Let’s talk sauerkraut. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Is the only kind you have ever eaten come out of a can? If you answered, “Yes” to the last two questions then you have a good reason to not like sauerkraut. The stuff in a can has been made sour using vinegar. Fermented sauerkraut is sour due to cabbage and salt mixed together and then left to sit and ferment. It is rather stinky but oh so tasty.
Fermented foods are probably one of the best things that you can consume on a daily basis. Want to know why? Well, because they are full of probiotics. I have read numerous articles stating that sauerkraut is far superior to over-the-counter probiotics. Even Dr. Mercola promotes eating sauerkraut for gut health. Dr. Mercola sent some of his homemade sauerkraut to a lab to be tested for probiotics. He reported the findings by saying, “We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria. That means 2 ounces of home fermented sauerkraut had more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules. Translated this means one 16 ounce of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics.”
All I can say is, “WOW!”
Before we go on, let me say that this impressive probiotic count was in sauerkraut that had been fermenting for twelve weeks. From everything I have read, you will not get results like this if your cabbage ferments for less than twelve weeks. A 3-10 day ferment will not give you the same results. In order for sauerkraut to contain that amount of good bacteria it has to go through the three stages of fermentation. The temperature of most people’s homes or a cool root cellar will require 10-12 weeks of fermentation. The other thing that a 10-12 week ferment takes care of are histamines. Some people are sensitive to fermented foods. If you get a rash, headache, or other symptoms common to an allergic reaction after eating a fermented food it could be due to a short ferment.
Experts agree that you only need 1/4 cup serving of sauerkraut each day in order to get all of the probiotics that you need. Plus, I think it is better to get all of our vitamins and probiotics directly from real food rather than taking a supplement. Not to mention, it is much more fun since you get to eat some tasty foods. It is also easy on the bank account. Did you know that some of the best probiotics that you can buy start at around $50 and only go up? These will only last you for a month. You can multiply that cost by how many people you have in your family because most probiotics come in quantities that will get only one person through a month. I can make a batch of sauerkraut (about 10 pounds worth of cabbage) for around $6! This will last my family of six, each eating around 1/4 cup a day, for at least twelve weeks. As long as I start a new batch when one is finished, I will never run out.
Making sauerkraut is so easy. All you need is cabbage and sea salt. You also need a container designed for fermentation. I know that many people use Mason Jars. I prefer to ferment in a crock designed for fermenting foods. Purchasing a good quality crock is not cheap, but it is a one time investment.
Since I ferment my sauerkraut for twelve weeks I like to make large batches at a time. As soon as my sauerkraut is ready, I pack it in Mason jars, put it in the fridge and get another batch of cabbage fermenting. This way we have enough to get us through from one batch to the next.
Fermented Sauerkraut Ingredients:
5 pounds cabbage
2 Tablespoons sea salt
That’s it. Just two ingredients.
If you want to make larger batches at a time like I do, just remember to use 2 Tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage.
Pull off large outer leaves. Make sure you save a few. You will need these when you pack your cabbage into your crock. Slice each head of cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Slice each cabbage quarter into ribbons about 1/16 inch thick. You can do this with a knife or you can use the shredder attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer like I do.
Place all of the shredded cabbage into a large bowl and add the salt. With you hands, toss the cabbage to mix in the salt. Let this sit for about ten minutes. Toss the cabbage again and gently knead the cabbage. This will allow the cabbage to release its juice. I do the toss and rest routine a few times until I have a good amount of juice in my bowl.
Layer the cabbage in your crock using about 1 cup at a time. Make sure you pack it very tightly as you add it. As you pack the cabbage, juice should rise up and cover the cabbage. Once you get all of the cabbage tightly packed into your crock, pour the remains juice in your bowl over the cabbage. Cover the shredded cabbage with 2-3 of the reserved cabbage leaves. If your crock comes with stone weights, put those over the large cabbage leaves. The weights will keep shreds of cabbage under the brine.
Seal your crock tightly and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10-12 weeks. Once the sauerkraut has finished fermenting, transfer your sauerkraut to glass jars and store them in the refrigerator. Sauerkraut will keep in the refrigerator or root cellar for up to 9 months.
I mentioned earlier that you only need 1/4 cup each day to get a good dose of probiotics. Some of my family’s favorite ways to eat sauerkraut are:
- on sausages and hot dogs
- homemade reuben or grilled ham, cheese, and sauerkraut sandwiches
- eat a spoonful with a breakfast of eggs, sausage or bacon
- eat it as a snack with cheese and crackers
- put it on burgers
There are so many ways to eat sauerkraut. I am sure you can find a way to get even picky eaters to enjoy it.