I’ve been learning more about fermenting foods lately, and just how important fermented foods are to our diet. This past weekend I took a great class on making sauerkraut from Victoria Kieburtz. It was so much fun I had to share it with you all. Even if you’re not a fan of cabbage, you can ferment any type of vegetable. One of my favorites is shredded carrot and ginger, YUM!
Prior to about 100 years ago, our ancestors ate quite a bit of fermented foods. This was partly because they didn’t have refrigerators so food tended to ferment quickly. But they also may have been aware that the probiotics created in fermented foods are really great for our gut.
Did you know that just having fermented foods around your environment creates good bacteria in the air to help boost your immune system? So how can you make your own fermented foods?
As I mentioned in last year’s post on the health benefits of sauerkraut, fermented foods contain live cultures (lactobacillus – a natural probiotic) created during the fermentation process, which help feed the good bacteria of your gut.
Many cultures around the globe have a traditional fermented food, which they eat a small amount of before or with each meal, e.g.: miso, yogurt, soy sauce, kimchi and some types of pickles. Besides aiding digestion, fermented foods also help improve immune function, absorption and assimilation of nutrients, control inflammation, help increase natural killer (NK) immune system cells, fight against cancers, and reduce bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol.
So now that you know how great fermented food is for you, here’s a super-simple recipe with photos to show you just how easy it is to make your own fermented foods.
1-2 heads organic cabbage (depending on size of jar— for my 2-quart jar, I used one large head of purple cabbage), or any other vegetable you want to use.
Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
Glass canning jar with gasket and clasp lid
Large mixing bowl
This whole process from start to finish took me 45 minutes. Your sauerkraut will be ready to eat in about 2 weeks.
Note: You can shred the cabbage in a food processor.
Since I don’t have one, I chopped it up by hand.
Wash the cabbage; peal off the outer leave and save it for the last step. Cut around the core of the cabbage and save the core as well.
Shred or finely chop the cabbage, and put a few handfuls into the mixing bowl. Sprinkle sea salt on top of the cabbage in the bowl. Continue to add more handfuls of chopped cabbage, and sprinkle with sea salt, until all of the cabbage is in the bowl.
Now comes the FUN part!
Make sure your hands are clean and remove any jewelry.
You are going to “kneed” the cabbage, working it through your hands and squeezing it to work up the juice. Keep squeezing handfuls of cabbage until you have a cup or so of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. The cabbage will change texture and start to get softer in your hands.
Put one or two handfuls of cabbage in the bottom of your jar, and press it down with your hands, pushing the cabbage below the juice as you pack it in. You want to ensure that there is liquid rising above the cabbage. Keep adding more handfuls and packing it down in the jar letting the juice rise up, until you have your jar full.
Remember that cabbage leaf and core that we saved from the beginning? Here’s what you’ll use it for: at the top of the jar, fold up the cabbage leaf to fit inside the mouth of your jar. If your cabbage doesn’t go all the way to the top, you can push the piece of core down on top of the cabbage leaf to take up some of the space. Be aware that this may cause some of the juice to overflow the jar. You want the cabbage packed in tight, but with the juice above the cabbage.
Be sure to use a jar with a gasket and metal–clasp closure, not a screw-top jar. The gasket allows for off-gassing during the fermenting process. A screw-top jar can explode—not fun!
Last step is to seal the lid and put your jar in a dark location, inside a cupboard or closet. It’s a good idea to put a dishtowel or rag under the jar, just in case liquid leaks out.
Your sauerkraut should be ready to eat in about 2 weeks. When you first open the jar remove the cabbage leaf from the top and discard it. If any of the cabbage near the top is black, simply scoop that part out and toss, and the rest will be just fine.
Enjoy! And please leave a comment to let me know how yours turned out…