Honestly, the first time I made sauerkraut I was a little scared. I knew all about the health benefits and wanted them, but the idea of something fermented by bacteria sounded gross and like it might give me food poisoning. What it took for me to get over that fear was the knowledge of how it worked, and then just going for it.
Cabbage, and many other foods, can be preserved and made more nutritious by the process of lacto-fermentation. A strain of bacteria, named Lactobacillus, lives on plants and in a healthy human digestive tract. During the lacto-fermentation process, Lactobacillus turn the carbohydrates in the food into lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Salt also preserves and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
Now that I make fermented foods regularly I'm not afraid anymore. I think it's an amazing process that preserves our food, is delicious AND benefits our health. It's a win, win, win.
Here are instructions for how to make sauerkraut:
(there are other ways and other equipment, but I like to keep it as simple as possible)
1. Using a knife or food processor, shred a medium head of cabbage and place in a large bowl.
2. Add two tablespoons of sea salt.
3. Using a wooden spoon, meat hammer or similar object (I used a cocktail muddler) pound the juices out of the cabbage for about 10 minutes. If 10 minutes seems like a long time, listen to music, dance in place, listen to a podcast, think of things you are grateful for, etc.
4. Put the mixture into a clean quart size jar. Make sure to leave at least an inch of space from the top. Make sure all the cabbage is submerged under the liquid. This is key to success and preventing the growth of harmful microorganisms.
5. Put a lid on, cover with a clean cloth to keep dark, and let sit at room temperature. After 3-5 days, transfer to the refrigerator. It can be eaten then, or allowed to age longer in the fridge. The flavor will continue to develop over time. It starts out more salty tasting and becomes more sour as it ages.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this post is helpful! If you'd like more recipes and nutritional health info from me in the future, make sure to join my e-mail list here.