Tried and true, the traditional sauerkraut is one of the most beneficial additions to your diet. This time-honored condiment was once a common part of everyone's dinner plate. Even our grandparents, without all the scientific research of today, seemed to know a thing or two about what was good for you. Every winter crocks full of of finely shredded cabbage and sea salt were kept in cool, dry areas for anywhere from one to six months. During this time the lactic acid bacteria present in the cabbage begins to ferment and the process creates thousands of live bacteria, known as 'probiotics'.
Now, this process is not always consistent, depending on the amounts of sea salt and water, temperature or nutrients present in your vegetables, you may notice that your ferments come out different from time to time. It's a learning process but you are sure to get the hang of it and overtime you will become the expert. The addition of a small amount of whey will ensure the most consistent ferment occurs but it is by no means necessary.
So what is the big deal with probiotics anyway? The idea of supplementing with probiotic pills has become quite the trend. But these supplements are expensive and often destroyed by the acid in our stomachs before they even reach our guts where the bacteria resides. The average person has about four pounds of bacteria living in their guts where about 80% of our immunity is also based. So your immunity is affected dramatically by the amounts of probiotics in your gut. You probably won't be surprised by the fact that many aspects of the Standard American Diet feed the growth of bad bacteria and actually destroy your body's good bacteria. The best way to restore normal gut flora is by including naturally fermented foods into your daily diet; sauerkraut being the simplest.
1 medium sized head of cabbage
1T sea salt
1. In a large glass bowl, core and finely shred the cabbage.
2. Add the sea salt and using your hands being to mix the cabbage and salt. The process breaks down the stiffness of cabbage and draws out the water. You want to do this for about 5-10 minutes, getting all the liquid you can to seep out of the cabbage.
3. In a quart-sized glass mason jar carefully pack down the cabbage and get the liquid to rise above the cabbage. Leave at least one inch space at the top because it will increase in size.
4. Leave out at room temperature for about 2-4 days and then transfer to a cool, dark place where you can allow it to ferment for up to two months. I would leave it out for one week minimum, then refrigerate after opening. You will notice bubbles rising to the top of the jar and liquid may leek out, this is normal and shows that the fermentation is taking place.
You can also add seeds like caraway or fennel, herbs like oregano or dill, vegetables like carrots or beets or even seaweed or raw garlic! This recipe is your foundation, the possibilities of flavors are endless! If probiotics are new to your diet then I would start small, a spoonful or so with a meal and gradually increase from there. The addition of too much good bacteria at once can actually cause some adverse reactions, so be gentle to your body. Include sauerkraut in your diet as a condiment eaten on the side of your meal or in salads, on sandwiches or hot dogs! Get creative!