You too can look like a beautiful, barefooted contessa just by making your own sauerkraut. Or. You can receive a text from your husband while out of town that goes something like this . . .
Him: Is the sauerkraut supposed to smell?
You: Oh. . . . yes. Does it smell really bad or just a little?
Him: It’s fine. I wasn’t sure what the smell was but then I saw the jar in the cabinet. #paleolife
You: Thank you for not hating me
Make sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post . . . I am merely scratching the surface here in regards to fermentation and there are some crazy, fermentation “geni-ii” (plural of genius?) out there!
Now that we have discussed the role of “gut flora,” we can tackle the practical methods for cultivating and maintaining a healthy, diverse, species of gut flora. There are over 400 known (meaning, there are more!) types of beneficial bacteria. Our gut flora is like an orchestra . . . unique, independent instruments resulting in harmonious unity. We’re striving for diverse unity.
The best way to encourage the diversity of flora is simple . . . introduce bacteria to the body through diverse sources. This includes but is not limited to . . .
– Fermented veggies (carrots are a great place to start. Low maintenance and easy on the taste buds)
– Fermentable fibers (sweet potato, plantain, berries, root veggies etc)
– My personal favorite . . . kombucha!
– SOIL!!! That’s right . . .straight up dirt. We will talk about this in the near future.
Today we’re just tackling kraut . . .it’s an easy, affordable, completely natural way to introduce and cultivate your gut health. Win, win.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
1. One head of green/purple cabbage
2. Salt (I prefer this stuff, also available on Amazon)
3. A wide mouth jar (I usually use an old marinara sauce jar)
4. Knife, cutting board, water
– Cut cabbage in half. Peel off two large leaves and set them to the side, do not cut them. With flat side of one half facing down on the cutting board, slice the cabbage into strips (like an onion). Slice those strips in half lengthwise, so they are shorter, not thinner.
– Throw strips into large bowl and sprinkle generous amount of salt. Allow cabbage to sit for 15-20 minutes. The cabbage should start to “sweat.”
– Using your hands, squeeze the water out of the cabbage. You’re not looking for tons of water or anything, just lots of moisture. This takes some work!
– Once you feel like you did your best, begin to fill your mason jar stopping every so often to smash the cabbage down. I use a random piece of my food processor (I’m not sure what to call it) for this. You want to pack the cabbage into the jar tightly and you should see some water start to rise in the jar, when you apply pressure to the cabbage.
– Leave an inch-ish at the top of the jar. The fermentation process takes place below water. Add drinking water (not tap) to the mason jar very slowly. You want the water line to reach just above the smashed cabbage. Take the large leaves you set aside earlier and cut them so they can fit inside the jars and over the cabbage, like “lids.” You still want an inch-ish of space between this “lid” and the mouth of the jar.
– Place jar in a warm, dry place such as in a cupboard or laundry room shelf. Check every 2 days. If you see cabbage making it’s way above the water line, simply use a (very) clean spoon and fish it out. No biggie. If you see mold, don’t freak out. Totally normal. You may be able to remove that part from the kraut without starting over or may have to throw out the batch and start over. This has only happened to me twice in 6 months. Again, no biggie, use you judgment.
– It will have an odor. . . welcome to the suburban frontier. It shouldn’t smell rotten but it should smell sour . . . sauer-kraut.
– The fermentation process really depends on where you live. In AZ, it takes about 2 weeks. During the hellish summers, it takes about 9 days. How do you know? After a week, give your kraut a taste. It should be sour and tangy! Like pickles. At this point, remove the “cabbage lids” and place a real lid on the jar, keeping it in your fridge. A lot of times I scoop out the very top layer of kraut, it just looks gross. It will continue to ferment in the fridge but at a much, much slower rate. If it doesn’t taste sour or tangy, give it a few more days, checking on it every so often.
Fermentation is indeed a science. Yet, every batch of fermented veggies, tea, or cabbage you create is unique. They are like fingerprints and snowflakes . . . no two batches are alike. Each batch has slightly different strains of bacteria. This is a beautiful thing! Bacteria is a living deal. Like people, they are unique and individual. You might have a great batch one week and a “so-so” batch the next. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong, it’s just, different.
HOW TO EAT SAUERKRAUT
For some people, it’s not rocket science. You just, eat it. With a fork. With a spoon. Whatever. Start out by eating small amounts . . . if you have any symptoms of gut irritation when you consume fermented foods, back off and investigate what is taking place. If you’re gut seems happy, slowly increase the amount. Try to include a fermented food/drink a few times a week and eventually, make it apart of your everyday meals.
For some people, it is rocket science. If you hate it and can’t get over the tang or smell or eating “bacteria,” I would encourage you to try mixing it into foods like ground beef or eggs or salad or guacamole. Give it time and allow your taste buds to change. If you still can’t handle it, that’s cool. Try something else! Try carrots or kefir, kombucha or kvass.
I also really enjoyed this book even though I wouldn’t agree with every recipe . . .I’m just not a fan of grains BUT some people feel and function well with grains in their diet and who am I to tell you otherwise? Listen your body, you know it best.
Learn more about how fermentation works
It’s also explained practically here
All of The Paleo Mom’s articles are worth your time
And so are Chris Kresser’s
I just stumbled upon this, anyone have thoughts? Have you heard or read it?
Hopefully this is helpful . . . the first few times I made kraut I was so scared I was doing it “wrong.” Now I barely have to think. It just becomes normal with time. Enjoy!