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Preparing your own Sauerkraut at Home

Written by Katolen Yardley, Medical Herbalist

There is a huge difference between sauerkraut in vinegar versus prepared in brine. For the numerous health enhancement benefits, prepare sauerkraut fermented in brine (salt water) for the lacto fermentation benefits of lactobacillus and other beneficial bacterial present during the fermentation process (the same beneficial bacteria found in live unsweetened yoghurt).

When cabbage is submerged in brine, the live bacteria converts the natural occurring sugars found in the cabbage into lactic acid, this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. In addition to preserving the cabbage, fermented sauerkraut in brine promotes digestive health, boosts enzyme and vitamin production and assists the body with digestion.

Preparation Materials:

  • 1 large container for your sauerkraut.  A large glass canning mason jar is the best. Sterilize your jar by placing in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Then dry and cool prior to use.
  • 1 medium cabbage (any type is possible but red is highest in antioxidants)
  • 2 tbsp pickling salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp soaked and sliced dulse seaweed (optional)
  • Fennel root chopped
  • 1 celery stock diced
  • Chopped diced carrot
  • 1 shredded grated beet
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root – diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced and sliced white onion
  • Herbs: caraway, dill, celery seeds, black pepper, turmeric
  • 1 garlic clove diced

Options: You can pick and choose which veggies or spices you add to your recipe depending upon the ingredients you have on hand. You can make sauerkraut with just cabbage and salt, or you can add additional herbs and vegetables for additional flavor and variety.  Jicama and radishes can also be added.

Remove the top layers of the cabbage. Chop cabbage in half and quarters, then chop or grate into thin slices. Cut out the central core and reserve for later use.   Add shredded cabbage in to a bowl, mix in the spices, salt and seaweed. Using your hands- massage the cabbage for 5 minutes until it releases its juices then press cabbage down into a glass mason jar- add in liquid- the liquid should cover the cabbage by 1-2 inches.

 If there is not enough liquid then create your own brine by adding 1 tblsp pickling salt to 2 cups boiled water – stir until salt has dissolved then add into jar.

Once there is enough brine to cover the cabbage, then firmly press down one large cabbage leaf on the top of the mixture and push it down below the brine. If needed, add a weight, a smaller jar or a clean rock to keep the top cabbage leaf secure and below the brine.  **This is an important step to prevent mold on the top of the fermentation.  Cover the mason jar with cheese cloth to allow for air flow or place the lid back on the mason jar however do ensure that the cabbage is below the brine level to ensure proper fermentation of good bacteria and prevent development of mold. Sometimes the fermentation bubbles, so place a saucer under the mason jar to catch the drips.

If you have placed a lid on your fermentation, release the lid (open and close) every 2 days to let the carbon dioxide out of the fermentation. Or if using cheese cloth, ensure that the cabbage is continually below the brine level.

Store at room temperature room for at least 7 days or up to 4 weeks for additional flavor and medicinal properties.

Most people are eager to sample their fermentation so the shorter ferment time is certainly possible.  Continue tasking until you are happy with your creation. After the 3 days there is no minimum fermentation time. Remove the top cabbage leaf.

Refrigerate, placing a lid on your ferment and consume within 30 days.

Trouble shooting: if there is mold on the top cabbage leaf, then the brine has not fully covered the cabbage or there is not enough salt in your brine. Many people feel that simply removing the top leaf and using the cabbage ferment below is okay, however if the mixture tastes yeasty, moldy or looks slimy, then trust your intuition and discard the whole entire creation and start over.

It is normal for red cabbage to lose its color- proceed ahead.

Options for use: Use 1 tablespoon as a condiment and slowly increase to 2-3 tablespoons to prevent gas and bloating. Add to sandwiches, wraps, veggie bowls and salads.

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