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Gut health is a big deal these days and for good reason. As a natural health practitioner and herbalist I know that one of the key factors to obtaining overall wellness is a healthy and well functioning digestive system. Simply speaking, if your digestion (this includes your own gut flora) is not working well you can’t absorb anything properly – food or supplements. Unfortunately the traditional North American lifestyle of processed, modified, hybridized and convenience foods, abundant stress, lack of sleep and too much caffeine and sugar does not lend itself to a healthy balance of gut flora/bacteria.

Many traditional cultures have some form of fermented food they serve with their meals. In Korea it’s kimchi, in Japan they serve miso and in Germany (and many other European countries) it’s sauerkraut. The logic behind this is quite simple; these fermented dishes helped you to digest your meal more easily. When consumed over long periods of time fermented foods can help to balance, support and heal your digestive system.

 

DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support myself and my herbal clinic, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any product or services from this blog. I truly appreciate all the support you have shown my blog and my business and I will only ever recommend products that I use myself, truly love or covet. Many thanks. 

 

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What Does Fermented Mean?

Foods that have been fermented have been through a process known as lactofermentation. During this process natural occurring bacteria feed on the sugar and starches in foods creating lactic acid. This process also preserves the food, creates probiotics (multiple strains), beneficial enzymes, B vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids.

To some folks this may sound kind of gross. Why in the world would I want to consume bacteria? Isn’t bacteria bad for me? This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact the human body is home to over 1,000 different species of bacteria on any given day. These bacteria are healthy and have a very important roles in the body ranging from digestion to immunity.

Unfortunately things like high sugar intake, stress, processed and rancid foods, antibiotic use, over the counter medications and chlorinated water (just to name a few) drastically disturb the balance of healthy bacteria in the body. When the levels of healthy bacteria drop you become more susceptible to illnesses (acute and chronic) and your digestion and other bodily functions become impaired.

 

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Benefits of Fermented Foods

In 2006 the Journal of Applied Microbiology published a report that stated the consumption of cultured or fermented foods lowers the risks of:

  • digestive disorders (including leaky gut, IBS etc)
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • hormonal imbalances
  • brain disorders and mental illness
  • food allergies and sensitives
  • autoimmune conditions
  • obesity and weight gain

Regular consumption of fermented foods results in improved immune function, more efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients, reduction of inflammation in the body (which we are now discovering is the root of almost all illness), improved ability to handle stress and reduce incidences of depression and other mood disorders and aiding in the body’s natural detoxification process.

 

Store Bought Sauerkraut

I know you’ve all seen the pretty jars of Bick’s Sauerkraut in the grocery store. I wish I could tell you that this is the same thing I’m talking about here today, but alas, it is not. It has been through the pasteurization process which effectively kills all of the lovely probiotics created in the fermentation process. As a general rule of thumb; if the sauerkraut is on the shelf (as opposed to a fridge) it’s been pasteurized.

But all is not lost. In fact, making your own sauerkraut is really, really easy. Like really easy.

Did I mention it was easy?

In addition to being easy (I think I said that already), it’s also more cost effective than buying sauerkraut on a regular basis.

 

How Much Should I Consume?

If you are a new to consuming fermented foods I would start slowly. Even 1 TBSP daily of fermented sauerkraut will results in improvements and benefits. As your body gets used to this new type of food you can increase those amounts easily. Start with 1 forkful (about at TBSP) daily and increase gradually to 2 TBSP. Once you are at 2 forkfuls you can then start to consume it at those amounts with each meal.

If sauerkraut is the only fermented food you plan on eating then I would try to consume it with (or before) each meal. Because I also consume kombucha, milk kefir and water kefir on a regular basis I find I don’t need sauerkraut with every meal. As a general rule of thumb I tend to consume 1/4 cup of fermented sauerkraut with dinner each day. If I’m eating something that I know my body struggles with a bit (like beef or gluten) I will increase that amount to 1/3 or 1/2 a cup.

 

Making Sauerkraut at Home

You really don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make sauerkraut. That being said I LOVE my Pickle Pipes. As a note I am not being paid by the company to endorse their product. I just like to spread the word about cool stuff that makes my life easier and Pickle Pipes fall into that category. They make them for both wide mouth mason jars and for regular mason jars. I highly recommend getting the whole set which includes the Pickle Pipes, Pebbles and the Pickle Packer.

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Supplies

 

Fermented Sauerkraut
Print Recipe
A German condiment tradition, fermented sauerkraut is simple to make and amazing for your gut health and overall well-being.
Prep Time
20 minutes
Passive Time
3 days
Prep Time
20 minutes
Passive Time
3 days
Fermented Sauerkraut
Print Recipe
A German condiment tradition, fermented sauerkraut is simple to make and amazing for your gut health and overall well-being.
Prep Time
20 minutes
Passive Time
3 days
Prep Time
20 minutes
Passive Time
3 days
Ingredients
  • 1 medium-large cabbage (green, red or white)
  • 1-1/2 - 2-1/2 tbsp sea salt (or pickling salt) amount will depend on cabbage size
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds optional
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Using a kitchen scale weigh your cabbage. For this recipe mine was 3 pounds (which is large). Most are around 2lb or so. If you don't have a kitchen scale that's fine, you can just estimate based on the size.
  2. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and using a good knife quarter your cabbage and remove the woody core.
  3. Thinly slice your cabbage. Alternatively you can use a food processor or a mandolin. Place all of your sliced cabbage in a very large bowl or stainless steel pot.
  4. I measure my sea salt based on the weight of my cabbage. In general I use about 2.5% of the weight. So my cabbage was 3 pounds (1361 grams) and 2.5% of that is 34 grams of sea salt (which was 2.5 tbsp). If you have a medium to large sized cabbage it's a safe bet to use 2 tbsp of sea salt if you don't have a kitchen scale.
  5. Add your sea salt (and caraway if you'd like) to the sliced cabbage. Using a muddler, pickle packer, pestle etc. pound your cabbage for approximately 10 minutes, stirring every so often to mix things up well.
  6. You will know it's ready to pack when your cabbage starts to become somewhat translucent and soggy. Pack your cabbage into your clean/sterilized mason jars. You will want to pack down your cabbage as tightly as possible causing all the liquid to rise above the cabbage. Ensure you leave at least one inch of space between the top of the jar and the cabbage/brine. I start packing using my muddler, but I find using my fist is much easier and more effective! It's why I like using wide mouth mason jars.
  7. The key to successful ferments is keeping the veggies below the brine. I use a Pickle Pebble, but a large piece of cabbage leaf or steralized rock will do the trick. Using either a Pickle Pebble, cabbage leaf or sterilized large rocks, you will place that on top of the veggies to keep them below the brine.
  8. Screw on your Pickle Pipe or lid for your mason jar. If you are not using a Pickle Pipe you will need to burp your sauerkraut daily to avoid gas building up.
  9. Allow your sauerkraut to ferment at room temperature on the counter for three days. Then move to the fridge or cold room for long term storage.
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I hope you enjoy your sauerkraut making process. Eat ALL the ferments my friends!

Peace,

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P.S. Pin for future use 😉

Sauerkraut