I started getting into sauerkraut a year ago when I became obsessed with pro biotics. I have tried to eat pro biotic foods for years and have been making yogurt since I realized it was costing me $12 a week for organic whole milk yogurt for my son. But it wasn’t until last year that I really started to look at all of the different foods that are pro biotic.
Pro biotics are foods that contain live cultures that are beneficial. Ehow had the best description of what pro biotics are and what they do for you. For me, they help us with digestion, boost our immune system, and help us keep our bodies strong. I have been reading about the benefits for those with food allergies, sensitivities, or other issues.
I started out with dairy pro biotics. I’m not a huge fan of milk kefir, but love yogurt, yogurt cheese, sour cream, and use buttermilk in cooking/baking. Then I went looking for pro biotics that were dairy/casein free. My step son is GFCF and I really want him to have a pro biotic rich diet. Yes, we can feed him pro biotic pills/vitamins, but I truly believe that whole foods are more complete in their nutrition and the body absorbs them better.
In my search, I discovered a few important facts. Not all foods that are traditionally pro biotic are in fact pro biotic. Vegetables (such as pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut) that are fermented using vinegar instead of traditional methods are no longer pro biotic. Vinegar is the “processed” food way to pickle products. Vinegar is a great antibacterial, which is why I use it to clean my kitchen, but it ends up killing all the positive bacteria in pro biotic foods. This creates foods that may taste good, but leaves them void of the positive nutrients that we need to keep our body’s healthy.
This summer, I purposely planted extra cabbage so that I could make enough sauerkraut for a year. We harvested our first cabbage this weekend! Isn’t it beautiful? I was so excited that I got straight to work making sauerkraut. Last year, I was lucky enough to have my friend, Iryna, give me a lesson on making sauerkraut. It was so easy and yummy! Nothing like the junk you get at the store – the stuff that’s brownish, limp, and mushy. What she had us taste was like a yummy tangy cole slaw that still had some crunch and a really nice tang to it. It’s yummy enough to serve as a side dish to guests, use in tacos or salads, add to sandwiches, and just about anywhere you would want to use greens. The only thing I suggest is not to cook it. By cooking it, you will kill all of the pro biotic bacteria.
Since I needed to weed out carrots, I decided to add them to our sauerkraut (how cool is that?) When you plant carrots, it’s best to cast your seeds (throw them evenly). If you are a newbie like me, you will have some carrots that come up too close together. When they get to be about 1/4-1/2″ in diameter, you pick the carrots that will impede others from growing full size. The great thing is that even though they are small, you still have just enough carrot to eat and enjoy. I found that the carrots gives a sweet flavor and slight crunchiness to the sauerkraut that really added to the flavor and texture.
Making sauerkraut is easy. This head of cabbage made enough kraut to fill 3 pint jars. I decided to go pint size because we love sauerkraut, but it still takes us awhile to go through a jar and I didn’t want any to spoil. I did not go with the recipe that my friend showed me. I went with a recipe that allowed me to not have to process the jars, but still allows me to store the jars up to 1 year.
Simply cut or grate the cabbage. If you want any other veggies (like carrots), grate those. Make sure you have clean mason jars and new sealing lids. Fill the jars with the cabbage and other veggies. Make sure that the cabbage is as compacted into the jar as possible. I use a pestle to push the cabbage all the way in. You want as little room in the jar as possible. Fill to the shoulder of the jar. Add non-iodized salt. If you are using a pint jar, add 1 teaspoon of salt. If a quart jar, add 1 tablespoon of salt. I just sprinkled the salt over all of the cabbage. Then fill the jar with hot water (not boiling) – leave about an 1/2 – 1 inch of head space. Clean rim of jar and screw top on. I shook the jar a little to ensure the salt got mixed in, but that’s it. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
In 2 weeks, you will have sauerkraut. If you wait a month, it will have a more developed flavor. This is slightly different than a few other recipes I have. If you are a Nourishing Traditions fan, than you wouldn’t add any water (just smoosh and squeeze the cabbage to release it’s own juices) and add a little whey (to help with preservation, but this makes it NOT casein free). One recipe suggests adding some caraway seeds as flavoring (which is more traditional). Many recipes say to use cool water instead of hot. Hot water DOES kill some of the bacteria – both good and bad. The hot water is so you can “jar” the sauerkraut right away and to ensure that you get a good seal on the jar. It also prevents some of the “molding” issues you hear/read about in very traditional methods. I have found that you can reduce the potential for molding in the cool water method. Simply take your canning lid, flip the inner sealing lid the opposite way as normally used and then seal the jar. This prevents a “full” seal and allows the sauerkraut to breath. There are many die hard sauerkraut makers who will say that the sauerkraut needs to breath to ferment correctly. This is why they advocate the use of a crock jar and a plate (pressing down on the cabbage to keep it submerged in the liquid). All of these methods still produce a naturally fermented sauerkraut. Yes, using a more traditional method probably produces a stronger pro biotic, but all of them are a pro biotic none the less. No matter which method you use to make sauerkraut, it all is yummy!