QUICK! What dish can prevent scurvy? If you guessed lots and lots of oranges, you’re right. BUT! There are loads of other contenders, and I’d like to introduce to you one of them: sauerkraut.
It all started when I read about the benefits of fermenting vegetables, specifically, about the powerhouse that is kimchi. I was talking to my mom about it: it has probiotics, it’s spicy… and the process of fermenting vegetables is something new to me and something that I haven’t seen much of in the western diet.
My mom just gives me ‘the look’, “And what about sauerkraut?” D’oy! Turns out, we have our own ‘version’ of kimchi: sour cabbage! I researched a bit more, and found that the same bacteria you flourish to make kimchi is the same as that of sauerkrau they’re all lacto-bacteria that are supposed to be great for you. For the readers who are hesitant in eating bacteria on purpose, read up on this. Did I tell you that Captain Cook used it to prevent scurvy? Cool. Also, did you know probiotics may help with symptoms of some forms of eczema, and autism? Amazing. Finally, this is a great alternative to those who are lactose intolerant and feel left out because of all the hype about probiotics in yogurt!
Okay, now I know you’re dying to go out to the store and buy some. But not so fast. Most store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized, which you do not want. So, why not make some yourself? Treat it as a science project – that you can eat after!!
Here is a brief portion of the process of fermentation of sauerkraut from wikipedia:
“The fermentation process has three phases, these phases are sometimes referred to as population dynamics. In the first phase, anaerobic bacteria such as Klebsiella and Enterobacter lead the fermentation, and begin producing an acidic environment that favours later bacteria. The second phase starts as the acid levels become too high for many bacteria, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides and other Leuconostoc spp. take dominance. In the third phase, various Lactobacillus species, including L. brevis and L. plantarum, ferment any remaining sugars, further lowering the pH. Properly cured sauerkraut is sufficiently acidic to prevent a favorable environment for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the toxins of which cause botulism.”
Please look at the bold: growth of C. botulinum is hindered because it is not the right environment and it is out-competed by the other bacteria. So do not worry about botulism!
Onto the show!
Start off with common cabbage, CANNING SALT (eg, Himalayan salt), and sliced carrots (optional). Make sure to weigh your cabbage so you can get an idea of how much salt you need to add. The ratio is roughly 3 liberal tablespoons of salt to 5 pounds of cabbage.
Take a knife and chop up the cabbage into smithereens!
We like to add shredded carrots with the cabbage.
Alright, now you have to transfer the sauerkraut to larger pot for it to ferment. Take a few handfuls of the cabbage and a some salt and mix it together in the pot. Pat that morsel down. Repeat this process until you have transferred all the sauerkraut into a large pot. The goal is to have the salt evenly distributed throughout the cabbage.
The next step varies from recipe to recipe, but the point is to weigh down the cabbage to encourage water out of the cabbage. What my mom does is take a plate that is a bit smaller than the circumference of the pot and put it on top of the cabbage. Then, she fills a large mason jar with water and puts in on top to act as a weight. Finally, cover everything with a towel so nothing foreign gets in there, and leave it at room temperature for three days!
After the three days, there should be cabbage juice at the top of the pot. At random times, take a long skewer and just skewer the cabbage to the bottom. This will let gas out, and will make it less smelly.
Underneath the ‘hood.
Finally, just take the cabbage, place it all in jars, and there you have it, sauerkraut!
My family got it before I did…
Remember, it is advised to ease yourself into eating sauerkraut by eating a few fork-fulls a day because it is very acidic and might upset your stomach if you eat a bunch at once. Once you’ve adjusted to it, it is advised to just eat a couple of bites with every meal to improve digestion.
How to prepare:
1) place it in a bowl
2) drizzle with vegetable oil
3) sprinkle with sugar ( to taste)
4) Hear your stomach saying: THANK YOU!
Sauerkraut tastes best paired with meat, but it’s a good combination with almost everything. What do you like to pair sauerkraut with?