Homemade sauerkraut is a great way to add beneficial bacteria or probiotics to your diet and this easy recipe allows first time fermenters to start with some very basic methods and ingredients. Salt and caraway seeds are added to finely shredded cabbage and they are packed into a sterilised, glass mason jar until all of the liquid goodness leaches out of the cabbage, creating it’s own brining solution. The cabbage is submerged in this ready-made brine for around 1 – 2 weeks (depending on the surrounding temperature until it ferments into a yummy, savoury, crunchy, sour condiment, which will increase the nutritional value of any meal.
Fermented foods have a long history in many cultures with sauerkraut being one of the most well-known. Prior to the introduction of ready-made frozen foods and refrigeration, and cheap transport from warmers areas became readily available, sauerkraut was a source of essential nutrients in the colder months. Sauerkraut will keep for several months in an airtight container stored at 15 degrees celcius or below (I store mine in my fridge).
Cabbage leaves have natural, beneficial bacteria called lactobacilli on their leaves and sauerkraut is made by a process of lactic acid fermentation. After fermentation, sauerkraut contains a wide diversity of lactic acid bacteria and is rich in enzymes leading to improved digestion, promotion of the growth of healthy bowel flora and protection against many diseases of the digestive tract. Homemade sauerkraut is superior to manufactured ferments which are heat treated in order to extend shelf life thereby destroying many of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes contained within. Sauerkraut is also a source of vitamins C, B and K, and the fermentation process actually increases the bioavailability of these nutrients making the end product even more nutrititious than raw cabbage. Sauerkraut is also high in calcium and magnesium and a good source of dietary fibre, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.
Sauerkraut can be added to any meal but I think it goes best with traditional European foods and salads. I usually have a bowl of sauerkraut with a source of lean protein such as salmon or tuna and some potato or sweet potato. If you are a meat-eater you can happily add it to pork for a traditional German meal. I also find the juice from the sauerkraut particularly soothing when I experience a little bit of stomach ache. The juice takes the discomfort away quite instantly and sometimes solves the problem completely.
Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.
This basic sauerkraut recipe can be widely varied by adding other cabbages such as red, napa etc and sometimes I add broccoli, kale, ginger, garlic, beetroot etc. Keep an eye on the blog posts for lots of tasty and nutritious variations.