I’m going to walk you through how to make you own batch of sauerkraut at home. Fermented foods were an important step in my health journey, and learning how to make them at home saved me a lot of money in the long run! So I decided to start teaching others. I’ve really enjoyed having others in my kitchen learning to make it for themselves and I hope that once you learn you share it with others too! I want to encourage you to just give it a try! – Ashley
What is fermentation? The chemical breakdown of bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms. This is different from canning in that canning is a sterile environment (without lactic acid) and does not allow for the growth of good (or bad) bacteria.
Why fermentation? It was originally created to preserve foods through winter months. Nowadays, fermented foods help protect against disease and are a powerful digestive aid (digestive enzymes, increases vit c, natural probiotics, helps maintain healthy bp and hr, breaks down fats in the liver, healthy intestinal bacteria growth, helps with group B Strep overpopulation, and even lowers your chance of preclampsia in pregnancy). It makes previously good food even more digestible and better for you!
Why does it not grow “bad stuff”? All foods are constantly being assaulted by microorganisms rushing to eat as much of it as possible. When you ferment you are helping a specific bacteria called lactic acid win this “race”. Lactic acid bacteria digests the sugars from your veggie (which is why fruit ferments so much quicker!) and produces lactic acid that has that signature tangy taste. By eating the sugars it is removing potential food sources for bad bacteria. The lactic acid bacteria is already there, but your salt creates a perfect environment for it to thrive, and lack of air means no new bacteria can be added to disrupt its process. You can have too much or too little salt so pay attention to what your ferment is telling you.
Who should and shouldn’t eat fermented foods? I want to start out by saying, listen to your body and do your own research. I can tell that after eating a few tablespoons a day for a few weeks, my body really starts to crave fermented veggies. Many baby nutritionists recommend starting baby out on fermented foods (whether it is letting them suck on a Bubbies pickle, or lick a spoonful of sauerkraut juice). The enzymes in the juice will help their bodies break down other foods, so it makes an excellent side to every meal. People with histamine reactions or who are known to have candida overgrowth should talk with their nutritionist or doctor about consuming fermented foods.
How often should I eat ferments? Daily! Start out small, but try to build yourself up to a tablespoon or bite with every meal to help with digestion. If you are not used to consuming fermented food you may notice loose bowels after the first few times you eat it. This should improve as your body gets used to the influx of good bacteria!
How to Make Fermented Sauerkraut at Home
Things you will need:
- Cabbage – 1 medium head
- Salt (preferably high quality pink or sea salt) – 1 tablespoon
- Fido jar (or airtight container)
- Cutting board and Knife
- Optional: Lime, herbs, apples, garlic, jalapeno, chili pepper flakes
- Clean hands and work surface.
- Remove outer dirty leaves from cabbage, cut head in half and core.
- Use knife, mandolin, or cabbage cutter to slice cabbage into thin ⅛ strips and place in a large mixing bowl, or chop in small squares for a hot dog type relish.
- Add salt evenly over cabbage (ratio is 1 medium head of cabbage to 1tbls salt)
- Massage, squeeze, and pound your cabbage to release its water and create a brine (3-10 mins) use gloves if you have open cuts. If you like a crunchier kraut you may massage less, if you like a softer kraut you may massage more.
- Transfer one handful at time to clean fido jar, pack with your knuckles or a pickle packer as you go. Allow for ½ inch or more from the lip of the jar.
- If your brine isn’t covering your cabbage it is all right to add a small amount of clean water to create more brine.
- Clean the lip of your jar and seal it. Rinse the entire jar to remove any outside debris.
- Add label with content and date made.
- Set jar on a plate and store in a dark cupboard. The first few days will be the most “active” and you will frequently hear it “talking” to you as it releases CO2. It also might force liquid out, so having a plate underneath is a good idea. You can remove the plate after about a week because the rest of the fermentation process is more gentle!
- The earliest you should open is 7 days, but it can safely sit in your pantry for years unopened. The most diverse bacteria grown happens around 3 months, so it is recommend to wait until then to open a ferment. A cooler environment will ferment slower, while a warmer home will ferment faster. Once opened place in the fridge (can change to a different air tight container) to be eaten for months to come!
Remember to experiment and have fun with each batch! Every ferment will taste different based on the quality of produce, temperature of your home, and other factors, so if one isn’t to your liking don’t be afraid to modify and try again!
Be sure and contact Ashley if you have any questions about the process or want to do an in-person fermenting class (Abilene residents only)!