Update! – 2/03/11
It must be sauerkraut week in the paleosphere as everyone has started posting on how awesome sauerkraut is. The culinary diva (Diane Sanfilippo) over at BalancedBites.com has also just posted on the dairy free super probiotic that is sauerkraut. Check it out for a much prettier looking, photo filled and reference-loaded post!
Your gut is full of bacteria. Majority of it is so called ‘good bacteria’ or probiotics. There is no consensus in the scientific community (is there ever when it comes to nutrition?) on how beneficial these probiotics are, or whether they do anything in the first place. However recently some notable health bloggers have come out in favour of them and fixing your gut flora and if you jump over to Mark’s Daily Apple you can read a huge, reference-laced article on healthy gut flora and probiotics. You can make up your own mind over the benefits of probiotics, but for me, I will err on the side of caution and just make sure my stomach is full of good bugs.
Either way, there are much better ways to get your good-bacteria dose. One of those ways is our German friend, Sauerkraut.
Enter the Sauerkraut
The Germans love themselves some sauerkraut, and a huge Bratwurst, topped with sauerkraut and mustard became a staple meal whilst living there. Sauerkraut is full of a huge spectrum of probiotics (more than you will find in any supplement) including:
- Weissella species
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus curvatus
- Lactobacillus sakei
- Lactobacillus paraplantarum
- Lactobacillus coryniformis
- Lactobacillus brevis
- Lactococcus lactis subsp lactis
- Leuconostoc mesenteroides
- Leuconostoc fallax
- Leuconostoc citreum
- Leuconostoc argentinum
- Pediococcus pentosaceus
What’s even better is that every batch of sauerkraut you make will always have a diffracted bacterial composition which means you get a good mix of probiotics the more you make and eat!
The Science-y stuff without the science.
What we are actually doing is growing bacteria which produce lactic acid via the lacto-acid fermentation process. The bacteria consume sugar and produce lactic acid, ethanol and carbon dioxide (you will see bubbles form as you make sauerkraut, this is CO2). The high lactic acid content kills most other organisms so sauerkraut has a pretty good shelf life. You can keep it in your fridge for a few months.
How to make me some Sauerkraut in a Jar
There are heaps of methods to do this, some more orthodox than others, however this is how I roll.
- 1 kg of Cabbage (go organic if possible)
- 2 Tbsp. Salt (sea salt is best)
- 1 Cup Filtered Water (Filtered is better, boiled tap water is good, normal is fine)
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds (optional)
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
Now because we are working with bacteria, we want to limit bad bacteria as much as humanly possible. This means washing your hands incredibly thoroughly with a strong hand wash (or even wearing gloves). It also means sterilising your Jar and any other utensils you may use with boiling water.
Also don’t use metal utensils. They are reactive.
- Shred your cabbage into a bowl. After shredding it, sprinkle Tbsp. salt all over it. Now mix it well and pound it down a bit with a wooden mallet or spoon. You want the maximum amount of juices to escape. Let the cabbage sit in the bowl for 15 minutes or so to maximise moisture release.
- Put the shredded cabbage into your sterilised mason jar. Use a wooden spoon to mash it down as much as physically possible.
- Mix 1 Tbsp. of salt with 1 cup of water and fill the jar to the brim (until its about to overflow). The reason for this is you want minimal air at the top of the jar. More air means more bad bacteria.
- Screw the lid on loosely! As the cabbage ferments, bubbles will form and you want the excess air and water to escape.
- Carefully place your jar onto a plate (or other container) to catch any overflow and then put it in a cool dark place where the smell wont bother you (yes it will smell).
- After a week check on your sauerkraut. There may be a surface layer of scum, don’t worry, just scoop this stuff out. Top the jar up with some filtered water if required. Put the lid back on loosely again.
- Leave the sauerkraut for a couple more weeks. After that it should be done. Give it a taste and see how you go. Put the sauerkraut in the fridge and you have delicious bacteria to eat whenever you want.
Not the Only Way
The key to a healthy stomach bacteria population is diversity. Sauerkraut is awesome because of the huge variety of bacteria and the different density you get with each batch. Other fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir etc. are also excellent sources of beneficial bacteria, so lap it up!