Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. (1 Timothy 5:23 KJV)
There are many reasons why, in modern society, people have sick guts. But it seems that this is nothing new. It was about 2000 years ago that Paul told Timothy to consume a fermented beverage for the sake of his stomach and frequent illnesses. The advice to Timothy was spot on; raw fermented grape juice can be quite beneficial for the gut and immune system.
But your ferment doesn’t have to come from fruit juice. Chopped cabbage happens to culture quite easily and has a host of nutrition advantages over grape juice… including the fact that it is non-intoxicating and isn’t loaded with sugar.
Including a serving of homemade sauerkraut daily may be a great way to get your gut flora back in balance. Making sauerkraut is easier than you might imagine.
Fresh Organic Cabbage
Salt (we like pink Himalayan)
Cutting Board and knife (optional food processor)
A Large Bowl
Glass Jar / lid
When culturing foods and beverages, cleanliness is a key to consistency. If you are relying on the naturally occurring bacteria to start your culture, you want to be sure there is no significant pathogenic contamination from your hands, cutting tools, or environment in general.
To make sauerkraut, start with a head of fresh organic green or red cabbage. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and antibacterial washes including chlorinated water can all interfere with the quality of your culture. Organic produce should be relatively free of these toxins.
Chop your cabbage to a consistency of your liking. If you chop it too finely, your sauerkraut might end up a little mushy. Put the chopped cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle in some salt.
For your first batch of sauerkraut, you might want to weigh your cabbage and salt to help you get a good tasty sauerkraut. A good ratio of cabbage to salt is 100 to 1.5 salt by weight (that is, 1.5% salt).
Example at 1.5%:
1 lb. cabbage = 16 ounces = 454 grams
454 times .015 = 6.81 grams of salt
That is about 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage. Use a little more or less to your liking. Salt does act as a preservative; but in the right proportions, salt will not hinder fermentation. Salt favors healthy bacteria and hinders the bad.
Use your clean hands to scrunch your chopped cabbage, squeezing the juices from it. The salt helps draw the water out of the vegetation. Waiting a few minutes for the salt to do it’s work may be helpful. After enough scrunching, you should be able to squeeze out the juices just like squeezing water out of a sponge.
When you have enough juices from your cabbage, use your hands to pick it up and pack it into your glass jar. Pack it in tightly pushing it down with your fingertips. When you can’t pack the squeezed chopped cabbage in any more, pour the remaining juices from the bowl on top of the pressed cabbage. All of the cabbage should be submerged in the juices. This helps prevent mold from growing.
If you weren’t able to get enough juice out of your cabbage to submerge it, you can juice celery and add it to your batch to raise the water line.
If you are feeling adventurous, feel free to prepare other vegetables with your cabbage. Chopped carrots, peppers, radishes, and others work quite well. The truth is, cabbage isn’t even needed! But cabbage is the easiest to work with and the most forgiving for getting a good healthy culture.
Next, put the lid on your jar and let it sit on your counter for about 6 days – more or less depending on how sour you like your vegetables. Also, it will ferment quicker in a warmer environment. If you keep your home cool, you might ferment a little longer. Of course, if the home is warm, it won’t require as much time.
You may want to keep the jar in a bowl during the fermentation process. Your sauerkraut will bubble up and may seep out onto your counter. Keeping it in a bowl helps contain the mess.
After 6 days, your sauerkraut is ready. Keep it in the refrigerator to slow further fermentation. It will keep for several weeks in your refrigerator. However, you should consume some every day… therefore, it really shouldn’t be in your refrigerator for more than a month.
Some people add cultures to their mix such as a probiotic starter, cultured whey, or even juice from the previous batch. This does help ensure a healthy culture; but, at the same time, it hinders the natural progression of fermentation. That is, you will have less natural variety of probiotic strains and may have a more limited probiotic benefit.
Why Not Buy Sauerkraut?
You might choose to purchase sauerkraut from the grocery store. If you do, there is a good chance that it is no longer “alive”. Commercial sauerkraut may have been cultured and alive at one time… but, chances are, by the time you get it, it has been killed off and preserved. Preservatives are added to foods to kill bacteria and prevent new bacteria from growing… among other things. Commercial sauerkraut likely provides little probiotic benefit and may actually hinder a healthy flora. It may also contain other gut wrenching ingredients such as corn syrup from GMO corn.
What are your favorite vegetables to culture?