Sauerkraut: the original probiotic

Sauerkraut is an age-old medicine for regenerating the digestive system. It helps to balance the secretions of our stomach and pancreas, boost enzyme and vitamin production and improve our ability to digest fats. It is full of healthy bacteria that help to rebuild the lining of our intestines and boost our immune system.

There has been much debate over the safety of making your own sauerkraut with risk of mold, yeast and pathogenic bacterial contamination. I'm here to show you a safe method of making the most healthful and delicious sauerkraut, even better than store bought! ;)

What you need:

  • Large container for your sauerkraut. The best options are fermenting crocks, large mason jar with airlock/sealed lid, or any other glass jar with an airlock/sealed lid. 
  • 1 medium cabbage
  • 1.5 tbsp pickling salt or sea salt (or you can use 1/2 cup soaked and sliced dulse seaweed)
  • Wooden cutting board
  • Knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large bowl

STEP 1

Remove and discard the top layers of the cabbage and wash well. Remove an inner layer of the cabbage and set aside for later use. Chop your cabbage in half, then in quarters. Once the cabbage is cut in quarters, you can cut out the central core

STEP 2

Once the cabbage is cored, you can chop the cabbage into thin slices and add to a large bowl. (f you want to add some flavour, you can add caraway seeds, cardamom seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds or juniper berries to add a little extra kick, but the original recipe is pretty delicious!)

STEP 3

This is probably the cabbage's favourite part. Place the chopped cabbage into a large bowl. Add the salt (or dulse seaweed) and let sit for 10-15 mins, then start massaging (with clean hands). Massage the cabbage for a good 5-10 minutes until it starts to get juicy. Massaging the cabbage with the salt will cause the liquid in the cabbage to come out, the liquid is loaded with sugars from the cabbage which will feed the bacteria. The happy and well-fed bacteria will create lactic acid to pickle your cabbage.

STEP 4

Place the handfuls of massaged cabbage into a glass jar and press the cabbage down with a wooden spoon. Continue until all the cabbage is in the jar and there is a nice amount of liquid collecting (called brine). 

Keep pressing the cabbage down until the liquid comes to about 1-2 inches above the cabbage. If the liquid doesn't quite cover the cabbage, you can make your own brine by combining 1 tbsp pickling/sea salt to 4 cups distilled water (if there's too much, it will keep in the fridge until your next sauerkraut batch!).

STEP 5

Once your cabbage is tucked in nicely under the brine, you can add the cabbage leaf that you set aside earlier on top and wrap it around the chopped cabbage under the brine. You can also add a glass plate/saucer if it fits into the jar and covers all the cabbage. Then add some weight to keep all the cabbage below the brine, this can be a small clean jar full of water that fits inside your larger mason jar, or a clean zip-lock bag of water that covers the surface of the cabbage. The bacteria you want in your sauerkraut is anaerobic, which means that it does not like oxygen. Ensuring all the cabbage is submerged will reduce oxygen exposure which will keep the good bacteria happy and prevent pathogenic yeast and mold from forming (which need oxygen to grow).

STEP 6

Close the lid of the mason jar and store the sauerkraut in a room-temperature dark place for 2-4 weeks. It is important to wait this long so the bacteria can finish its entire life cycle to give you a more potent medicinal sauerkraut. Periodically check it to make sure the cabbage stays below the brine and to "burp" your sauerkraut to let out the CO2 if you are not using an airlock system. To "burp" your sauerkraut, raise the lid very slightly until you hear an escape of gas, then close the lid again to maintain the best anaerobic environment you can. 

After 2-4 weeks, remove the cover and discard the weights and top cabbage leaf. Some sites say it's OK to remove the moldy pieces on top and eat the sauerkraut below, but the truth is that mold has roots that cannot be seen by the human eye and can penetrate deep into you sauerkraut. If you see mold, discard your sauerkraut and start over - better safe than sorry! Other signs of contaminated sauerkraut are a creamy or slimy film, browned cabbage, pink cabbage, or a yeasty odour. It is normal to see foam or white sludge on the bottom and for your cabbage to have lost its vibrant colour. 

Put the kraut in the refrigerator in the closed glass jar and it should last 1-2 months. ENJOY!

For full benefit, sauerkraut should be eaten on a daily basis. Start small, with 1 tbsp daily with food for the first week, and gradually increase the amount to 1/4 cup daily with food. If you eat too much too soon, you may experience some gas and bloating.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Fiona