Hello dear readers,
Well another season is blazing by – Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is upon us in less than two weeks. This morning I ordered my gluten-free pie crust from Bacano Bakery and perused the beautiful sugar-pie pumpkins at the farmers’ market. The weather is finally chilling in California and it’s time for the more warming foods of the season.
As the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (my toddler’s favorite vegetable) of summer are leaving us, one of my favorite ways to preserve and eat raw vegetables in the winter months is to make homemade sauerkraut. Unlike most kinds you can buy in a store, homemade sauerkraut is raw and probiotic. So it is not only a tasty favorite food of my German heritage but it is also a nourishing and health-promoting food. The probiotic cultures and enzymes in sauerkraut are an excellent tonic for those of us with digestive issues and/or candida.
I only recently discovered how easy it is to make your own sauerkraut. Thanks to Michael Pollan’s instructions in Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, I was inspired to try it myself. The basic version has only two ingredients – cabbage and salt. From there you can get creative and add things like spices and/or other raw vegetables. Kimchi is another ethnic variation of sauerkraut, using napa cabbage and spices, and is next on my list to try. Here is my basic version of old-world sauerkraut with coriander seeds.
1 large head of cabbage
1-2 tsp sea salt per lb. of cabbage
small handful coriander seeds
large glass or ceramic bowl
1 or 2 wide-mouth quart-size mason jars or large crock jar
several smooth, clean stones, 1-2 inches in diameter
Rinse the head of cabbage and thinly slice it with a mandoline into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt per pound of cabbage to start. With clean hands, work the salt into the cabbage, squeezing it and kneading it like bread dough, as it begins to draw the water out of the cabbage. Taste a bit to see if you want to add more salt; add up to 1 more tsp salt per pound to taste and continue to mix until the cabbage is sopping wet.
Then pack the sauerkraut into 1 or two mason jars, depending on how much cabbage you have. You want to leave a couple inches of air at the top of the jar as it will bubble up as it ferments. Really press and pack down the cabbage into the jar(s) so that all the air is pressed out and the cabbage should be covered with water. Then add a small handful of coriander seeds. Take a couple of large stones for each jar and lay them across the top of the cabbage to keep it weighed down. You want to try to keep the cabbage below the water level because it can rot if it is exposed to air.
Close up the jars and leave them to sit on a cool, dark shelf somewhere. That’s it. Check it every couple of days to let out some air (you will see the top of the mason jar puff up) and pack down any cabbage that begins to float above the water. It should smell a little funky but if something has really gone wrong you will be able to tell. Taste it after a couple weeks. If you like your sauerkraut crisp, it will be ready now. Move the jar into the refrigerator for consumption. Otherwise you can let it continue to ferment for up to another month or two or more as the flavors evolve and mature. I can never seem to wait that long so I usually start eating mine after a couple weeks, but really, whenever it suits your palette is fine.
Sauerkraut is a great accompaniment to any meal. I like mine with sausages, roast beef, pulled pork, roast chicken, you name it. It’s a great digestive aperitif and the enzymes aid in the digestion of other foods so your body can absorb more nutrients. My toddler loves it! So if you have kids who are picky about eating their vegetables, this is a great way to try to get them to eat more fresh, raw vegetables and probiotics. I highly recommend it to anyone for good health and good taste!