by guest blogger Robyn Jasko, cofounder of Grow Indie
If you’ve never had fresh fermented sauerkraut, you are really missing out. Unlike the cooked sauerkraut you get at the grocery store, which is soft and mushy, raw fermented sauerkraut has a crunchy bite that tastes delicious and is filled with probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes that work to break down your food, supporting the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Don’t let the word fermentation freak you out—if you have eaten yogurt, had sourdough bread, or drunk a beer, you’ve had fermented foods before. Fermentation is a natural process that’s actually very good for you.
You can find fermented sauerkraut at your local health food store or Whole Foods, but it usually comes with a hefty price tag. Save money this year by making your own at home for a fraction of the cost.
How it works: The lactic acid created through the fermentation process (aka, lacto- fermenting) is a natural preservative that creates a lot of healthy bacteria that improve digestion. Generations ago, everyone ate fermented foods, and their probiotic bacteria are greatly missing from today’s American diet.
- 1 head organic cabbage
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 ½-gallon mason jar
- 1 pint mason jar that fits inside the larger mason jar
- Lid for larger mason jar
1. Wash cabbage, remove and save outer leaves.
2. Cut cabbage in half, core it, and slice it thin (or, you can also throw it into a food processor and cut using the S-blade).
3. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl and add the salt and the caraway seeds if using.
4. Crunch up the shredded cabbage with your hands until it releases the natural juices of the cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Add the cabbage to the large sterilized mason jar and push it down with a spoon. Keep pushing until the liquid covers the cabbage completely. You don’t want air to hit the kraut.
6. Add a large cabbage leaf to the top to seal it.
7. Put the smaller mason jar inside the large jar and push it down on top of the cabbage leaf so the entire thing is submerged in brine. If you don’t have enough brine, it’s OK to add a little water. In order for the kraut to ferment properly, it must be submerged under water the entire time.
8. Put lid on and let this sit on your countertop, out of direct sunlight.
Sauerkraut will need between 2 and 6 weeks to fully ferment, depending on the temperature in your house (the warmer it is, the sooner it will ferment—65 to 72 degrees is ideal). Once the kraut develops that signature crunchy/salty/tangy flavor, you can then store it in the fridge for up to 6 months.
Robyn Jasko, creative services director at Runner’s World magazine at Rodale, is a local-foods activist, community garden starter, and cofounder of Grow Indie, a site promoting sustainable lifestyles, homesteading, eating well, and living local. Her first book, Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live, was released May 2012.