Summer Means it’s Time to Make Sauerkraut!
The summer months are almost here, and for some of us, that means sun, surf, and beach… themed TV shows that we’ll watch from our quarantine couch.
For others of us, it means fermentation season!
For the very few of you that have been reading my articles since last summer, you may know that summers for me mean pickling and fermenting the days away.
That’s because there’s never a better time to breed probiotic bacteria than when the weather gets nice and warm.
While fermentation began as a practical measure to keep food from spoiling 2,000 years ago, it’s utilised today as a method of extracting the most nutrition possible from certain vegetables.
Regular cabbage is fairly nutritious, but after undergoing the stressful process of fermentation, cabbage becomes a nutrition powerhouse that’s incredible for your microbiome.
A relatively new field of scientific study, your microbiome is made up of the bacteria that fill your gut.
Scientists have discovered in recent years that these bacteria have an absolutely enormous influence over everything your body does, from digestion to energy, and even mood.
Doctors have connected the microbiome to so many disorders and diseases that bacteriotherapy (fecal transplant) has become mainstream.
It has become so mainstream in fact, that people have started transplanting fecal matter they’ve acquired online into their own rectal cavities with turkey basters. (Please don’t do that, it’s as dangerous as it is gross).
So instead of shooting feces up your butt in an effort to improve the health of your microbiome, why not make sauerkraut?
The process of fermenting the cabbage encourages the growth of good bacteria that feed on the sugars present in cabbage.
Under the right conditions, these bacteria grow and multiply, preserving the cabbage and increasing its nutritional value.
Personally, I know that a cup of sauerkraut always helps me with a number of issues I have.
I’m someone that gets cramps when I eat too much bread, which is terrible because there’s nothing I love more in the world than a great sandwich.
But a cup of sauerkraut and a bottle of lemon-infused water does wonders in shutting up my gut.
The reason my gut feels better after a cup of sauerkraut is because of what the probiotic bacteria are doing.
They’re aiding my digestive system and helping my gut more efficiently absorb the vitamins and minerals in food.
This could mean that pairing sauerkraut with a delicious meal may improve the nutritional value of the meal simply by providing your gut with a more efficient bacterial workforce.
Let’s Make Sauerkraut!
To begin making sauerkraut, we’re going to need a clean chopping board, knife, and fermentation jar.
I prefer a jar that has a built-in burper in the lid. This is a rubber flap that allows gas to leave the jar, rather than collect inside and put pressure on the glass.
You don’t want to use a regular jar because you don’t want to risk the glass being too weak and exploding under pressure.
Gasses will build up inside the jar during fermentation, so you want a jar that can stand it.
The reason for the gas build-up is that as the bacteria grow and multiply, they eat sugar and burp out carbon dioxide.
Make sure that everything you’re going to use to make sauerkraut is clean and sterilised, because the only bacteria you want multiplying in the jar is the bacteria that are already living in the cabbage.
I like to soak my ingredients in a solution of iodophor and water. (You can buy iodophor from shops that sell cheese making and fermentation supplies).
Something like iodophor is preferable over any chemicals because you don’t want even traces of cleaning chemicals in the sauerkraut. This is because those chemicals are designed to kill all bacteria, including healthy probiotic ones. If your probiotic bacteria dies, all you’ll have left is a wet jar of rotten cabbage.
Once your materials are cleaned and sterilised, chop the cabbage in half and remove the hard white centre.
Once the cabbage is halved, chop each half into thin strips and place them into a bowl.
For every 800 grams of cabbage you put into the bowl, add one heaped tablespoon of salt.
Once you’ve added all the cabbage and salt into the bowl, strongly massage the cabbage with your fingers.
The salt will be making the cabbage sweat, your job is to extract all the juices you can from it.
Massage the cabbage for roughly 10 minutes, then let the cabbage rest for 10 minutes.
After that, have a look at the cabbage, it should have released a lot more sweat while it was resting.
Massage it again for ten more minutes, then transfer the cabbage to your clean jar.
Ensure the cabbage is entirely submerged in its own water. If you weren’t able to extract enough water from the massage process, mix filtered water with a teaspoon of salt, then pour it over the cabbage until its submerged.
It’s ideal that all of your cabbage be submerged for the entire time that its fermenting, so it’s a good idea to add some clean, sanitised weights into the fermentation jar.
Depending on what level of strength you prefer for your sauerkraut, you should age it somewhere out of direct sunlight for 1 to 3 weeks. The perfect amount of time for me is two weeks.
Once the time is up, the sauerkraut should smell yummy and enticing, if it smells like anything else, discard it.
A sauerkraut jar is a Petrie dish for bacteria, and you want to ensure that only the good ones have grown.
Bad bacteria make themselves very obvious; so you’ll know if bad bacteria has grown either by a bad smell or bad consistency. Sauerkraut should never be slimy, if it is, throw it out.
I’ve personally known bad sauerkraut to smell like horses, so that’s not something you want. It should instead be slippery and crunchy and have a delicious sour taste.
Let me know how your sauerkraut goes! Summer months mean fermentation, so I’ll be back again soon with another exciting ferment recipe.