I love sauerkraut, and for a while now I’ve been eating and enjoying my own homemade version of this simple yet very powerful ferment. Sauerkraut has a whole range of benefits for anybody looking to optimize their health. As a side dish alongside any meal, it’s crunchy and delightfully tangy, and can be made with a range of different flavors.
Sauerkraut offers both Vitamin K and Probiotics, which are great for digestive health and overall well-being.
One of only four fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K occurs in several different forms and plays critical roles in the body. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, when blood clots, it goes through a series of steps, seven of which depend on the presence of vitamin K.
Vitamin K is also essential for cellular functions and is needed for two proteins that regulate calcium; one that stimulates bone mineralization and another that prevents calcium from accumulating in arteries. The body does not store large quantities of vitamin K, so you need to obtain it on a regular basis through your diet.
It is said that one cup of drained sauerkraut provides 18.5 mcg of vitamin K. This represents 23 percent of the total recommended daily value based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. (One cup of sauerkraut eaten without draining the extra fluid has 135 mcg.)
Sauerkraut provides a high-density source of a wide range of beneficial live lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Acidophillus. These bacteria assist in the digestive process, produce a variety of vitamins and other nutrients, and keep harmful micro-organisms at bay.
In today’s modern society there are many contributing factors to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. We have increased our consumption of pasteurized foods, chlorinated water, antibiotic medications, and other prescription medications. Our food choices also include too much sugar, alcohol, salt and processed foods, which is why the need for fermented foods and even supplementing with a quality probiotic is greater than ever before.
Sauerkraut is also a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Here is one of my favorite recipes for sauerkraut — it’s quite simple.
Sauerkraut with Caraway and Garlic
1 large head of organic cabbage finely shredded (set outer leaves aside)
3 medium sized carrots, grated
1 green apple, grated (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
2 Tbsp. of Himalayan pink salt
Very important: Clean everything. When fermenting, you want to make sure the beneficial bacteria survives. To do so, make sure you start with as clean an environment as possible. Sterilize your jar in a dishwasher — or wash it in soapy water and boil it in water for 15 minutes. Wash your hands well, too, because you’ll be using them to massage the salt into the cabbage.
After washing the cabbage, cut it in half, then into quarters, removing the core. In a food processor, shred the cabbage with the shredding blade.
Peel the carrots and apple, then grate them using a box grater or a food processor. Chop garlic finely.
Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.
Sprinkle the caraway seeds and the pink salt over the mix.
Pound the mixture with a wooden spoon to release the juices, then grab handfuls and massage it until it is soft, and there is quite a lot of juice at the bottom of the bowl. The mix will be less than half its size by this time.
Transfer to a 16oz sterilized glass jar, using your fist to firmly pack the mixture down tight as you go. You should be pressing so firmly that the brine is released and covers the vegetables. Leave a one inch gap at the top, as the vegetables will expand as they ferment.
Pour the juice to the top and cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth, securing it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting in.
If you have some mixture left over, you can also make one or more smaller jars in addition to your main one.
Place jars in a dark, dry, well ventilated place like a kitchen cabinet or pantry and let it sit for 4-7 days. As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.
To know if it’s ready, simply give it a try. It should have a crisp, tangy, sour taste. Place lid on and refrigerate in between uses.
I like to eat sauerkraut with my salads, with cooked dishes, and simply on its own. I also like to experiment with my kraut making, using other spices like fennel, cumin seeds and ginger. Purple cabbage and beets are also a good addition for both nutrition and color!