Fermented foods are a wonderful way to expand your diet and a great way to include some of the the most beneficial foods available. Sauerkraut is a fermented food and it's a good place to start your exploration into the world of fermentation. When food is fermented lactobacilli (lactic acid producing bacteria) convert vegetable and fruit starches into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a beneficial type of natural bacteria that does not allow "bad" bacteria to grow. Most fermented products today are made with vinegar and are pasteurized (killing all of the lactic acid producing bacteria).
Traditionally fermentation was used as a way to preserve food. There are also many more benefits:
- Increases digestibility
- Helps with the production of enzymes
- Increases vitamin levels
- Promotes healthy flora in the digestive system
Today an increase in yeast overgrowth and many other more serious health concerns in the west could be minimized with the use of fermented foods. Recognizing the benefits above and knowing that nearly every traditional culture used some form of fermentation we can see the negative impact that the elimination of these important foods has.
How to make Sauerkraut
Cabbage (purple of green)
1) Wash cabbage, thinly slice
2) Place in bowl and mix with sea salt, herbs, and spices of your choice
3) Pound the cabbage or use your hands and vigorously massage the cabbage to release the juice
4) Press into an airtight container and leave some room at the top of the jar as the cabbage will expand (make sure the cabbage is completely covered with the juice - I usually use an extra cabbage leaf on the top and something heavy to weigh the cabbage down.)
5) Leave for 3 days or more in a room temp. location, then transfer to a cool dark place
6) The longer you leave it the stronger the flavor. You can leave it for months if you'd like. Experiment with what flavor you prefer. And remember you will know if it has gone bad - the smell will be off-putting.
7) Many people enjoy eating sauerkraut with meat, fish, legumes or grains.