How to make Sauerkraut

I have to admit that even since childhood I have NOT been a fan of cooked cabbage or any cooked cruciferous vegetables for that matter.  In retrospect, when I consider how it was offered ‘plain cooked, perhaps even overcooked, smelly veg’ 😦 , I’m not surprised it didn’t appeal.  ‘No offence mother’!!  I could not be swayed, and I mean, AT ALL!!

Turns out cruciferous vegetables (cabbage in all its forms, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes etc.) are one of the most nutritionally valuable and health beneficial foods you can consume.  The phytonutrients (phyto = plant) in crucifers protect our health by working as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol.  These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

In any case, I won’t be too hard on myself for having rejected crucifers for so long, since boiling drastically reduces the nutritional benefits which is lost through heat and into the water that went down the plug hole 😊.  In later years however, I happily consume various forms of raw cabbage e.g. coleslaw and other cruciferous containing salad dishes and of course, sauerkraut.   Some lightly steamed Broccoli drenched in butter with a sprinkle of pepper is also very pleasing to my taste buds, whereas to eat it overcooked is still a chore ☹  Here it is worth noting for anyone with Thyroid issues, it is best to cook crucifers even a little to deactivate the goitrogens contained in these vegetables.

You can read more about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables here.

Finally, with regard to the benefit of cruciferous vegetable in general, most nutritional therapists will be familiar with these benefits in relation to hormonal balance for both male and female hormones.  An increase in consumption of cruciferous vegetables is usually recommended and/or supplementation with diindolylmethane or DIM for short.

Classic Sauerkraut Recipe
(Dry salting method)     [To make one – 2 Litre Jar]
  • Head of Red or White Cabbage or mix
  • Sea Salt (800g of cabbage to 1 tablespoon of salt)
  • Juniper berries (1 ½ tblsp)
  • Caraway seeds (1 tblsp)
Method:
  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core, then shred the cabbage. You can use a sharp kitchen knife or the shredder blade on a food processor.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage and leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.  Mix in the berries and seeds.  (These add flavour but are optional).
  3. With washed hands massage the mixture until it is wet and limp.
  4. Fill a sterilized jar with handfuls of the mixture, making sure to press it firmly down with your fist. You will see more liquid seeping out.
  5. Fill the jar to within 2.5cm of the top. For successful fermentation it is crucial to keep the cabbage submerged, so place a weight on it.  [You can use the outer leaves at the top of the kraut and place a weight in the middle.  I have some heavy glass t-light holders which I have found to work well].
  6. Close the lid. Leave it sit for anything from 1 to 6 weeks.
  7. If you are using an airtight jar you may need to burp (release the build-up of carbon dioxide gas) by opening the lid once in a while. [Personally, I have never had to do this and have left my Sauerkraut ferments for 21 days unopened on most occasions.   Just keep an eye on it.  Local temperature is a key factor and in Ireland anyway, temperatures are generally not that high so it slows the process down.  Fermenting is definitely a learning process and you’ll get to know what to expect the more you experiment].
  8. When you are happy with the flavour and texture you can store the jar in the fridge. [I tend to make a bigger amount than I can use so I usually transfer it to smaller jars in the fridge].

Note:  The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment the more of a probiotic punch it will contain.

Sauerkraut benefits:

The process of fermentation increases the bio-availability of the plants nutrients making it even more nutritious than the original cabbage.  It is high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and a very good source of dietary fibre.  Other minerals it contains are iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If you happen to find yourself in love with sauerkraut, please note that moderation is advised.  It is best to eat fermented cruciferous vegetables as condiments, not as large components of the diet.

You can do a deeper dive into the benefits of Sauerkraut here.

For me, as I’ve said, it provides a tasty, easily made and stored source of vegetable and at the same time a source of natural probiotic.  The strains of live friendly bacteria are diverse.  Probiotics in supplement form are great but you could cut out this expense by regularly including fermented foods into your diet.  It is comparatively way less expensive.  It may cost you a little more time in the kitchen but even this is minimal as it becomes just part of your routine.

I started my fermenting journey with Kefir.  I’m not a big fan of milk so I didn’t continue making this for very long.  Then I moved on to making Kombucha.  This is really nice and I tried many and varied types of tea and added flavours.  But, to date my favourite ferment besides Sauerkraut, is ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  It doesn’t have to be lemon. You can find my instructions on this website here. I have most recently tried pomegranate and this turned out to be really, really tasty.

Though my fermenting journey started with my Nutritional Therapy training where we learned to make kefir and water kefir, I currently rely on ‘The Cultured Club’ book by Dearbhla Reynolds to expand my knowledge and experience with ferments.

References

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

World’s Healthiest Foods [On-line] – ‘Optimizing Your Cells’ Detoxification/Cleansing Ability by Eating Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veg’

Dr. Axe [On-line] – ‘5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut and How to Make Your Own’

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