Sauerkraut- nature's probiotic
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Usually I make sauerkraut in autumn, but since I had two cabbages in the fridge- white and red, I decided to make a batch. It's a great addition to grilled meat during spring and summer as it helps to also break down protein more easily in the body.
Why to eat sauerkraut?
Before we humans had fridges, we ate a lot of fermented foods, as fermentation preserves vegetables, fruits and dairy products, but it also promotes the growth of natural bacteria. Consuming fermented foods will help your gut to inhabit more of good microbes that fight off bad bacteria and toxins. Sauerkraut, which is a fermented cabbage, is one of the easiest fermented foods to make, and contains hundred times more lactobacilli than raw cabbage. Eating just a single spoonful or two before your meal increases saliva production, decreases your stomach PH and activates specific enzymes so you digest your food better. People with heartburn, this is a good tip to try instead of acid blockers. If you want to learn more about different types of probiotics you can find in foods, then read my blog where I dive deeper into the topic.
How to make sauerkraut?
It's a very easy process. To make one patch of basic sauerkraut, all you need is medium sized cabbage (green or red) and 1 tablespoon of sea salt or Himalayan salt. Chop the cabbage into thin strips (you can also use the food processor). In a mixing bowl, mix together with your hands chopped cabbage and salt. Let it stand for 20-30 minutes. Then massage the cabbage in a bowl with the salt with your hands, working trough the cabbage for 10 minutes or so, until you get the brine out from the cabbage. You can also use a pounding tool to help with getting the liquid out of the cabbage. Then put the cabbage into a cleaned jar. Pack in the jar nicely and make sure you have the brine covering the cabbage as this creates the environment for the fermentation to be able to start. Also leave around 5cm from the top of the jar. Seal with a lid. I have special jars with air-lock systems for fermentation but you don't really need those specific ones to ferment your vegetables. Put the jar in a dark cool dry place.
The fermentation process takes from 2-4 weeks during when the friendly bacteria eat the sugars in the cabbage, multiply and release high amounts of lactic acid, which created an environment inhospitable for harmful bacteria and also acts as a natural preservative for your sauerkraut. After the fermentation process you can keep your sauerkraut in the fridge for several months (remember to consume it on a daily basis).
If you don't have the jars with air-lock system, it's important to check your sauerkraut on a regular basis, to make sure that the cabbage is submerged the brine and also to open the lid to release excess gas. This makes sure that your sauerkraut does not generate harmful bacteria or mould.
Ingredients in the sauerkraut and their benefits
You can make a simple sauerkraut by following the above instructions or you can also add any of the below or couple of them to your cabbage. I hereby highlight the benefits of different ingredients
Cabbage- cabbage is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, B-vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, folate, potassium. As cabbage is high is fibre, it's known to help to detoxify stomach and colon. It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, helps to clean your blood and keep your immune system strong. Cabbage is also great for your bones. Breastfeeding women can benefit from cabbage, when they struggle with breast pain or inflammation (simply put cold cabbage leaf on the breast to relieve the pain). Red cabbage is even more nutritious than green cabbage due to it's deep colour- it has 85 percent of the daily vitamin C, compared to green cabbage which has 47 percent. Red cabbage has more C vitamin than oranges. Red cabbage also contains 10 times more A vitamin, while green cabbage contains twice as much vitamin K then red cabbage. Red cabbage as also twice as much as iron in it than green cabbage.
Caraway seeds (also known as cumin)- they are high in disease-fighting antioxidants, help keeping blood-sugar stable and promote good digestion. A tablespoon of caraway seeds added to your sauerkraut when making it (toasted on the pan to release the flavour) contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus.
Juniper berries- help to detoxify the body, promote good digestion, skin and heart health and are also known to help with sleep. Juniper berries contain antioxidants and are natural antiseptic with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. You don't need to add more than 10 berries to a patch of sauerkraut to give the nice juniper flavour to it. Juniper berries are not recommended for pregnant women and for people who have issues with kidneys.
Sea salt and Himalayan salt- both sea salt and Himalayan salt are rich in trace minerals. Himalayan salt has around 84 trace minerals while sea salt has around 60. Consuming sea salt and Himalayan salt sparingly on a regular basis helps to balance fluids and prevent dehydration. Sea salt helps to build immunity, eliminates mucus buildup, alkalises body and also improves brain function. Himalayan salt promotes bone health and sinus health, supports with respiratory health and absorbs food particles in the intestinal tract. Sea salt and Himalayan salt both help to prevent muscle cramps, help to regulate blood pressure, increase energy, help regulate sleep and promote electrolyte balance in the body.
I hope the above makes you want to incorporate sauerkraut more in your diet and hopefully encourage you to make it yourself rather than going and buying it from the store.