Sauerkraut is a traditionally fermented, salted, cabbage dish of the German, Baltic and Russian regions. The literal translation from the German language means sour fermented cabbage.
Historically the sauerkraut dish even goes back even further to ancient Roman times and before. It is a side dish that has a sour flavour, quite a tang and is wet and crispy to the taste.
If you buy prepared jars of sauerkraut in the supermarket is can be quite expensive but you can actually make it in bulk at home for a very small cost.
Once fermented it also has a shelf life of many months, so allows you to have a cabbage dishes when cabbage is out of season. By adding herbs and spices to the fermenting process, you can change and vary the flavour.
One of the major reasons, as a nutritionist, I recommend sauerkraut as a regular dish to people is because it is full of probiotics (good lactic acid bacteria) which enriches the function of the gut, therefore the immune system and even your mental abilities.
This includes the functioning of Bifidobacterium longum which research has found helps alleviate depression and give greater mental clarity. It is also high in calcium, magnesium and vitamins B, C and K.
In my video I show you how easy sauerkraut is to make and take you step by step though the process.
All you need is:
A large savoy or red cabbage
A large mixing bowl
A large airtight jar
Caraway seed – I like to add this to give it a nutty flavour when you get to the end of the jar
A fridge (although in many countries they store it buried in the snow outside during the winter)
Then do the following:
1. Shred and cut the cabbage into very small strips.
2. Then you have to go through the process of pounding it with your hand in the mixing bowl to get all the juice out, using some added sea salt which helps the juice extraction. Initially you use no added water in this dish, only the extracted juice in the jar when you pack in the cabbage. This is what helps give it its strong flavour.
3. When you have extracted the juice, put some caraway seeds into the bottom of the storage jar.
4. Then you push the shredded cabbage layer by layer into the jar with sprinklings of the sea salt throughout.
5. Push the cabbage down with your hand so it is packed really tight until the jar is full, adding the juice you have pumped out of the cabbage so it covers the cabbage right to the top.
6. Finally cover the whole shredded cabbage with some leaves that you have removed before you shred the cabbage, pushing all down into the jar, and covering the juice so no air gets to the mixture.
7. Store in a warm place from one to four weeks, refilling the top of the jar as the gasses and juice escape. At the end of this fermenting time you can eat it.
8. After the initial one to four weeks, store the sauerkraut in the refrigerator to stop the fermenting process, so it will keep for months.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, ND is a medical nutritionist and naturopath with years of experience in working with helping people have extreme health and wellbeing.