Homemade, Super Easy Sauerkraut
Lots of people might turn aside when they hear sauerkraut, but they must not have tried real, homemade sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is actually super easy to make yourself, and all you need is a jar, a large bowl, and a knife! Cabbage, water and salt are also required, of course. What sauerkraut actually is, is a fermented vegetable. Being fermented, it is extremely good for your gut, introducing natural probiotics into your digestive system in the form of bacteria that is already living in your environment. This is different than inhaling the bacteria, you are actually ingesting it and introducing it to your gut biome, with all the other bacteria that are already there. This bacteria helps in many ways, one of which is digestion.
A healthy gut biome is essential for many functions, and more and more research is finding correlations between the gut and things like brain function, mood, immune system, and much more. In fact, about 80% of your immune system actually depends on your gut, and the bacteria that live there. To ensure you have a healthy variety of bacteria or flora there, you must eat lots of fruits and veggies, and fermented vegetables help exponentially. What fermentation does is preserves the vegetables for a short period of time with the bacteria and yeasts found on the vegetable and in your environment. The bacteria and yeasts work on the foods and actually make them much easier to digest, so in the case of vegetables or grains—which many people have a hard time digesting due to not enough bacteria in the gut, and are known for causing gas and bloating—they partially digest these foods for you, making the rest of the trip through your system much easier.
Enough with the science behind fermentation and on with the process and recipe, right?! This sauerkraut recipe is a great first step into home fermentation. It is insanely easy, virtually impossible to mess up, and it’s also pretty fun to do! We love this stuff, we eat it almost daily, and it’s so nice to work your food with your hands, it gives you a real connection with what you eat.
1-2 heads of green cabbage (red or napa will work fine as well)
sea salt (the amount is up to you, also, do not use table salt or iodized salt, you need pure salt)
well water, chlorine free water, or filtered water (chemicals will harm the bacteria present)
5-10 cloves of garlic (optional, though this increases the medicinal properties of sauerkraut)
First, slice the cabbage into halves, and remove the core. Set aside some large leaves and the cores. Alternatively, you could take all the leaves off and slice those.
Next, slice the cabbage leaves into small strips, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. Slice these so they are about 2 inches long, or bite sized. You could also shred this if you would like, instead of slicing, it’s all personal preference.
Slice garlic into thin slices, and smaller if you like.
While you are making your way through the cabbage, put it into your large bowl, add garlic every so often, and sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 tsp of sea salt over it. Repeat this until all your cabbage is in the bowl
Toss cabbage so salt is evenly distributed
Start to knead or massage your cabbage, you want to work the salt into the cabbage leaves. This draws out some of the moisture. Make sure to get in there with your hands! Knead until there is a fair amount of water in the bowl, almost covering the cabbage or for 7-10 minutes.
Put the cabbage and brine into a jar or crock. You want to pack the cabbage down firmly, a wooden spoon or something of the sort is helpful here, otherwise just use your hands and fingers.
Make sure there is enough brine to cover the cabbage completely. If there is not, add more water.
Use the leaves you set aside, or something that will fit inside the jar (a smaller jar filled with water works sometimes too) to weigh the cabbage down. Traditionally a crock was used, with a plate that fits in it, or large cabbage leaves with the cores on top. You just want to make sure the shredded cabbage is always submerged under the brine, if exposed to oxygen for more than a few hours, mold will form.
Cover jar using a cloth or lid, if using an airtight lid, be sure to burp the gases (take the lid off) once a day to prevent too much pressure.
Wait 3-5 days depending on temperature, taste and see what you like best!
Refrigerate or keep in a cool place to slow down fermentation.