Cultured and fermented foods contain probiotics that replace the good bacteria in our gut. These microbes must continually strengthen and increase in order to keep you healthy. Things like a bad diet, stress and antibiotics can all have a detrimental effect on the amount of good bacteria in our tummy. Gut heath is so important for wellbeing in so many ways and specifically essential in recovery from illness, as around 80% of our immune system resides in our gut. When I was severely ill with M.E, and at one time on lots of meds my stomach was so swollen I looked as if I was six months pregnant. In order to heal my immune system I had to start with healing my Gut.
The traditional idea of fermenting foods goes back for 1000s of years, and it is believed that when the great wall of China was being built the labourers preserved sauerkraut so that they would have a good source of nutrients during the non growing season. Seamen also used it when they were out at sea it to prevent scurvy from low vitamin C levels. Probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut and Kimchi took root in central and Eastern European countries. Sauerkraut contains high levels of dietary fibre, significant levels of vitamin A, C, K and various B vitamins. It is a good source of iron, manganese, potassium, calcium and has a moderate amount of protein.
Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. To put it (fairly) simply. There is beneficial bacteria present on the surface of the cabbage and, in fact, all fruits and vegetables. Lactobacillus is one of those bacteria, which is the same bacteria found in yogurt and many other cultured products. When submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; this is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
Noted health benefits of eating cultured vegetables according to Donna Schwenk in 'Cultured foods for health’ are a boost to the immune system, helping to stop diarrhoea and constipation, bloating, can help with weight loss, reduce candida, help to eliminate symptoms of bowel disease, reduce inflammation, combat flu and cols, alleviate the symptoms of food poisoning. Some of the conditions it has been reported to be of help with are acid reflux, acne, eczema, seasonal allergies, asthma, autism, cancer/chemotherapy, I.B.S, colitis, crohn's disease, depression, fibromyalgia, M.E, C.F.S, high blood pressure, kidney stones, ulcers, yeast infections and obesity. Creating the right conditions in your gut is a very significant step in the right direction to enhance your wellbeing.
You can start with taking half to one teaspoon of sauerkraut a day, some people take up to a tablespoon or two, but it is recommended to do this gradually, as it can have a detox reaction in some people, especially if you have accumulated a lot of toxins in your body. I started with half a teaspoon for the first week years ago, and now take 2 teaspoons or a tablespoon a day. I didn't have any detox reaction at all when I started. How much you like to take may also depend on how many other probiotics you take such as live yogurt, kefir, Kombucha, or kimchi.
My rainbow superfood probiotic sauerkraut has lots of prebiotics in it too, which feed the probiotics and further enhance its healing properties.
Head of a medium cabbage
Small red onion
Half an apple
Cup of Kale
4 tablespoons of parsley
Tablespoon of dulse seaweed flakes
4 radishes finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
1-2 tablespoon of himalayan salt (depends on weight of veg)
Sterilise all equipment:
Wash all ingredients:
Shred all the ingredients into a large bowl, keeping the core and a few leaves of the cabbage, as you will be using this to weigh everything down in the jar. Sprinkle the salt over it all...1 tablespoon of salt for 1¾ pound (800g) of vegetables. To make a quantity of sauerkraut that will fit in a 1-quart (1-litre) jar, you will need 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1¾ pounds (800 g) of vegetables. It's a good idea to weigh all your veg when it's shredded to get the right salt ratio. Then massage with your hands, pound it down with a pestle for about ten minutes to get the process going, when there is a decent amount of liquid, put it into your sterilised jar and keep pushing each layer down with a spoon. Cover the top with the cabbage leaves and core to weigh everything down or cut an apple in half and use that on top of the cabbage leaves, so it all stays under the liquid. If you have pounded well enough there will be enough liquid to cover it all, but if not you can add a little more filtered brine water, 3g of salt for each 100ml water. Then leave in a dark cupboard in a room with a warm temperature of around 60~70 degrees Fahrenheit for around six days. Keep checking all ingredients are still under the liquid as it ferments and expands. You can check it after six days to see how it suits your taste, if you want to leave it longer for up to three weeks you can. But I think its great after six days. When it's done put in a sterilised airtight jar in your fridge, it will last for up to 9 months. Just make sure the veg are always covered in the liquid.
There are different times people suggest for this and various amounts of salt you can use, as fermentation times can increase or decrease with the temperature of your house. In general I find a 3% dilution (3% salt to the amount of veg you are using) works very well as I have a warm kitchen. some people use 3-5%. Do your own research and experiment with what's right for you. Just make sure all the ingredients are kept under the water. If you ever notice any funny colour change to pink, green, black, strange smell or any kind of mold throw it out.
Temperature affects the speed at which fermentation occurs. A cooler room will slow fermentation while a warmer room will speed it up. Ideally most ferments do best in an environment that’s at a comfortable room temperature, about 60 – 70 degrees fahrenheit.
During the summer the temperature of the kitchen rises. The heat speeds up the activity of the bacteria and can make a typical 5 day ferment be done in 3 days.
During the winter, if your kitchen is cold, a typical 5 day ferment could take as long as 7 or 10 days. Even two weeks.
The amount of salt you used in your sauerkraut or fermented vegetables will affect fermentation time. Too little salt will speed up fermentation, but may cause it to become slimy and develop mold. Too much salt can slow down fermentation significantly.
I look at mine and check out the fermentation bubbles each day. You can tell when it is fermenting more rapidly by how quickly and the quantity the bubbles form. I do my taste test at six days and if it taste sour and the vegetables are crispy then that suits my taste.
Time can depend on taste preference also. The flavor of the vegetables and sauerkraut will develop and get more complex over time. Textures can change too.
If you like your sauerkraut more crunchy, then ferment it for less time, if you like it softer leave it longer.
This is enough for a litre fermenting jar. You can get these for around £10 on amazon or eBay. Some people use a normal jar but you would need to burp it after a couple of days when the fermenting process really gets going and every day or so thereafter for a second just to release the gases, the oxygen can potentially spoil it and slow down the process. So I prefer using the fermenting jar as it is safer and releases the gases naturally without letting any oxygen in. Then when it’s done I transfer it into a normal screw top sterilised jars.