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If you have ever interacted with me about nutrition, gut health, or yummy food in general, then you have probably heard me go on and on about fermented foods. I’ve been known to strong arm people in workshops who swear they don’t like sauerkraut to ‘just try mine and see.” And yeah, some will hold fast with the dislike (it’s not for everyone) but I did convert quite a few people-homemade sauerkraut is miles from the stuff at the store unless what you are buying is truly fermented.
Why do we want to eat fermented foods?
Our gut is full of bacteria-beneficial microorganisms that are vital to proper digesting, immune health, and many other body functions. Unfortunately, modern life does not support proper homeostasis of our microbiome. Between antibacterial everything, excessive sugars, depletion of healthy bacteria in our soil, and overuse of antibiotics-we have to work extra hard (compared to our ancestors) to ensure proper proliferation.
Preventatively, we can stop using antibacterial products, cut back sugars, eat foods that are prebiotics (food for probiotics), take commercial probiotics (not recommended by me in most cases) and eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are naturally full of probiotics-good bacteria that we need for optimal health. Simply eating 1/4 cup or so of some sort of ferment daily is usually sufficient (unless you are in deep healing-we will talk about that in a later post).
Fermentation is the act of transforming food using bacteria. Now, there are different types of bacterium. We only want the good stuff, right? None of this toxic nonsense. And that is where people get scared of home ferments. They just know they are going to inoculate their food with harmful bacteria accidentally. As long as you follow the instructions properly (and they aren’t hard) you will be fine.
The most basic ferment is sauerkraut. You only need 2 ingredients: cabbage and salt. The salt inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria and allows the beneficial bacteria to take over. *Fun fact~not only does fermenting cabbage create probiotics, it increases the amount of bioavailable vitamin C!
Because I like variety in my ferments, I like to experiment with different flavors. With sauerkraut, there are so many possibilities. I’ll link some recipe books at the end if you are interested in experimenting beyond the Golden Kraut I made here. Recipe below!
Ingredients & Supplies
- One head of cabbage: finely chopped
- One pineapple: peeled, cored, and diced
- 1 TBSP fresh ginger: grated
- 1 TBSP fresh turmeric: grated (or 1 tsp powdered)
- 4 TBSP salt: NOT iodized. Sea salt, pink salt, Celtic salt are all acceptable.
- Large bowl
- 2 wide mouth quart canning jars
- Fermenting caps (optional)
First and foremost, make sure all of your equipment and supplies are sterilized. This prevents mold.
Place cabbage in a large bowl and cover with the salt. Mix. You then can either cover loosely with tea towel and let sit overnight, or do what I do and beat it. I use a meat pounder and just go to town. You’ll want the cabbage to start getting pretty watery. The salt and the beating will release the water content from the cabbage. I’ve never had to add extra water to my sauerkraut (you will for other types of ferments).
Once it is sufficiently watery, add the other ingredients and mix well. Pack your mixture into your sterilized quart jars. If needed, use a glass fermenting weight . The key is to keep the plant material below the liquid line. I find that I don’t really need to use weights with sauerkraut, though-other ferments-yes. And then either cap with the jar lid or the fermenting caps.
If using the regular lids, you will need to ‘burp’ your ferment daily to allow air to escape. If you are using the fermenting caps, the air will release on its own! Ideally, you will want to leave this sitting on the counter for around 4-6 weeks. I have zero self control and usually break in around 1 week. It will keep fermenting the longer you leave it out. Once it reaches your desired level of fermentation, refrigerate (swap out the fermenting caps at this point). The cold slows the process.
If you are new to eating fermented foods, start light. Just a few teaspoons. You need to build up to a full serving if your gut isn’t used to the extra bacteria. Note: Do NOT heat up your ferments. Heat kills the probiotics. If you are turned off from eating it cold, pull your serving out of the fridge a few hours before eating to bring it to room temperature. You can also lay hot food on it to gently warm it. Remember, eat a bit every day. Eventually it will become second nature! And experiment with different flavor profiles~have fun with it!
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
- Fermentation Revolution by Robert Rose
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell (not strictly a fermenting book)