Sauerkraut: Traditional Fermented Goodness

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By Kathy Shearer

My Polish grandmother made her own sauerkraut. She traditionally made her sauerkraut in the Fall, after she harvested all the cabbage from her garden. She would spend the day shredding cabbage as she added the salt, pounding it until the cabbage released its juices. Grandma then packed her newly-made sauerkraut into her crock. She stored her sauerkraut in her root cellar, not too far from the potatoes, apples and carrots. Grandma made enough sauerkraut to feed her large family well into the winter months.

What is Sauerkraut?

sauerkraut

Quite simply, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. The necessary bacteria and yeasts are naturally present on the cabbage leaves. Lactobacillus is one of those bacteria.

When the cabbage is submerged in a brine, the bacteria begin to convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid. Lactic acid keeps the cabbage in a perfect state of preservation and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. No heat is applied in the making of sauerkraut, allowing the live, beneficial bacteria to remain in tact.

What are the Benefits of Eating Sauerkraut?

The abundance of lactobacilli in fermented cabbage enhances its digestibility and increases vitamin levels, namely vitamins A, C, K, and certain B vitamins. It is a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium and calcium and also supplies your diet with a moderate amount of protein. Furthermore, it is an excellent source of beneficial enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.

Making Homemade Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is probably the easiest of all fermented foods to make.  There are only two main ingredients, cabbage and salt. It is an excellent first-time fermentation project.

This recipe makes about one gallon (four individual quarts) of sauerkraut.

Homemade Sauerkraut
 
Serves: four individual quarts
Ingredients
  • Cabbage (two medium heads, about 4 to 5 pounds total)
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined sea salt
Instructions
  1. Core and finely shred the cabbage and place it in a large bowl.
  2. Add the sea salt to the cabbage and toss together with your hands. Knead and squeeze the cabbage. This will break up the cellular structure of the cabbage. The cabbage will become limp and start releasing its juices.
  3. Let it sit for several minutes to allow the salt to do some of the hard work for you, drawing out the water from the leaves. Knead and squeeze it a bit more.
  4. Transfer the cabbage into quart-size jars. Press down firmly to pack the jar as tightly as possible, removing any air bubbles, until the cabbage is completely submerged by the liquid. I typically fill the jar to just over half full with at least a 1-inch of liquid on top. If your mason jar is too full, the brine can bubble up and over the top.
  5. Cover the jars with lids and allow them to remain at room temperature for at least 1 month and for up to 6 months.
  6. After 1 month, taste your sauerkraut every few days until it is done to your liking. Transfer it to a refrigerator, or other cold storage, where it will keep for 6 months and up to 1 year.

Just like her mother before her, grandma fed her children sauerkraut. Grandma might not have known that sauerkraut contains the plethora of vitamins, minerals and probiotics listed above. What she did know, though, was that sauerkraut was a good, wholesome food that she could make that would feed her family and keep them healthy for the entire winter, which it did!

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Kathy Shearer

Kathy Shearer

Kathy Shearer is an educator at heart.She earned a BS degree in Education, has been a La Leche League leader for 15 years, and now enjoys being a Certified Fitlife.tv Coach.She is a wife to John and mother to six homeschooled children.They own a farm where they grow most of their own organic meats and produce and preserve most of their own food. She and her children work on an organic vegetable farm.Kathy has a zeal for everything fermented.She has a passion for educating people about whole, nutritious foods, and does this regularly at the farmer's market where she sells fermented drinks, homemade soap, and organic chicken.

Kathy joined Fitlife in August, 2013.Although she had a passion for nutrition and whole foods, her diet was very grain heavy.After joining Fitlife, she traded in her grains for greens.She joined Small Group Coaching in April of 2014, and to date has lost 51 pounds. Kathy's greatest desire has been achieved.Her body image now represents what she believes in:That is that health and wellness can be achieved through eating God-manufactured, whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Kathy Shearer

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