This simple sauerkraut recipe can be served as a condiment, salad dressed with dill and onions, or a healthy addition to other dishes.
Refrigeration as we know it is actually a rather recent invention. In 1877, a German engineer, Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde obtained a patent for his invention of the refrigerator but it wasn't until 1913 that refrigerators for home use were invented. Prior to this, our ancestors preserved their food for long periods by throwing in slabs of ice and snow in their cellars.
During prolific seasons of harvest, they would preserve their fruits and vegetables by process of fermentation or lacto-fermentation to be specific. This, mind you, was done usually after spending hours working the fields, tending the farm animals, and all the while keeping the house warm with fire.
Lacto-fermentation is a process where sugars and starches in fruits and vegetables are converted into lactic acid by the many different species of the good bacteria. In a sense, the lactic acid works as a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. Our ancestors understood how important fermentation was to their health as the proliferation of these lactobacilli in fermented vegetables aids in digestion and provides many enzymes and key minerals.
It's no wonder then that many cultures throughout the globe have their favorite fermented dishes. The people of Korea, pickle or ferment cabbage, turnip, and carrot in what's known as kimchi. Traditionally, American culture also preserved many vegetables as relishes which were most likely lacto-fermented. Even sauerkraut is known throughout greater Europe, the states and of course, Russia. Recipes differ amongst the different countries and even vary amongst families. Some include caraway seeds, others use whey to preserve. Some add shredded carrots where others prefer to have just the cabbage. Whatever your favorite vegetables to include in this fermented and preserved side dish are, one thing's for sure: it's a great way to incorporate more probiotics into your diet for easier digestibility. For this reason, you want to use this as a condiment and not a meal. It's a great compliment to any dish: breakfast eggs, chicken, fish, or a side of grains.
And even though I'm not quite ready to ditch my refrigerator just yet, I do make this sauerkraut on a regular basis for the extra kick of natural probiotics and enzymes.
I add a tablespoon of sauerkraut to every meal for my kids with a sprinkle of parsley flakes on top and a splash of olive oil. I eat about ½ cup with every meal.
- 1 head of cabbage cored and shredded
- 2 carrots finely shredded
- 2 T real salt
- Wash the cabbage. Discard any wilted outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Cut the quartered wedges in half, lengthwise creating 8 wedges. Cut thin ribbon-like strips across these wedges.
- Wash and shred your carrots.
- Transfer the shredded cabbage and carrots into a large bowl. Add salt and using your hands, squeeze the juices by massaging the cabbage and carrots together. This should take about 5-7 minutes before juices start flowing easily. You don't want to overdo it as the sauerkraut will turn into one big mushy mess. There should still be a crunch to it. If you desire to add any spices, like ginger or caraway seeds add them towards the end of this process.
- Pack the cabbage and carrots into a clean jar. It's easiest if you have a wide mouth canning funnel but your good ol' hands will work just fine. Pack it nice and tight. Every so often, pounding the cabbage/carrot mixture with your fist to allow the juices to rise to the top. Leave about 1" from the top for
- Place an outer cabbage leaf on top to make sure the sauerkraut stays submerged in its juices. Weigh it down with a clean, sanitized clean rock*.
- Place a doubled cheesecloth or thin fabric over the mouth of the jar and wrap a rubber-band around it.
- Set it in a cool, dark place for 3-7 days, checking daily for taste and pushing the sauerkraut down as the liquid will be rising up.
- The sauerkraut is ready when you think it's ready, usually after 3 days at room temperature (65-75F). There's no set rule for when it's "done". You can continue to let it ferment on the counter, provided that it be kept away from sunlight and that will produce a more tangy taste. After it's stint on the counter, put a lid on it and transfer to cold storage. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a year.
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