Tonight I started a new batch of Sauerkraut and thought that maybe you would like to join me in the adventure of fermenting vegetables. Not only are fermented vegetables super tasty and easy to make, they are also packed full of enough amazing health benefits to be considered one of the Superfoods.
The process of making sauerkraut was developed as a means to help preserve vegetables during the winter months in both China and Germany. Immigrants and military found it a helpful way to carry vegetables along during their endless journies, and discovered that they stayed healthier because of it. Rich in vitamin C, Calcium, other vitamins and minerals, and fiber, Sauerkraut is a cancer fighter useful in treating and preventing many forms of cancer. It boosts the immune system, decreasing rates of colds and flus, skin problems, and weight gain. Because it is packed full of benefical bacteria such as lactobacilli, sauerkraut is a powerful digestive aid, and can even help cure an upset tummy, candida, and other chronic digestive issues.
In our home, we like to have a couple of bites before we start dinner, when we feel like we've eaten too much, or when we feel like we are coming down with a cold. Sauerkraut is a great addition to sandwiches, tacos, salads, and more.
The process is quite easy. While cabbage is the traditional veggie to make sauerkraut with, any vegetable can be used, as well as spices, herbs, and seaweeds. The ingredients may be chopped finely or coarsely. The finer they are chopped, the faster the fermentation process will be complete enough to eat the kraut. It is also traditional to use salt to aid in the process. Salt will draw water out of the veggies, providing an appropriate bath for them to ferment in. Salt will also help prevent bad bacteria from entering the process, acting as a preservative. Some people choose to not use salt, and some use quite a bit. The more salt you use, the longer will be your fermentation process. If you need to watch your salt intake, you may choose to not use salt, or very little, in your kraut mixture. Be assured that there are other ways to prevent the rare bad bacteria, ie mold.
This is what I made my kraut with tonight:
1 green cabbage, finely sliced
1 carrot, shredded
3 Tbls shredded red beet
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbls + 1 tsp salt (you really don't need more than this, though you might play with using less. A general rule of thumb is to use 3 Tbls per 5 pounds of veggies.)
* Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Use your fist to punch the mixture. This helps break down the fibers enough so that the vegetables will start to release it's water and the salt and bacteria can start it's action.
* Put a couple of handfulls of the mixture into a glass container. I use a tall crystal vase. Use a wooden spoon to beat/tamp down the mixture into the bottom of the container, compacting it. Add a couple more handfuls. Tamp down. Repeat till all of the mixture is in the vase.
* Next, you will need to put something heavy on top of your mixture to keep it weighed down. My grandmother apparently put her kraut in a crockpot and weighed it down with a brick. In my vase, I nest another smaller glass vase filled with water on top of my kraut.
* Cover with a towel or cheesecloth.
* In the morning, check out what is happening in your container. You should see that a lot of water has been drawn out of the vegetables, depending on what veggies you used. If your veggies are not submerged in water, add enough water so that the veggies are submerged an inch below the surface of the water. No veggies should be sticking out of the water, in order to prevent mold growth. Recover with your cloth, which will help keep fruit flies out.
* Now the magic starts to happen. Somehow, bacteria from the air seeps into the water and then into the veggies and starts the fermentation process. In three days, give the kraut a taste. If you see a film on the surface of the water, skim it off before dipping in to scoop out some kraut. If the kraut still tastes quite salty, it isn't done.
* Check the kraut every 2-3 days to see what it's progress is. You will know it is done when it isn't super salty, when it tastes good, and when it has that familiar fermented flavor. I usually find that my kraut is to my liking about a week to 10 days after I started it. It is fine to let it go longer than this, it will just develop a stronger flavor, and odor. With a little experimentation, you will find what length of fermentation is to your liking.
* When it tastes done, place the kraut in a glass jar, and store in the fridge.