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HOW TO: Make Essential Food 3 - Sauerkraut

April 28, 2014

Today, I will share the information that I have about fermenting your own vegetables, in particular, that nourishing traditional food for the ages: Sauerkraut.

From the GAPS website: www.gaps.me
"Fermented foods are essential to introduce, as they provide probiotic microbes in the best possible form. Supplements of probiotics settle in the upper parts of the digestive system and generally do not make it all away down to the bowel, while fermented foods will carry probiotic microbes all away down to the end of the digestive system. Fermentation predigests the food, making it easy for our digestive systems to handle, that is why fermented foods are easily digested by people with damaged gut. Fermentation releases nutrients from the food, making them more bio-available for the body: for example sauerkraut contains 20 times more bio-available vitamin C than fresh cabbage."

 

Did you know that Captain James Cook made sure that his ships always stocked enough sauerkraut to last as long as the voyage, which was eaten with every meal by his sailors, from the Admirals to the deckhands. This was because sauerkraut was cheap to make (salt and cabbage), was easy to store (will last over a year unrefrigerated), and was jam packed with Vitamin C and other health giving properties which helped his shipsmen to avoid that awful seafaring disease: scurvy.

My family's experience with sauerkraut has been interesting. We all have pretty severe digestive issues, and rebalancing our gut flora has been an ongoing exercise. We are 5 1/2 months in, and still seeing tangible results from persisting with fermented vegetables, which tells me that there is more work to be done. My children and husband have what is called a 'histamine' intolerance, which made the introduction of sauerkraut difficult, because it is a high histamine food. We have had to start with a drop of kraut juice in each meal, and we have worked our way up from there. Something I have learnt is that if you allow your sauerkraut to ferment for 12 weeks or longer, then the histamine levels reduce dramatically, and we have an easier time increasing it into our diet. Our histamine issues are also gradually resolving, so this is a circuitous upward spiral! For many people, there is very little side-effect from adding sauerkraut into their diet other than a positive one as it helps to rebalance the gut flora which has been wrecked by our modern diet and lifestyle.

Initially, however, when introducing it into your diet for the first time, I would recommend just adding the juice from the sauerkraut to ascertain whether you have a strong 'die-off' reaction to it; if all goes well, gradually introduce the cabbage itself. If you notice reactions, for example a runny tummy, or eczema flair, (even mood swings can be a sign of die-off) then don't freak out, just reduce the amount of juice a bit, and wait for the symptoms to settle (this usually takes about 3 days), then increase again.Sauerkraut stimulates stomach acid production and is a great ally in digesting meats. Most people with digestive issues (even the most common symptom of reflux) have low stomach acid production, which means that the whole digestive process will be sluggish, your body will not absorb minerals and vitamins properly, may struggle with digesting fat properly, and further down, the liver may be having trouble detoxing. This can lead to seemingly unrelated symptoms such as insomnia, sinusitis, or even asthma, as the body struggles to find pathways for the toxins to get out of your body. Think of it like a conveyor belt: if one part breaks down, then all the parts are affected. The GI tract goes from the tongue to the tooshie, so there are LOTS of moving parts. Regular consumption of sauerkraut over time will help you to restore normal stomach acid production, and therefore improve digestion all the way through the tract, because the food you are eating will be properly digested.

 

You need to make sauerkraut at home as most commercially available sauerkraut has been pasteurised or processed in some other way, which will make it much less potent. How do you know if commercial sauerkraut has been pasteurised? It's on the shelf and not in the fridge. Things on the shelf that don't go off are weird.

Tools:

- An aerobic glass jar: I would recommend making BIG batches at a time, because it can take a long time to ferment. I have a couple of 3 litre Fido glass jars, with a 'Pickl-IT' lid that lets air out, and I try and have at least 1 ferment going, and 1 in the fridge so that we never run out.

