Today, let’s make a small batch of homemade sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is fermented side or topping made from red or green cabbages and ample salt. It maintains its crunchy texture, with a vibrant kick of salt and tang. The more you wade into the “homestead” or “homemade” world, the more prevalent this fermented snack appears. Old world mothers recommend it left and right, however, our small family of three isn’t ready to bulk buy cabbage. We’re easing in, one small batch at a time.
Why is sauerkraut beneficial?
When salt is added to chopped cabbage, and the cabbage is pressed repeatedly, it releases moisture. The moisture, mixed with salt, creates a natural brine. Without the presence of oxygen, like that found in an airtight storage container, lactic acid producing bacteria thrive. These bacteria are the small intestine’s besties. They reverse compromised gut flora, create a bi-product of choline and help prevent many common ailments, like chronic fatigue or arthritis. Eating small amounts of a fermented product with each meal can have largely beneficial effects on overall health. Read more about sauerkraut and lacto-fermentation by snagging a copy of “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon or reading more HERE.
What are some other fermented foods?
Fermented foods, for sure, have a flavor profile of their own. Like wine or cheeses, it is a tangy and acidic palate that takes some getting used to. We started with fermented jalapenos, adding a few on taco nights, and using them to make fresh salsa. Kefir was easy to incorporate into smoothies, reminding us of a more liquid version of greek yogurt. Canned sauerkraut was a hot dog topping of choice growing up. The salt, I craved it. However, canned sauerkraut and homemade, alive, fermenting, sauerkraut are very different beasts. This was the next step in the fermentation inclusion for us, with other treats like kimchi and homemade kombucha down the road.
What is good to eat with sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is as customizable as anything. Some recipes include caraway seed, fennel seed, black peppercorns, garlic, dill or red pepper flakes to match your preferences. In general, sauerkraut is salty and slightly tangy – the longer it sits, the more acidic it can be. Adding black peppercorns or red pepper flakes add heat. Garlic, dill or fennel lend to its saltiness. All of these flavor profiles match well with pork. Sauerkraut is often paired with sausage, bratwurst or pork roast as a topping. In some Irish cultures, it is paired with cooked apples and rehydrated raisins. It can be incorporated in small amounts to coleslaws, salads, or tacos as an addition to other greens.
1 medium head of green cabbage
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Spices of your choice
- Remove any outer leaves from your cabbage that are wilting or damaged by insects.
- Chop finely, or add quarters to a food processor for a few pulses. Add to a large bowl.
- Add in kosher salt and mix to incorporate.
- Using your favorite wooden spoon, press down into the bowl to break down the cabbage. With repetition, the cabbage will begin to release moisture.
- Take cabbage and press into a quart size mason jar. Between spoonfuls, you can add desired spices. Press down with spoon to compact the cabbage into the jar.
- Add as much cabbage as possible and pour in extra cabbage moisture.
- Take the outer leaves and press over the cabbage in the jar. Place a fermentation weight (or a cleaned rock in a ziplock bag) on top of the outer leaves to help weigh the cabbage down and keep it submerged.
- NOTE: you will want your liquid to still reach below an inch headspace.
- Clean off the lip of the jar and secure a lid tightly. Place the jar of cabbage in a cool, room temperature area for 5 days.
- After 5 days, place the sauerkraut in the refrigerator. You can begin eating it at this point.
- After serving, make sure to press down the sauerkraut into the jar below the liquid. The sauerkraut will continue to ferment. Consume within 2 months.
Health is wealth
Incorporating more fermented foods is definitely something to continue to pursue as our family grows. Because my toddler has grown up eating all sorts of veggies, raw milk and local meats, I can see tangibly how foods affect his health. Homemade chicken broth clears up a cold rapidly, orange and honey popsicles keep him hydrated, and sauerkraut can help his gut. It is good too, for us the parents, to jump the mental hurdle of eating what we should when we don’t have to. We’re grown-ups after all. It’s a small hill to climb for health…
Sauerkraut is also a great kid friendly recipe to include in your next Irish celebration! Read more about how we’ve welcomed spring & St. Patrick HERE.