With Saint Patrick’s Day comes leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, corned beef, and luckily for us, half priced cabbage. While cabbage is delicious in all its forms, ranging from pigs in a blanket to coleslaw, none is healthier than the German staple sauerkraut. When created traditionally, sauerkraut is just that, “sour” and stinky. These unique characteristics remind us that sauerkraut is in fact created by letting cabbage rot, in a controlled fashion, until it is jam packed with beneficial lacto-bacteria. These bacteria are more commonly known as probiotics.
Probiotics are the good bacteria in the stomach that have been shown to boost the immune system, decrease inflammation, and regulate hormone production (hence the stomach’s nickname “the second brain”). In fact, poor gut flora has been linked to conditions such as fibromyalgia and clinical depression. Unfortunately, most store brand sauerkraut is heated/processed to ensure long term storage, and consistent taste, destroying any of the living probiotics present. Luckily (perhaps because we’re all a little Irish on Saint Patty’s), making sauerkraut at home can be an easy, affordable, and fun experience!
Basic Sauerkraut Recipe:
> 2 Heads of Cabbage, Medium to Large
> 6 Carrots
> 3 Inches of Ginger, Peeled and Chopped
> 6 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Chopped
1). Shred cabbage and carrots using food processor (reserve 3 or 4 leaves from each cabbage); combine with garlic and ginger
2). Place several cups of the mixture into a blender
3). Add filtered water and process until the solution resembles a thick juice (adjust water or vegetables as needed)
4). Pour juice back into remaining vegetable mixture and stir to incorporate
5). Place the mixture into large glass canning jars; using the handle of a wooden spoon, compress the mixture until only two inches of headspace remain
6). Roll up the reserved cabbage leaves into tight “logs” and place them on top of the mixture, filling the remaining two inch gap (this ensures the cabbage mixture below remains submerged in the juice at all times).
7). Close jar with traditional canning band/seal
8). Leave jars to sit, at room temperature, for 3-7 days. Make sure to “burp” the jars periodically to avoid excess pressure build up (the seals will begin to bulge/swell upward).
9). Refrigerate and enjoy!
Note: Fermented foods typically have a shelf-life of nearly six months. If you are concerned about spoilage, it is best to head on the side of caution, and discard the product accordingly.