Traditionally, the foods that we harvested from our gardens in excess were often fermented, which allowed them to be enjoyed later on. Typically this was done at the end of summer. While this is a bit out of season it has come up frequently in conversation lately, so I thought you all might be interested too.
Fermentation provides plenty of inexpensive probiotics and digestive enzymes, keeping our digestive systems healthy. Given that nearly 70% of our immune system is in our gut, it’s always good to give the “good guys” a little boost!
Fermentation allows food to reach the stomach with its own enzymes which means there is less work for the pancreas to do later on. One of the pancreas’ jobs is to provide digestive enzymes. This is important because, just as the pancreas can be overworked to create and secrete insulin in response to our ingestion of sugars, it can also be overworked from eating a diet composed mostly of cooked foods. We need raw foods in our diet’s to lessen the burden on the body, and by fermenting our food we can further enhance the enzyme content of our raw foods.
There are so many foods that can be fermented and recipes made, but I’d like to leave you with a recipe that’s easy to start with for fermented sauerkraut.
- 5 Lbs Cabbbage, shredded
- 3 Tbsp. sea salt *a note on salt* The more salt used, the more sour the kraut, but too much will halt fermentation and kill off all microorganisms. The salt helps draw the moisture out of the cabbage in this sauerkraut recipe.
- 1 ceramic crock or 1/2 gallon mason jar a plate or weight to place on top of crock, or plastic bag for mason jar.
Slice your cabbage into small shreds or whatever shape and size you’d like. I typically slice mine pretty thin, but you can make it chunkier if you so desire.
Place the chopped cabbage into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle salt over the cabbage. Let it rest for 30-60 min.
Begin kneading the cabbage, to release the moisture. This may take a couple of steps, so feel free to let it rest a bit longer and then knead it some more. You want to release as much of the juice as you can.
Next you’re going to place it into a glass or ceramic bowl to ferment in. I like to use the 1/2 gallon mason jars. I carefully place the cabbage into the jar making sure to include all the juice. Press it down with your hands so it’s compacted and removing the air pockets.
Next you need to cover it. I like to take a plastic baggie and fill it with a little water and set it in the mason jar on top of the cabbage. This helps to keep the oxygen away from the cabbage but still allows gasses to escape as the fermentation process takes place. This way doesn’t usually require the addition of brine to keep covered. Make sure that the bag covers the entire surface of the cabbage. If it doesn’t, then use a larger baggie. Set on counter top and let it do it’s magic! You can also use a crock with a smaller place that fits inside of it to weigh it down and keep the kraut submerged.
You will want to check it regularly for any signs of mold. Remove if any develops. If you are careful to keep it covered in its juice with something on top of it like the plastic bag of water, then you shouldn’t have a problem. For the first day you will want to use your hand to compress the cabbage even more as it releases its juices. Every couple of days, take a peek at it and making sure it’s still covered in juice. If it’s not and mold starts to grow, take a spoon and scoop it off and discard, rinse plate or change baggie and recover.
If you need to add a brine, mix 2-3 tsp. salt to 1 cup water and stir until dissolved before adding to kraut. I test mine for flavor after about a week, but it could take up to 4 weeks to get to the taste you desire. If it’s not to your liking let it keep fermenting until the taste is right, then remove the baggie and put a lid on it and store in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. Sauerkraut will keep for months in the fridge, if it’s not eaten before then. I suggest eating a little with your meals, like a condiment to get your regular dose of probiotics, and digestive enzymes.