experiences of your own! I am new at this so still learning and I would love some advice! Thanks for stopping by!

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