At the start of the year, E! News predicted that sauerkraut would be one of the trendiest foods of 2015. That’s because the crunchy, tangy fermented side dish is overflowing with healthy probiotic bacteria. In fact, all those good-for-you bugs are likely what prompted iconic integrative physician Andrew Weil, MD, to call sauerkraut “a living food.”
If you’ve only had canned sauerkraut, you’re missing out. Homemade, from-scratch kraut is crisp, full of flavor and delicious on its own or as a topping or side. Even though raw cabbage can be difficult to digest for some people, the fermentation process that turns it into sauerkraut makes it much easier to process. Like our kefir, it’s also packed with vitamins and nutrients.
Some of our favorite ways to eat sauerkraut are:
- on a sandwich (preferably spread with our strained kefir with herbs!)
- as a side dish with grilled vegetables and lean protein
- on a pizza (top after baking to keep the probiotics alive)
- mixed in a salad (we like this one and adding it to this one), and topped with our famous Kefir Ranch Dressing
- on its own!
Now that you have some inspiration, check out this beginner recipe to make your own sauerkraut, courtesy of Alex Lewin, author of Real Food Fermentation. Be sure to head over to his food blog FeedMeLikeYouMeanIt.com, which comes to us via Bottomline Health. For more information about fermentation and cultured foods, check out our post here.
Alex Lewin’s Basic Sauerkraut
- 2 to 3 pounds green or red cabbage (preferably organic)
- 4 to 6 teaspoons fine sea salt (about 2 teaspoons per pound)
Remove outer leaves of the cabbage and discard. Quarter the cabbage vertically into four wedges. Cut away the hard core from each wedge, then slice each wedge as finely as possible.
Place shredded cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the salt. With clean hands, firmly knead and massage the cabbage and salt, which will start releasing water. (This process can take 5-15 minutes depending on how fresh the cabbage is and how hard you squeeze.)
Pack the cabbage and excess liquid into a jar, preferably a Mason jar or canning jar. Push the cabbage down as much as possible into the jar to get rid of any air bubbles; make sure the cabbage is submerged in the liquid. Leave at least one inch of space between the top of the liquid and the mouth of the jar because the cabbage will expand as it ferments.
Close the jar lid tightly –fermentation takes place without oxygen, and the liquid will seal the cabbage away from air. Store the jar in a cool, dark place, like a basement or garage, and check the sauerkraut every day or two. (You can sample it, but be sure not to put the fork in your mouth and then back in the jar, which could introduce bacteria into the mixture that don’t belong there.)
By day four, you should have a jar full of tasty sauerkraut. But wait a little longer and the sauerkraut will get softer and tangier. Once the slaw is exactly as you like it, start storing it in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation process and preserve the taste.