Sauerkraut is one of the best and easiest ways to increase probiotics in your food. We've all heard about probiotics: beneficial bacteria for your gut. Let's explore where they come from and why you should be striving to include them in your everyday meals.
Where do these probiotics come from?
There are a variety of bacteria present on the surface of all vegetables (actually, on most things). The process of lacto-fermentation creates an environment where the beneficial bacteria, Lactobacilli, can feed off of the carbohydrates in the vegetables to preserve and proliferate causing the "harmful" bacteria to die off because the lactic acid environment that's created is a poor environment for their survival. For lacto-fermentation, you can use salt or whey (the liquid from active yoghurt). In this recipe we will use salt, so be sure not to omit it!
Why are probiotics important?
With the many modern lifestyle factors present today, there are a lot of reasons why many of us struggle with maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Some of the many factors include antibiotic use, toxic exposures (like heavy metals or pesticides), SAD (Standard American Diet), C-section births and a lack of breastfeeding. All of these can kill off bacteria found in our GI tracts, good and bad, often leading to symptoms or conditions like diarrhea, constipation, dysbiosis, IBS, and GAPS. This is why it is so important to replenish our gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria to help balance our flora and improve our bowel movements (don't be embarrassed, I'm a nutritionist; I can talk about poop all day).
Need a kickstart to your fermentation endeavors? You can schedule a cooking demonstration with me by email if you live on the Eastside of King County, WA.
Probiotic Indian-Spiced Sauerkraut
I've made this recipe once before and it is by far my husband's favorite. We eat this as a side or condiment to complement a main dish, on top of a salad, or just by itself as a snack. The variety of spices provide some added vitality and bioactive compounds where you may not find a place in your diet to squeeze them in elsewhere. This recipe can be made as a simple sauerkraut by omitting the spices, onion and garlic.
Yield: 3 quarts
Preparation time: 30 minutes +1-2 weeks of fermentation
- 2 medium heads of fresh cabbage (green or purple), about 2 pounds
- 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 3 pods cardamom
- 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon of each: whole coriander seed, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder, curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of each: garam masala, black peppercorns, cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Cut each head of cabbage in half and remove the core with your knife. Save some outer leaves to cover your sauerkraut in the end.
- Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the head of cabbage into thin pieces. The thinner they are, the faster they will ferment.
- As you add the cabbage to the bowl, sprinkle a little salt and massage to coat the cabbage.
- Once all the cabbage is in the bowl, sprinkle the rest of the salt and massage until the juices are released.* This may take 5-10 minutes.
- Add the onion, garlic, and spices and massage for 30 seconds or until fully coated.
- Stuff the mixture into your mason jars and fill 3/4 of the way. Cover with the cabbage leaf you set aside. Pack it down until the juices rise above the mixture.
- Cover tightly with a lid and store for at least 1 week, checking about every two days to make sure the sauerkraut is still underneath the brine since fermentation causes it to expand. The longer it ferments, the more probiotic and less crunchy it will be. After 2 weeks, move it to the refrigerator to prevent further fermentation.**
- Once the sauerkraut has reached a desirable consistency, enjoy! Be sure to keep it away from heat as the probiotics will no longer be available.
*Note: If you have an older head of cabbage, you may need to add some salt water to have enough brine. Mix 1 warm cup of water with 1/2 tablespoon salt and dissolve.
**Note: In colder months, it will take longer to ferment since cold temperatures slow the proliferation of bacteria.