Eating fermented foods is a must if you want to optimally digest and absorb everything you eat. Our ancestors ate cultured and fermented foods constantly, so we would have a steady stream of friendly bacteria coming into our system. Nowadays these traditional foods have mostly fallen by the wayside, along with their plentiful benefits.
Everyone should eat fermented and cultured foods, but particularly if you suffer from any sort of chronic health issues. I find it really helps my digestion!
Why it’s worth it to DIY instead of buy
Store-bought probiotic foods or capsules will never be as fresh or contain as many friendly bacteria as what you make at home. Plus they are super expensive.
They are also frequently pre-pasteurized, and then the culture is added back in. This is a crappy unnatural way of doing things according to the requirements of the food industry. Making things yourself gets you the biggest health benefit and saves you the most cash.
FACT: The fermentation process of sauerkraut causes the vitamin C content to multiply by 10 x! Sailors historically ate sauerkraut to avoid scurvy because it was so nutritious and didn’t spoil easily.
How to make sauerkraut in 3 steps
First collect your stuff.
- Cabbage (any size and type will do, organic is best)
- Knife and chopping board
- Large mixing bowl
- Large glass jar (bigger than your cabbage. I normally use a medium-size cabbage and a 2L jar)
- Another smaller jar that fits inside the mouth of your large jar. I normally use something like a tall skinny olive jar or sauce jar.
- Salt (Pink Himalayan Salt is best, but sea salt is still better than table salt)
- Whey (optional. You can buy this from a local farm or make your own from yogurt)
If you use whey, your sauerkraut will be ready in 3-4 days. If you don’t, it will take 1-2 weeks.
Step 1: Chop
Take off the outer 2 leaves of your cabbage and set them aside – you’ll need them later. Then go nuts and chop your cabbage as small as you can be bothered chopping it. The pieces definitely shouldn’t be any bigger than 1cm x 1cm, but they can be as small as you want (but not puree!). If you have a good food processor you can use that too.
Step 2: Salt and Sit
Get your bowl and plunk in about 1/3 of your cabbage, then sprinkle a big tablespoon of salt over it. Put in another 1/3, then another tablespoon of salt. Last 1/3, then 2 tbsp of salt. The rough guideline here is 4 tbsp salt per 1 kg of cabbage. Generally this would mean 3 tbsp salt for a small cabbage, 4 tbsp for a medium cabbage, 5-6 tbsp for a large cabbage.
Then let your salted cabbage sit for about 20 minutes. The salt draws the moisture out of the cabbage.
Step 3: Knead and Pack
Spend about 5 minutes or so kneading, squeezing and punching your cabbage to get as much juice out of it as possible. The goal is to get enough juice out to cover the cabbage once it goes in the jar.
Pack it into the jar as tightly as you can, pushing it down to get any air out. Add a few tbsp of whey if you’re using it.
At this point see how much liquid you have – you might need to top up with a little more whey or water (filtered/purified if possible). The liquid should be 1-2 cm above the top of the packed cabbage surface.
It’s imperative that the liquid covers the cabbage bits since we are going for anaerobic fermentation (no air contact allowed!).
Grab the cabbage leaves you saved earlier, fold them and place them on top to make as good of a ‘lid’ as you can. This is to keep the cabbage below the liquid. Weigh down this lid with your smaller jar. Put some water in the smaller jar to keep it weighed. Check that all of the chopped/packed cabbage is below the liquid. This is important to avoid mold. It’s ok if the cabbage leaf ‘lid’ pokes above the liquid, because you won’t be eating it.
How to check that your sauerkraut is ready
That’s it! Now place it in a cupboard or a cool dark place out of the way somewhere. Wait for 3-4 days if you used whey, or 1-2 weeks if you didn’t.
It’s always safe to taste, as long as there is no mold. You’ll know it’s ready when it starts to taste kind of sour, fizzy, and a lot less salty. When it’s lost enough saltiness for you, take out the weight and the leaf lid, put the lid on the big jar and keep the sauerkraut in the fridge.
A few tips:
- If your big jar ends up being pretty full, I recommend putting it in a big bowl while it’s fermenting. There will be gases produced and the liquid level might rise. The big bowl is in case of overflow.
- Keep checking it to make sure everything is below the liquid. Add a little water if it’s looking a bit dry.
- If you see mold, most articles I’ve read recommend throwing out the whole batch. If you’re not sure whether it’s mold (ie a small white floating patch) you could scoop out a significant area surrounding it, and then continue fermenting. If the white stuff / mold doesn’t come back after a few days, it should be safe.
- As a general rule, if there’s no mold it’s safe to eat. Mold is a risky area and if in doubt, just get rid of it and start again. Next time make sure you pack the cabbage down really well, put enough liquid in, and keep everything consistenly below the liquid level.
How did it go?
Share your tips, questions, comments, experiences below. Is your digestion better? Skin clearing up? Immunity boosted? Sauerkraut rocks :)