When I was exploring on raw foods in my healing journey from cancer, I came upon this food that was foreign to my tastebuds. I saw recipes on how to make this in cookbooks but never tried making them for fear that it may not pass my tastebuds. Then when I learned the fundamentals of raw cooking or un-cooking as they call it, I got a chance to taste it – a bit sour but it was good when taken with other raw foods. At that time, the school that I was in to learn how to make raw food always had this in every meal.
Sauerkraut!…..What is it?
Sauerkraut has been a staple in Germany for a long time. To Germans it means “sour cabbage”. It is made with shredded cabbage and salt and left to ferment in a sealed jar or crock. The fermentation process allows the cabbage mixture to produce lactic acid making the environment acidic, letting out the good bacteria and preventing unwanted bacteria to grow. The acidic environment keeps the unwanted bacteria from growing. Some recipes come with a mix of other veggies like carrots, onions, beets and other green or root vegetables.
Why eat it?
It improves digestion and it’s for your protection. The fermentation produces beneficial probiotics (the good bacteria) that are good for your digestive tract, specifically the lower intestines. It is also shown to improve cognitive function, immunity in the body and endocrine function. Improved digestion means warding off illness, infection or disease. The gut is the entry (the gateway) for good health as well as infections and diseases. With a well functioning gut, good health stays, keeping bugs and diseases at bay.
In the words of Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, MD, author of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, she says:
“With every mouthful of sauerkraut, you’re consuming billions of beneficial microbes which will be killing the pathogens in your gut driving them out and replenishing the beneficial flora in your digestive tract.”
So eat them often. Include them in every meal you have. And if you have digestive problems, make them part of your regular meals. And not only should you include them in your regular meals when having digestive problems, rather make them a staple food in your diet if you have mental health issues as well.
Why do I say this?
It’s because both the brain and the gut are connected…. Did you know that your gut is also called your second brain?
Let’s imagine you having a tummy ache, or experiencing abdominal pain. You become upset, agitated and maybe mad and angry about it. The emotions you’re having (anger and agitation) is a result of the signals sent from your stomach or abdomen (organs in your digestive tract – your gut) to your brain. This is where the two are connected! Adam Hadhazy writes this excellent article about the gut-brain connection and how signals are sent from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. I’d like to highlight it here:
“90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.”
So go for sauerkraut! Make them or buy them if you are busy and don’t have the time to make them. I made mine a few weeks ago and since they’re all gone, decided to go for store-bought sauerkraut.
Is store-bought sauerkraut similar to home-made sauerkraut?
As always, nothing beats mama’s home-made cooking, so home-made is the better choice. But if you’re pressed for time, you can get one equally good in your grocery or health food store. Nowadays, there are more and more sauerkrauts sold in supermarkets or health food stores like Whole Foods. Just be sure they are labeled raw or live and placed in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Sauerkrauts found on grocery shelves may not have the beneficial good bacteria so don’t waste your money on them.
If you’re on a low budget, then make sauerkraut! It’s so easy to make them.
Here’s a simple recipe adapted from Replenish PDX to start…
2 lbs. green or red cabbage (about 1 large head or 2 small)
4 tsp. sea salt
You will be using mason jars or crocks. Preferably mason jars with air tight lids so air doesn’t get in. You want to create an anaerobic environment for the probiotic to work its way through the cabbage. Make sure the jars are sanitized and cleaned and you’ve washed your hands and utensils (i.e. knives, chopping boards, etc.) are washed and cleaned.
Rinse the cabbage(s) well. Remove the outer leaves but don’t throw them out yet. You will use these later to cover the shredded cabbage. Start shredding the cabbage(s) using a knife or a food processor. Place shredded cabbage in a metal or glass bowl and add the salt. Start massaging the cabbage with the salt. As you massage, water will start coming out and the cabbage will soften. This may take a few minutes to do until you see the amount of cabbage shrinking in size. Place the massaged cabbage in small batches (a cup or two) in the mason jars you just prepared, pressing them down to the bottom of the jars with your fist. Make sure the cabbages are compact as possible to eliminate air bubbles and release more water.
Do not fill the jars full. Leave about an inch or two of space from the rim. Use the outer leaves of the cabbage that you removed earlier to cover the already compacted shredded cabbage. Water may come out and that’s okay. Then place something heavy on top (like a smaller jar filled with water). I used a shot glass on mine.
Then cover with the air tight lid. Label jar with the date you created it. Place sauerkraut on the counter to let it start fermenting. You can start eating it in a couple of weeks but the longer it ferments the more good bacteria it will create. Ideally, you’ll want to ferment 2 – 6 weeks to get the most of the good probiotics.
Your sauerkraut should smell sour when you open the jar or when you taste it. If it smells like old socks or garbage or if you see molds (green or black), you’ll have to discard the whole thing and start all over again as something may have gone wrong in the process of making it. If you see a white film on top, you can scoop that out as it’s normal.
Here’s a guide for you to refer to when fermenting…
P.S. Fall is finally here and I’ve been wanting to share with you The Fall Clean Eating Program. As Fall or Autumn primarily focuses on the health of the gut, it’s just about the right time to do this program to give your gut the attention it needs so it too can give you the care you need. Get the details now and get the discount before it’s over.