Traditional sauerkraut is a lacto-fermented food that is terrific for you. It is high in probiotics that aid the digestive and immune systems, and it contains lots of digestive enzymes with plenty of vitamin C.
According to one of my favorite lacto-fermentation reference books, Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz, China is where lacto-fermented cabbage was probably first consumed. It later became popular in Europe.
I like to make small batches of sauerkraut, which is surpsingly easy to do at home. The only ingredients necessary are cabbage and salt. Other additions, such as caraway seeds and apple, are optional. A food processor makes simple work of shredding the cabbage, but doing this by hand is also fine.
You can use all green cabbage or a combination of red and green. One small head of cabbage will yield about one quart of homemade sauerkraut, but I figure as long as you’re making one, you might as well make two (so you’ll need one head of red and one of green for this recipe). Sauerkraut keeps well in the refrigerator and pairs well with all different meats.
It is best to use organic cabbage. Though the cabbage I used in this recipe for making sauerkraut was not homegrown, it did come from a local CSA.
Red and Green Sauerkraut
adapted from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngalis
Makes 2 quarts
- 1 small cabbage, cored and shredded (a food processor is great for this, but you could also do your shredding by hand)
- 1 small red cabbage, cored and shredded
- 4 tbsp. sea salt
- 1/2-1 tbsp. caraway seeds
- 1 red or green apple, peeled and shredded (optional, but I like the bit of sweetness this provides)
- 1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin (optional)
- In a large non-metal bowl, mix the cabbage with the optional caraway seeds. Add salt. Use your (clean!) hands to really work the salt into the cabbage, then allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. The cabbage will wilt and a salty brine will develop.
- Add the shallot and apple and mix well.
- Spoon the mixture into two quart-sized, sterilized wide-mouth mason jars. As you do so, press down firmly with a pounder (the back of a wooden spoon also will do) until the juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar (this is because there will be some expansion while it is lacto-fermenting and you don’t want it to overflow out of the jar). If there is not enough liquid, add enough filtered water so that the cabbage is just barely covered.
- Screw lids on to the jars tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days. Open the jars and see if the liquid is bubbly — if it is, you can transfer your jars to the refrigerator, where they will continue to lacto-ferment at a slower rate.
- You can eat your homemade sauerkraut right away, or wait a week or two for the flavors to develop further.
— Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen
Photo credit: Winnie Abramson