SAUERKRAUT FOR A GOOD GUT
Did you know that our GI tract is home to over 500 species of bacteria. These little guys number in the trillions. Just like in all communities, there are good guys and there are bad guys. The key to a healthy gut is diversity and keeping the balance in favor of the good guys (healthy bacteria). The study of the gut microbiome is new and fascinating. Everyday, research is published linking gut bacteria to all kinds of things such as irritable bowel disease, autoimmune diseases and obesity. There is even some research showing associations with our mental health and gut bacteria.
As if you didn’t need another excuse for getting a farm share this summer. We can promote great gut health by increasing the amount and types of fruits and vegetables we eat. Another way to improve the balance is by consuming fermented foods. If your gut is hankering for the powerful probiotic lactobacillus plantarum, turn your cabbage into a sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut has been around for over 2000 years. It originated in China and rumor has it that it was a main meal for the men building the Great Wall. Fermenting cabbage is safe and easy. I used this recipe from foodandnutrition.org.
- 1 head of green cabbage (3-3½ pounds)
- 1-3 Tbl pickling/canning salt or sea salt
- Pull away outer leaves or any leaves with blemishes. Pull off a few more and set aside for later.
2. Remove the core and cut the cabbage into 1/8”-1/16” slices. Place the sliced cabbage in a non-metal bowl and add 1 tbl salt and with clean hands or a wooden spoon, mix. The salt helps release the liquid and create the brine.
3. Continue to add the salt, a little at a time and continue to mix or massage. You might want to taste it to make sure it doesn’t get too salty.
4. Add the shredded cabbage/water mix to your fermenting vessel. You can use anything as long as it is clean and non-metal. Suggestions include food grade plastic containers, crocks or enamel pots. I found a wide glass vase at Home Goods that worked perfectly.
5. You will now want to pack the cabbage down, with the goal of releasing more water. You can use a wooden spoon, rolling pin or a clean fist. Continue to pound and pack until you have an inch of water covering the cabbage. This could take up to 10 minutes.
6. Cover the cabbage mix with the reserved cabbage leaves. You will now need to cover and weigh down the mix in order to ensure that there is always a layer of water above the cabbage. You do not want air to get at the cabbage. An inverted plate works well. On top of this, place something heavy. I put some large soup cans in a ziplock bag and put them on top. You can also fill ziplock bags with a gallon of water plus 6 tbl salt.(salted water in case of a leak)
7. Cover everything with a cover or clean dish towel and set in a well-ventilated place at room temperature (68-72 degrees) for approximately 7- 21 days.
8. Check daily to make sure that the sauerkraut is covered with water. You may need to scrape off any mold or yeast that forms on top. After the 7 days, taste test to monitor texture and taste. When the taste and texture is to your liking, transfer to smaller jars and refrigerate.
Keys to the perfect Kraut:
- Cleanliness is paramount. Make sure all work surfaces, utensils and hands (if using) are clean. Dirt and bacteria can contaminate the sauerkraut.
2. Use canning or pickling salt. Make sure that you use a salt without anti caking additives or iodine. This can alter the fermentation process.
3. Try to maintain room temperature. A cooler temperature is ok but it will slow down the process.
4. Keep the sauerkraut covered with the brine. The fermentation process needs to be anaerobic.
5. Don’t fear the slime. You might get a little slime or scum on top of the brine. Just skim it off if you encounter it.
6. Don’t be inpatient. I pulled mine out too soon. The taste was great but the consistency was rubbery.
*Please note that the part of the cabbage is being played by a number of dishtowels, as there was no actual cabbage available at the time of the photo shoot. Do not be alarmed if your cabbage layer looks like real sliced cabbage; you’re not doing anything wrong.
- 1 head of green cabbage, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, shredded
- 2 Green Onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs Sour Cream
- 3/4 cup Mayonnaise
- 1 Tsp Black Pepper
- 1 Tsp Celery Salt
- 1 Tsp Dry Mustard
- 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- Salt to taste
In a large bowl combine all vegetables. Top with the rest of the ingredient and stir or toss to mix. Enjoy!