Teeming with life and full of bubbly deliciousness, sauerkraut is digestive vigor in a jar.  Cheap to make and easy to prepare, one head of cabbage yields about a quart of sauerkraut and trillions of beneficial bacteria to supplement your gut flora.  In addition, cabbage is high in the amino acid glutamine which is the predominant building block of the proteins that make up the intestinal lining.  Whether you are suffering from dysbiosis or leaky gut syndrome, cabbage is a remedy that has all of your bases covered.

Start with a large head of green cabbage, preferably locally grown and organic.  If fresh, notice the white sheen atop the leaves indicating the presence of the lactobacillus, that is, the bacteria responsible for lacto-fermentation.  Peel off a few these outer layers and set them aside.  Quarter the cabbage and shave the inside tough core out, leaving a slightly hollowed out cabbage wedge.  Placed on its side, a sharp knife can make quick work of the cabbage, slicing it into thin strands.  Next, place the cabbage into a large bowl and salt to taste.  You can choose to forgo the salt; however, it does hasten the fermenting process by drawing moisture out of the cabbage and offers a degree of protection against mold until the sauerkraut matures.  After the salt has been added, you can pound the mixture with the head of a mallet or grab a handful and keep squeezing the mixture until liquid forms, typically after ten minutes.  Both methods work well and have the added bonus of relieving stress and frustration (old-school farm chores are kind of like that).  


Once you have a fair amount of liquid, spoon the mixture into a wide mouth canning jar and pack it in tight; a large wooden dowel works perfect for this job.  Once pressed, if the liquid in the jar does not completely cover the cabbage, add a little water and a pinch of salt to the top.  Make sure to leave at least an inch at the top of the jar as the mixture will rise as bubbles form and pressure builds.  Finally, fold the outer leaves that you set aside into wedges and shove them on top.  These leaves hold the mixture down to prevent it from floating above the liquid which prevents the growth of mold.


Screw on a lid and set the jar on your counter for three days before moving into a root cellar or refrigerator.  You can consume it after three days though the kraut will get better with age, over the course of weeks, if kept in cold storage.  During that time, the cabbage fiber will continue to be broken down and the flavor will mellow.  Keep it in the fridge once you open it and consume raw. The one thing you should NEVER do is heat the sauerkraut. Heating the kraut, which some recipes call for, destroys all the probiotics that you just worked so hard to produce.


You can get creative beyond this basic recipe, adding any number of vegetables.  Use a vegetable peeler to accent your kraut with thin pieces of carrots, chop in small pieces of garlic or ginger, slice in some leftover kale – the possibilities are seemingly endless, each presenting an array of different flavors and nutrients.


Before our modern understanding of microbiology, fermentation was utilized as a means to preserve food.  We now know that the same microorganisms that inhibit spoilage fulfill a millennia old symbiotic relationship with us.  Although we can maintain that relationship with a probiotic supplement, the advantage of a fermented food or drink is its low cost and high potency.  You are essentially creating a farm, multiplying the naturally occurring microflora exponentially.  


You don’t have to have digestive problems (or be German) to enjoy sauerkraut, but for any digestive problem under the sun, sauerkraut is an amazingly powerful tonic to add to your daily diet.  

One Comment

  • I made my self a huge bowl of cabbage salad. Enjoyed it. But that evening I was up for hours with gas. Once relieved I was fine. Lost weight in the process.

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