This really is the simplest sauerkraut recipe I have ever seen. I adapted it from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook (a must have!) and all you need are two ingredients. Once you try it and see how easy it is, the process of fermentation seems much less intimidating. You can make this in about 15 minutes and it is ready to eat in as little as three days (though the longer it ages the better). All you need is cabbage, sea salt, a mixing bowl and a mason jar and you can create and witness the process of fermentation.
So, what is fermentation? The type I am referring to here is essentially the process of preserving vegetables without freezers or canning machines. After adding salt to the vegetables and pounding and massaging to release their juices, lactic acid — which is naturally occurring in vegetables — acts as a preservative while the salt protects against harmful bacteria. This allows Lactobacilli to proliferate. Lactobacilli are a great source of naturally occurring probiotics (that are now bottled, encapsulated and sold at high prices — make your own!) that aide in digestion and promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
It is important to use organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered water so that the Lactobacilli have plenty of the nutrients they need to grow. Generally, room temperature (around 72 degrees) is all that is needed for the bacteria to proliferate — this usually takes about three days. If your kitchen is colder it may take several days longer, if it is much warmer, it may take less time. This recipe works for me when I leave it on the counter for three days and then transfer it to the refrigerator. I have eaten it right away and it is delicious, though the experts say that six months is needed for sauerkraut to truly mature — mine have never made it nearly that long.
Traditionally, people have eaten lacto-fermented foods as condiments to their meals, which helps aide in digestion — in modern culture this has largely been abandoned. Even store-bought sauerkraut is pasteurized thus killing all the beneficial bacteria that were originally there. Digestive problems are so prevalent in American culture and are often at the root of chronic diseases and conditions. Reintroducing lacto-fermented foods into our diets is a great, easy and affordable way to enhance the health of our intestinal tract and our overall health.
Simplest Sauerkraut Adapted from Nourishing Traditions
Makes 1 quart
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded or chopped into bite sized pieces 2 Tbl Sea salt
Place the cabbage in a large bowl with the salt. Massage and squeeze cabbage with your hands or pound it with a wooden pounder for five to ten minutes to release the juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouthed mason jar and press down firmly with the pounder until the juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar (important!). Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 3 days, then transfer to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately but improves with age.
*Please be aware that when you open the jar after it has been fermenting for three days, there will be pressure and some of the juices may burst out. It is best to open it slowly over the sink, I learned the hard way!
I have included a series of picture because it’s fun to watch the process! Kids will love it too!