This year, like many other years, we grew cabbage in our garden. Cabbages are fairly simple to grow, and this year we ended up with nearly a dozen of them. And while cabbage is easy to grow, it isn’t always so easy to incorporate into our diet. I know there are several good ways to prepare cabbage (my grandmother always makes it into her famous slaw), but the way we feel we get the most out of it is to turn it into sauerkraut. Cabbage is good for you, no doubt, but when it’s fermented, in many ways it becomes even healthier.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
For a food that is traditionally used as little more than a hot dog topping, sauerkraut has some pretty amazing health benefits.
Sauerkraut is full of probiotics. We know that our intestines are full of beneficial bacteria, and taking supplements or eating certain foods (often fermented foods, such as sauerkraut) that are known to be high in probiotics can help digestion. Probiotic foods are especially helpful during and after antibiotic use, when many good bacteria are killed.
Sauerkraut contains isothiocyanate compounds to help fight cancer. Isothiocyanate compounds are known to “reduce activation of carcinogens and increase their detoxification.” (source, source) Diets high in sauerkraut have even been linked to lower cancer rates, though more research needs to be done to prove anything conclusively.
Sauerkraut has tons of Vitamin C. You know that Vitamin C is good for you – it helps with the production of collagen and connective tissue, and when you don’t get enough of it, you can come down with scurvy. You may not have known, however, that sauerkraut is absolutely full of the stuff. Fermented cabbage has been used throughout history as a reliable source of Vitamin C, with evidence of it being used as far back as the building of the great wall of China. (This article from Modern Farmer about the history of fermented cabbage is really interesting!)
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
Supplies & Ingredients
- 5 (or so) cabbages
- Kosher Salt (find unprocessed kosher salt here)
- Dill (optional)
- Food processor or mandoline-style slicer
- Large crock (like this)
- Lid for crock (you can use a plate, piece of wood, or other round object that fits inside the crock, because it’s also used for tamping.)
- Heavy object to hold the lid down
- Pillowcase with which to cover the crock
Whether you’ve gotten your cabbages from your garden or bought them elsewhere, you’ll need to give them a good cleaning. Go ahead and make sure your crock is very clean too, since your food will be sitting in it for the next several weeks.
Core and quarter your cabbages, then slice them thinly. We used a food processor. Next, begin adding your cabbages to the crock. There are differing methods to this, but we like to salt, season, and tamp after two cabbages. This is how we did it:
1. Cover with 1 tsp of kosher salt
2. Place two sprigs of dill (optional)
3. Put plate down on top of cabbage and push down (Note: This requires a lot of pressure and pushing, so we actually used a smaller pot for tamping so that we didn’t break the plate. Don’t be afraid to use what you have!)
4. When a noticeable amount of juice has come out of the cabbage, remove the plate and add another layer of cabbage.
5. Repeat the process until you are finished, but be careful not to get the crock too full.
When you’re finished making your sauerkraut, you will need to cover it. Place the plate over it, then weigh the plate down with a heavy object. We usually use a container of water, but anything that is clean and heavy enough to hold the plate down will work. Finally, cover your crock with a pillowcase or another clean cloth. Sauerkraut needs access to air to ferment properly, but it also needs to be protected from insects and other contaminants.
Check on your sauerkraut every few days. A film will come to the top and it will need to be skimmed off periodically.
Sauerkraut takes approximately three weeks to ferment. When it’s finished, scoop it out of the crock and store it in mason jars in the refrigerator. Refrigerated sauerkraut should keep for several months.
What are your favorite ways to eat sauerkraut?
Do you eat it with other foods or by itself? Share below in the comments section!