Probiotic Foods: Homemade Sauerkraut
Most humans today have lost the microbial diversity that once kept us healthy. As we age, our healthy gut flora diminishes and our stomach becomes less acidic, which may set us up for gastrointestinal Dysbiosis (a domination of pathogenic bacteria and the suppression of beneficial probiotics). Adding probiotic-rich foods or supplements to our diet helps to prevent this and brings about many harmonious benefits.
Sauerkraut “sour herb” is finely cut cabbage that has been pickled via lactic acid fermentation involving various lactic acid producing friendly bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavour. Sauerkraut, like other preserved foods, provides a source of nutrients for people during the winter before food refrigeration/freezing. Sauerkraut took root mostly in Eastern European and Germanic cuisines typically served cold/warm as a side dish or condiment. Sauerkraut is also used as dumpling fillings, in soups and in stews.
The naturally occurring bacteria found in the air and on the food surface with the cool salty fermenting environment, help the sauerkraut to grow beneficial probiotic bacteria and prevent pathogenic bacteria growth.
Some Sauerkraut Health Benefits:
- The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage.
- A source of B vitamins (folate), vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fibre, and minerals iron, potassium, copper, manganese, calcium and magnesium.
- High in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both associated with preserving ocular health.
- Unpasteurized/uncooked sauerkraut also contains live lactobacilli and is rich in enzymes.
- The lactic acid creates beneficial conditions for intestinal flora, balances stomach pH, and helps break down protein rich foods.
- Probiotic foods contain much higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora, Pasteurised fermented foods brought commercial have no beneficial live bacteria which have been destroyed in the heating process.
- Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers).
- Lower your risk for cancer. Isothiocyanates produced in sauerkraut inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test tube and animal studies.A Polish study in 2010 concluded that:
‘Induction of the key detoxifying enzymes by cabbage juices, particularly sauerkraut, may be responsible for their chemo-preventive activity demonstrated by epidemiological studies and in animal models.’
- Beneficial gut bacteria play important roles such as helping prevent obesity, diabetes, digestive issues, neurological problems, cardiovascular disease, and even acne.
How to make Sauerkraut
Preferably buy organic and locally sourced if possible.
1 medium cabbage head (1.36kg or 3 lbs) use white, green, purple or mixed cabbage varieties. Remove core and set aside outer leaves.
1.5 tablespoon (27g) natural salt like sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. The best fermentation results are achieved with 2% brine. Too little salt will lead to mould growth; too much slows the fermentation process. For every 100 grams of cabbage, you need 2 grams of salt (x by .02).
A 1L sterilized wide mothered ceramic or glass jar
Sharp knife or grater or mandolin or food processor
Large bowl (to mix ingredients in)
A sterilised weight that fits within the jar lid
- Take your cabbage head and quarter it to remove the tough core. Thinly slice the cabbage and carrot using a knife, grater, mandolin or food processor. The thinner the strips the greater the surface area and the quicker the vegetables will wilt/ferment.
- Place the shredded veg into a large clean bowl (pre-sterilise by rinsing with boiling water). Sprinkle over the salt and firmly massage this into the veg mix. Leave the salted veg to stand for 20-30 minutes, their liquids should start to seep out. This is your brine solution that the sauerkraut will ferment in.
- Move the salted veg mix into the 1L clean wide mouthed jar (pre-sterilise by rinsing with boiling water), a couple of handfuls at a time. Compact each layering compressing as much as possible with your hand or a rolling pin. This releases any trapped air, preventing any air pocketing. Once the jar is nearly full, leave some space at the top for the mix to be submerged in brine liquid (about 3 cm).
- Add a few of the saved outer cabbage leaves and use as a make shift lid over the shredded veg, tucking the leaves down the sides. A weight can be placed on top of these leaves to keep the veg submerged. Any sterilise object could do the job, a smaller glass/ceramic jar or even a sterilised pebble. Leave this jar lidless to allow gases by-products to escape during the fermentation.
- Pour the brine from your bowl into your jar. We want the liquid level to surpass the veg level so the cabbage leaf lid is completely submerged. If you don’t have enough initial liquid then use an additional salt solution to top up your brine (250ml filtered water to 0.5 tbsp salt).
- Leave in a cool dark place (180C to 220C). Check the jar every day for any potential scum build up to be removed. The fermentation should last a minimum of 3 days in summer and 7 days in winter. The only way to tell when they’re done is to open up a jar and have a taste. The longest you’d need to ferment for is up to 6 weeks (the longer the fermentation the more tangy/sour the krout). Bubbling of gas should be observed during this time, a natural by-product of the fermentation process. When the gas release has completely stopped the fermentation process is completely finished.
- Store your sauerkraut in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a year.
- Incorporate the leftover brine liquid of your old batch into your new batch to quicken the next fermentation.
- Always use a clean spoon to consume your sauerkraut from the jar. Never eat out of the jar, as you can contaminate the entire batch with bacteria from your mouth. Make sure the remaining veggies are covered with the brine solution before replacing the lid
- These same processes to make sauerkraut can be adopted to ferment/pickle any other vegetables with the exception of potatoes which can produce toxins when fermented.
Added Recipe variations:
Whole or quartered apples
Cranberry (the benzoic acid in cranberries is a common preservative)
Bell peppers or a chilli pepper
Flavoured with juniper berries or caraway seeds
Aromatics in small quantities like peeled garlic, peeled ginger, herbs basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, or oregano.
Sea vegetables or seaweeds e.g. dulse, nori, wakame and arame etc.
According to nutritional consultant Caroline Barringer, just 60 to 120g of fermented veggies, eaten within 1 to 3 meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on our health.
Introduce them gradually, beginning with as little as one teaspoon of sauerkraut with a meal to prevent a potential healing crisis (mass pathogen die off symptoms). Observe your reactions for a couple of days before proceeding with another small portion.
Sauerkraut Nutritional value
|Typical per 100 g|
|Energy||78 kJ (19 kcal)|
|Dietary fibre||2.9 g|
For more information on the benefits of probiotics check out my blog: https://hol-fit.co.uk/supplementation/probiotics-supplement-no-1/
For more on probiotic foods check out my blog: https://hol-fit.co.uk/nutrition/probiotic-foods-home-made-kefir/
Other fermented vegetable with probiotic properties