- A thick wooden spoon or tool to push the cabbage down and tightly pack it into the jar.Ingredients:- 1 or more Organic Cabbage (red or white)

- A few teaspoons of Himalayan Rock Salt (its unprocessed and full of minerals missing from processed salt)

- Filtered water (if the cabbage doesn't release enough brine).Cabbage, Carrot and Ginger FermentNote about using organic cabbage: I don't only recommend it because it is better for you, free of toxic pesticides and fertilisers, but for another far more practical reason:

If you use Organic cabbage, it will be full of the good soil bacteria that gets into the folded leaves, because the bacteria won't have been killed off by pesticides and other chemicals. This bacterial profile means that you don't have to add any bacteria to it in order for fermentation to occur. When using non-organic cabbage, it is highly recommended that you use a 'starter' like yoghurt whey to get the fermentation going. I also use a starter for other vegetables that don't have folded leaves to capture bacteria, like carrots and beans etc.

 

Instructions:

Quarter your cabbage, and cut out the middle, fibrous white parts. Then cut your cabbage up, or shred it in your food processor, one quarter at a time. When a quarter is shredded/ chopped, put it into a big bowl and sprinkle it with some salt: not too much, about a teaspoon per quarter. Then do the next 3 quarters, sprinkling each with a teaspoon of salt. Once all the cabbage is chopped and salted, let this sit for about 20 minutes. The salt plays a critical role in drawing out the cabbage juices which will become the sauerkraut brine. The salt will also stifle any putrefactive microbes until the good bacteria produce enough lactic acid to kill them. Now it's time to knead the wet cabbage with your hands to break up some of the fibres and to encourage the brine-creating process. Knead until the cabbage releases a lot of juice.

Next, you need to pack it into the airtight jar. Use the other end of a thick wooden spoon or any other tool that will help you to really push it down into the jar. You want it as tightly packed as possible. When it is about halfway full, you will notice that as you push down, the liquid rises up to cover the cabbage. This is so important, and by the time the jar is filled to the shoulder, the cabbage should be completely drowned in its own juice. If for whatever reason there is not enough juice in the cabbage, add some filtered water to the mixture. Do NOT add tap water, which has chlorine in it, which kills bacteria.

 

Fermentation is an anaerobic process: if the cabbage is exposed to air, it will rot instead of fermenting. SO don't leave too much air space between the liquid and the lid, I would recommend about 2 to 3 cm, as you can see in the picture of my Cabbage, Carrot and Ginger Ferment.Let me now share with you a tip that would have been useful to me the first time I fermented vegetable: Put the jar in a dark place, in a tray or glass dish. After a couple of days, it will start bubbling like a mad thing, and often it will spill over the airtight jar that it is fermenting in, and over your counter, into your cutlery tray...well that's what happened to me anyway.

Messy.

And smelly like a cabbage fart...

 

Sauerkraut should be left for at least 2 weeks. Once you open it up, decant it into smaller glass jars, and refrigerate it. It will not keep once you have let the air in. Give it away as gifts, or keep it all for yourself! It is YUMMY with scrambled eggs, or pork chops, in a wrap, on a burger, you name it. YUM.

 

You might hear your tummy rumbling for the first few days. I like to look down at my belly and laugh like an evil mad woman.DIE, candida, DIE, MooHA HA HA HA Hmmm.

 

When you are chopping your cabbage, you can grate up/ process a whole lot of carrot, ginger, garlic, and pretty much any organic vegetable you can think of, and just follow the same process.

If you aren't fermenting a vegetable that will release brine, like olives or beans, for example, you will need to 'create' the brine yourself: 1 Litre of filtered water, 3 teaspoons of unrefined salt, and 3 Tablespoons of whey from your homemade yoghurt, or a couple of teaspoons of commercial yoghurt starter mixed into the water and salt. Once you have packed your jar full of the veggies, just pour this liquid over them to the shoulder of the jar. These veggies can be ready to eat after only 4 or 5 days of fermentation, so it is a quick alternative.

 

I leave things to ferment for longer regardless of what I am fermenting, to reduce the histamine levels. You could always just have a taste after a few days to see how you like it!So go on, give it a go! Don't be shy about getting your kids to try it too: my kids were highly offended by the taste of it at first, but we persisted with a drop on their tongues every day, then 1ml, then 2 ml, until they got used to the sour taste. We had to use star charts, which we called 'trying charts' to bribe them into trying the kraut at first, but it worked! After 10 tries they would get a small $5 toy of their choice. That only lasted for about 3 toys until they started to enjoy the taste. Now they have a spoon of the sauerkraut veggies with most meals, and they polish it off. It can be done!

 

Happy fermenting everybody! Let me know how you go!

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