Making sauerkraut

Bacteria.

Did you immediately think about illness and infection?  Those are the nasty guys, but actually, we need billions of beneficial bacteria in our bodies, especially in our gut, for good health.  And in our modern world, these poor little mites can be devastated by antibiotics, stressful and over-busy lives, and poor diet.

However, all is not lost.  Eating fermented or cultured foods has a very long history and is a great, and tasty, way of boosting our gut microbiome both in terms of the numbers of bacteria and the number of strains of bacteria – both of which are really important.  I’ll do a post on the microbiome sometime – it’s a fascinating topic (honest!)

Yoghurt is the cultured food we’re probably most familiar with (make sure it contains live cultures – many don’t), but others include sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, sourdough bread, and apple cider vinegar.

All that, just to give the background to my sauerkraut making!  I lived in Germany for a year as a student, and I have to admit that I didn’t like sauerkraut – they eat it hot there, which might have been the problem.  In recent years, I’ve bought sauerkraut because it’s good for me and it’s been OK.  However – home-made …..!  Is any kind of shop-bought food ever as good as the home-made version?

And it’s not even difficult.  Here are the steps:

Core and slice your cabbage.  I used half a white cabbage and half a red one, I prefer that combination and it looks so pretty!  Save an outside leaf and a bit of core for later – all will be explained! This was the first time I used the food processor (I only just remembered that it has a slicing blade and it might be an idea to learn how to use it!), but it’s easy enough to do by hand.

 

 

Add salt.  I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of good sea salt.

 

Massage the salty cabbage.  It takes a few minutes but you’ll feel the texture change, it goes a bit squeaky, and then you’ll start to see the liquid coming out of the cabbage.  Can you see it running over my hand in the photo?  (Believe me, massaging a cabbage with one hand while trying to take a photo with the other is not easy!)  Eventually you’ll see a pool of liquid in the bottom of your bowl.

Spoon it all into a jar and keep pressing it well down as you go.  You want to eliminate all the air.  Pour any remaining liquid in at the end.

Then put the outside leaf over the top and put the core in.  The idea is that you will then need a bit of pressure to close the lid.  This ensures that the cabbage all stays below the liquid and  air-free.

Leave it to sit on your counter for 2-3 weeks to ferment (doesn’t it look pretty?).  It might leak out some liquid, this is not a problem.  Just sit the jar on a plate to catch it.

When it’s sat long enough, have a wee taste.  It should taste tangy so if it still tastes salty, leave it a few more days (you will also be able to see that the texture’s changed and the liquid has all reabsorbed).  When it reaches a taste that you like, tuck in.  Move the jar to the fridge where it will keep for up to 6 months.  You’ll know by the taste if you’ve kept it too long.  If you’ve made more than you think you can use, decant some into smaller jars and share.

And finally, what to eat it with.  No point in making it and then leaving it to molder in the fridge!  It’s nice with any salad, cheeses or (I imagine) cold meats – just a couple of tablespoons on the side.  Enjoy – and don’t forget to let me know if you try it, if you already make it and what you eat it with, or if you have found a better way of doing it!

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