“I have come to the conclusion that the most important element in human life is faith. If God were to take away all the blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me with but one gift, I would ask for faith— for with faith in God, in God’s goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could still be happy, trustful, leaving all to God’s inscrutable providence.” —Rose Kennedy
Most people would agree that we live in a germ-ophobic country. YET, all around us and within us there is a microscopic world, things invisible – an interconnected multitude of fungus and bacteria. (uh-oh…) From the beginnings we coexisted with these little organisms; we even harnessed their help to age and preserve our food without refrigeration. However, when Louis Pasteur uncovered the role of bacteria in disease, (which is a great thing!) we began to fear them as dangerous enemies and in fearing them we forgot about their role in health.
Not all bacteria and fungi are bad.
In our modern antiseptic world, it can take a leap of faith – and maybe even a little science – to calm our fears, reacquaint ourselves and get comfortable with the microcosmos around and within us. A little reminder that the world God created is good (it was also raw and unpasteurized, by the way!) and that I can rely on that whole food creation -more than food scientists and industry- for the plentiful nourishment of my family! You know what? So can YOU!
The word sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage” – but the French call it choucroute. Whatever you call it, sauerkraut is probably to most widely known fermented food behind, pickles, olives and yogurt.
Probably the most widely known sauerkraut is Bavarian style, which is shredded cabbage, salt and seasoned with caraway seeds. Some other German styles use juniper berries to season the kraut.
A word on the nutritional virtues of sauerkraut.
Fermented sauerkraut is not only pre-gested thereby making it’s nutritional profile more bioavailable, it is also low in calories, high in fiber, and is a good source of vitamins K, C and folate and also the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese and iron. It has a great profile of antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. Cabbage is exceedingly nutritious on it’s own merits, but let it ferment and it’s full potential is silently revealed.
Studies that “analyzed cabbage before and after fermentation to see how the elements had changed found that the glucosinolates in cabbage dissolved into a class of enzymes that have been shown in prior studies to prevent cancer.” (Preventdisease.com)
But that’s not all! Sauerkraut also helps to maintain the acid/base balance of the body, helps to regulate blood sugar levels making it useful for hypoglycemics and diabetics and has been associated with preserving ocular health.
Like all ferments, sauerkraut is high in naturally occurring lactic acid which helps maintain a healthy acidity in the large intestine, thus creating an environment that is hostile to parasites and yeast but comfortable for good bacteria.
Ready to give it a try?
Fermentation takes neither much time, or effort. It’s a great way to add great nutrition to the table, and making it yourself is a real money saver when you’re on a budget and feeding a large family.
It’s super nourishing, unassuming and delicious. We eat it because it tastes great. On it’s own, adorning a brat or hot dog, or even as a great garnish on a wintery day’s BLT. You can buy sauerkraut in the store, but if you want all the benefits of the ferment, then it’s best to look for small batch, artisinal, organic, lacto-fermented varieties that are also non-pastuerized.
Michael Pollan says about fermenting, “Koreans, who know a thing or two about fermentation, distinguish between the “tongue taste” of various foods and the “hand taste“. Tongue taste is a simple matter of molecules making contact with taste buds – the kind of cheap and easy flavors any food scientist or food corporation can produce. Hand taste is the far more complex experience of a food that bears the indelible mark – the care and sometimes even the love – of the person who made it. The sauerkraut (and most anything else) you make yourself will have hand taste.”
That makes a lot of sense here at Nourishing Grace, because the word nourish is quite beautiful and comes from the latin nutrire, which means to feed or cherish, to preserve, look after or suckle. That implies a “hands on” relationship!
“Better is a dish of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” —Proverbs 15: 17
Of all our nourishment let it be rooted in goodness and love as we prepare and enjoy our meals with loved ones at the table!
how to make your own sauerkraut
1 – 1 gallon Ceramic crock or wide mouth mason jar
plate or plastic that will fit inside
ingredients for sauerkraut
2 medium heads fresh cabbage (fresh local cabbage is the best because of it’s higher moisture content the salt will draw out more water for the brine.
3 tablespoons sea salt
chop or shred the cabbage. We use a food processor
As you process the cabbage, place in bowl and sprinkle salt on each layer. The salt osmotically draws the water out of the cabbage. This becomes the brine in which the cabbage ferments without rotting.
Mix the ingredients together and you can either pound the cabbage, or massage with good firm squeezing. That will all serve to draw out the brine. You can also mix it and leave it for a half an hour and then start the pounding or massaging.
Transfer the mixture to the crock or mason jar. Tamp it down firmly. You can use a tamper or your fist. I use my hands. Push the cabbage below the brine level. Fermentation works because the vegetables stay below the brine. So in this oxygen deprived environment, anaerobic, only the good bacteria are able to survive and thrive. Place a clean weight over in the crock over the cabbage to keep it down. This can be a smaller jar with water in it.
To be honest, I do not always use a weight. My ferments are always on the kitchen counter, so I wash my hands and push it beneath the brine several times a day. But if you are not able to do that, it’s best to use a weight.
The sauerkraut will develop at a rate directly correlated with temperature. At 45 Fahrenheit, fermentation is very slow, at 90 Fahrenheit it is notably faster. Lower temperatures, in the 70 Fahrenheit range make a superior kraut.
After 3-5 days, give the sauerkraut a taste.
See if it suits you. Some people love the flavor of an immature green kraut. If it’s not the flavor profile you want, let it sit longer for the flavors to develop. Once it is to your liking, place in smaller jars and move to the refrigerator or other cool spot (like a root cellar). The slows down the fermentation process.
Taste-testing the developing sauerkraut has become my daughters job and her taste buds are definitely evolving. We currently have a jar of sauerkraut that has been on the counter for three weeks. We are using it, but she has not asked to have it moved the fridge. Surprisingly it has not gotten very very sour, just more delicious.
There are many ways to enjoy your kraut, most recently we had ours atop BLT’s served on a great sourdough made during the big snow storm.
Katz, Sandor Ellix. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub., 2012. Print.
“What Are The Benefits Of Sauerkraut Juice?”. Livestrong.Com