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How to Make Sauerkraut & Why it's Good for You!

—  found in  Food  —

Sauerkraut is one of the oldest and most popular fermented foods. Even though sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage", it actually originated in China thousands of years ago! It’s a very sensible superfood because when the cooler months hit, sauerkraut was a reliable source of nutrients when fresh fruits and veggies were scarce because no one had a refrigerator back then.

bowl of sauerkraut(And yes, I've been eating a LOT of sauerkraut here in Austria – it's on pretty much every plate of food when we eat out at restaurants. Follow along with my adventures on Instagram!)

Sauerkraut is one of those foods that's often considered mysterious because many people have no idea how it's made and assume it's a rather complicated process. I used to be intimidated by it (just like I was once intimidated to make my own yogurt !) until I made it for myself. I'm here to bust that myth and tell you how incredibly easy it is!

Once you see the process in my video, you'll realize sauerkraut is the furthest thing from mysterious.

I guess the mystique comes from the fact that it’s quite magical how the bacteria transform raw cabbage into a delicious and tangy kraut that's a superfood for your gut health. Superfoods for gut health benefit your microbiome , which impacts every system in your body from your immunity to your metabolism. Kraut is great for kids, too, and supports their microbiome as well! My daughter Vienna absolutely loves it as a side dish.

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I talk about the health benefits of kraut in my video, as well as how to enjoy it, but I've written a more comprehensive summary below. 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAUERKRAUT

Gut health: Rich in live probiotics that support your whole-body health such as Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum (this strain is in the kiddie probiotic that I give to Vienna every day), Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus brevis. More recent studies have uncovered even more bacteria than these four strains but it will also depend on a variety of other factors. My sauerkraut may differ from the kraut you make in, say, Hawaii, that's because of the temp in your home, the cabbage you’re using, etc.

But why does this matter? These various strains of probiotics help make foods more digestible and increase your gut’s ability to
absorb nutrients.

The more diverse the bacteria in your gut, the healthier your body, which is why consuming fermented foods is an excellent addition to supporting the health of your microbiome.

Immune health: The probiotics, vitamin C, iron and hundreds of phytonutrients in sauerkraut enhance your immune system. 80% of your immunity resides in your gut so the bacteria that live there can either dampen or enhance your immune system. This is because they maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall. Leaky gut is a perfect example of a condition where the microbes are not doing their job and the tight junctions in the gut have become loose letting food molecules and other bacteria in – this when the immune system gets compromised.

jar of sauerkraut

Cancer prevention: Cabbage is considered a cancer prevention superfood because it contains phytonutrients such as glucosinolates that enhance detoxification of certain carcinogenic enzymes and are toxic to many types of cancer cells. In fact, the consumption of cruciferous veggies has been linked in many studies with inhibiting the development of breast cancer. And evidence shows that eating them regularly lowers your risk of developing many different types of cancer. So if you’re not munching on sauerkraut, then make this Turmeric Cauliflower Rice or my Roasted Cauliflower Salad or Walker’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts from first cookbook Joyous Health!

Nutrient-dense: You’ve probably heard me say before that when a food is fermented it becomes biotransformed! That’s fancy for saying it becomes a whole entire new food because bacteria do this magical thing to nutrients in food.

For instance, cabbage has about 30 mg of Vitamin C per cup but when it’s fermented it can have up to 600 mg per cup – incredible right?

Then there’s vitamin K2, which over the last 10 years since I became a nutritionist I’ve seen this nutrient soar to popularity as research has revealed its importance for long-term bone health. This is because it has an ability to assist calcium and other minerals to bind into the bone matrix thereby strengthening bones. Vitamin K2, similar to vitamin D is not in many foods. You'll find it in many animal foods and fermented foods. And, cool fact – it's made by your gut bacteria too! 

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Here’s the recipe!

Mains & Sides
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Ingredients
  • 1 large head organic cabbage*
  • 1-2 Tbsp high-quality salt (such as Himalayan or Celtic)
Instructions
  1. Peel off the top 2 layers of cabbage leaves and set aside. You're going to use these to top the sauerkraut with.
  2. Shred or chop the rest of the cabbage. You can use your food processor to speed things up (either the grating attachment or the "s" blade), and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle on 1-2 Tbsp of sea salt (use more salt for a crunchier kraut).
  3. Using your hands, massage the cabbage until you start to see the water being drawn out of the cabbage and it's softening. This will take a few minutes. This water becomes your brine and it's essential for sauerkraut to work.
  4. Using a clean wide mouth mason jar, begin to stuff the cabbage bit by bit into the jar and press down with your hands or a utensil (see my video). You want to pack down the cabbage, limiting the amount of air in the jar.
  5. As you work your way to the top of the jar, the brine should eventually be higher than the cabbage. Leave about 1-1.5 inches of space from the top of the cabbage and the lid.
  6. Using the cabbage leaf you set aside, fold it up and press it overtop of the shredded cabbage inside the jar, press it down. You don't eat this cabbage, it is to keep the kraut beneath the brine.
  7. Place lid on mason jar, it doesn't have to be tight (see my video). Place the jar out of direct sunlight on a plate in case the juices start to seep out of the jar.
  8. Depending how warm your home is, the kraut will take anywhere from 3-7 days. Give it a taste test after 3 days if it's tangy to your liking, seal the top and place in the fridge. The fermentation will stop and it will keep for months in your fridge.
  9. Whenever your serving the cabbage, always use a clean utensil when dipping into the jar otherwise you introduce new bacteria and this can spoil the kraut.
  10. EnJOY your kraut! You're now a fermenting goddess!!

Notes

The amount of cabbage this recipe makes really depends on the size of the cabbage you start with. As you can see in my video, I started with a very large cabbage and this filled a large mason jar (32 oz/1 quart). I would suggest you have a couple of sizes on hand. You could also do 2 x small 16oz jars. It's up to you!

*Please choose organic, there will be more good bacteria present on the cabbage to help it ferment.

If you’re a sauerkraut virgin, leave your doubts at the door because you can do this - it's so easy!! You’ll be so proud of your kraut once enjoy the fruits of your labour! And if you're excited about making your own ferments, you must try these recipes next:

 Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt

 Homemade Cashew Cheese

If you have more questions after watching this video, please comment below and I’d be happy to answer them.

Happy fermenting!

Joy xo

10 Comments
Cindy   •   August 11, 2019

So, I've tried to make sauerkraut twice now and failed miserably. I'm shaming my grandmother since she made big vats of it and, as a kid, my dad would step on the sauerkraut to press it down. You're right, they ate it all winter long. I LOVE it, and eat it pretty much everyday. Thanks for the inspo! It's great beside bratwurst. I'm sure your husband would agree :)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

Lianne   •   August 11, 2019

Mold developed on the top of my brine, is this normal?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

Carol M.   •   August 11, 2019

If you are adding things to your sauerkraut, like apples, do you add them after the sauerkraut has finished the fermentation process?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2019

eva   •   August 12, 2019

I used Savoy Cabbage ... will see how this works : )

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 13, 2019

Nicole   •   August 16, 2019

this gave me so much confidence to make my own! it always seems so intimidating but you made it clear in the video :) THANKS!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 17, 2019

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