Winter warming sauerkraut
Sauerkraut really is one of the best foods you could possibly eat for creating a healthy gut, and I eat it almost every day. When travelling, it’s often the first thing I buy to have in my hotel fridge — along with an avocado to ensure I have something healthy to snack on when hunger strikes. Your gut, after all, is the heart of your inner ecosystem — keeping it thriving with the right bacteria works wonders on every aspect of your health.
Making sauerkraut at home is relatively simple, cheap and easy, plus it’s fun. Fermentation has a mild touch of mad scientist to it, you just need to follow a few basic rules to ensure success. This version is a winter favourite, which uses carrots and cabbage blended with turmeric, chilli and ginger for a warming flavour kick and a few additional anti-inflammatory and gut-health benefits. Aside from all those wonderful living probiotics that are found in abundance, sauerkraut is naturally high in vitamin C and K, which all-round makes it a great thing to include in your winter meals.
No special equipment is required and there is no need to make large batches — if you’re just curious or are the only one in the house keen on it, small batches only take a few weeks to ferment.
You can use any type of large, wide-necked jar you have lying around. Just make sure all your equipment is really clean. You should sterilise any equipment first in boiling hot water and allow to cool before using.
Sauerkraut has a delicious sour flavour that’s akin to a mild vinegar — even my three-year-old daughter enjoys it. I eat it on avocado toast, in sandwiches, wraps and tossed through salads, I also eat it on its own with a little walnut or hemp oil as a snack and serve it as an accompaniment to many meals. You can make many different flavour combinations, some are delicious, and some are acquired — if you tried it and it wasn’t great, don’t let that put you off trying different versions.
If you’re new to kraut, pick up a good-quality version like Be Nourished to try it first and see what appeals. Our own favourite from them is the Helena Bay flavour.
- Thoroughly clean the area and equipment you are using, including your hands. You don’t want any extra bacteria to make its way in and ruin your kraut-making efforts.
- Remove limp outer leaves from cabbage. Set aside afew of the larger leaves for later, but make sure they arefresh ones.
- Shred cabbage finely using the slicing blade attachment on your food processor, (you will need to chop it into pieces that fit through the shoot. If you have a choice of blades, choose the finest setting). Alternatively, use a mandoline or sharp knife to shred it finely. Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the salt over and massage thoroughly for about 2–3 minutes, until it starts softening and the cabbage starts to release its juices. Once you have a good amount of juice extracted from the cabbage, add the remaining ingredients and mix through thoroughly. If you don’t get have a lot of juice in the bottom of the mixture, leave it for an hour, covered, on the bench. This allows the salt time to help soften and release it.
- Pack the mixture in to a jar or jars as tightly as you can, using your fist to press it down. The idea is to have as few air bubbles as possible in the jar and enough cabbage juice that it covers the top of the mixture when you press down on it. If it’s not juicy you will need to keep massaging until it is. Avoid adding any water to the mixture; this will increase the chance of it going off.
- Pour any juice sitting in the bowl into the jar over your soon-to-be-sauerkraut. Place one (or more) of the reserved large outer cabbage leaves, or some baking paper, on top of the mixture and press down to ensure the sauerkraut mixture is fully submerged in its liquid. It must not be in contact with air at any point. You can place a small weight on top to make sure everything stays fully submerged; a small jar or glass could be used for this.
- Place a thick square of fabric over the jar and fix on securely with a large, strong rubber band or some string around the neck of the jar.
- Over the next 24 hours, press down on your sauerkraut every so often (just when you remember — it doesn’t need to be exact) to further compact it. As the cabbage and carrot release their liquid, the kraut will soften and you can press it down further, helping more liquid to rise over the top of the veges.
- Cover the jar with a lid or plate (or you can use a jar with a glass flip-top lid and rubber seal that will allow any gas to be released at a certain pressure). Place the jar in a dark place with a temperature of around 18C for 10 days to 3 weeks, until it has a nice sour flavour. Check regularly to see whether it’s ready, especially if you have used small jars, as it may ferment faster — check smaller jars after 5 days to see how it’s doing.
- While it's fermenting, you may see bubbles coming up through the cabbage or foam on the top, sometimes even a white scum. Don’t worry, this is all normal. The scum can be skimmed off the top before refrigerating. If you see any mould, deal with it immediately. Remove the mould and any surrounding sauerkraut, and check the remaining kraut to see if it has been affected. Do not eat any sauerkraut that has been in contact with mouldy parts close to the surface. To avoid mould, always keep your veges fully submerged.
- Sauerkraut will keep in the fridge for at least a few months in a sealed jar. To maintain freshness, make sure it’s not exposed to the air. The kraut will be good to eat as long as it still tastes good.