Cabbage is a powerhouse of nutrition and like other Brassica member families is often overlooked in peoples eating style due to its unpleasant smell and taste - we know it is great for our bodies, yet getting it in daily can be a challenge. A way round this is to process the cabbage via fermentation which increases massively the flavour and nutrition uptake in our bodies - problem solved.
Pages and pages have been written on fermented vegetables extolling their benefits for human health and explaining their long use in many cultures as both food and medicine. So to keep it short and to summarise, and in doing so save you much time and money ; have one daily serving (one palm size full) of organic, unpasteurised, fermented vegetables and your health will transform dramatically. Easy. For those seeking more in depth explanations do explore the further reading links provided at the bottom of this page.
A note on store bought fermented products such as sauerkraut and kimchi. Dont waste your money or your time and just make your own. Most are pasteurised, nullifying their pro-biotic benefits, and contain questionable additives. Acetic acid anyone? No me neither. In saying this there are some companies which are worth investing in such as Raw Health or Excalibur. So do give them a go if you are challenged for time or want to test the water so to speak on flavour before diving in and making your own. Again though nothing compares to home made for health and taste.
Traditional sauerkraut is just three simple ingredients; cabbage, salt and caraway seeds. With fermented vegetables you build on this basic recipe by adding in a number of different root vegetables and herbs and spices to add more variety, flavour and nutrition. For the recipe I made in the pictures I used the following;
- 1 pound (500 grams) organic purple and/or red cabbage
- 1 pound (500 grams) of organic carrots
- 2 large tennis ball size beetroots
- 1 teaspoon of sun dried sea salt
*Fermentation agent/starter (optional) . Choose from either; 1tsp of probiotic powder, 1 tablespoon of organic raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon of organic live unpasteurized miso. I used a combination of the three.
For this particular recipe I am using the air lock method. This is not necessary. Just something im experimenting with to see how it effects taste and health effects. The standard format outlined below is sufficient to get good results.
- Using a food processor (and/or grater, mandolin, knife) grate and chop cabbage and vegetables into small fine pieces.
- Add chopped vegetables to a large mixing bowl with salt and massage thoroughly for 5-10 minutes until vegetables soften and release their water. Correct massage technique can be found here.
- When softened add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly and pack tightly into a glass jar such as the one found here - an old jam jar can be used too. Essentially anything made of glass that can be closed is good to use, just dont use plastic as it leaches into the food during fermentation.
- Pack it really tight to leave out all air, keep packing until the jar is full of veggies and the veggies are covered in juice (important)
This is where the agreed path tends to split in fermentation circles in regard to how to store your sauerkraut. Some people say the vegetables must be completely submerged by their own juices to stop mold growing on top. Others go for a no sink method leaving the vegetables as they are, floating above or in their own juice scraping the mold of the top when ready if it has formed during fermentation and eating what is underneath. Usually I just compact the veggies as much as possible in their own juices and then if they do mold I just scrape this off and eat whats underneath. However, for the air lock method demonstrated here I am employing the submerging technique, adding extra water to completely cover the vegetables once I have added them to the jar and packed them down.
Do experiment with the different styles to find your own flow. If they do mold on top do not panic and throw out the whole lot, just scrape this layer off and eat whats underneath, it is perfectly fine. If the mold is to much to bear then just make sure the cabbage is submerged under liquid for the complete fermentation cycle, either via a weight on top pressing down on the veg (such as a clean rock or another jar), or you can top the jar up with water to completely cover the vegetables.
HOW LONG TO FERMENT FOR?
Again another heated topic. Really there is no exact time as to when your sauerkraut is ready due to multiple factors such as ambient temperature (based on your local), quantity of salt used, how tightly vegetables are packed and one of the most important ones - your particular flavour preference. So what I tell people is to ferment for a minimum of one week and then taste. If the vegetables have a slight tang to them then you can be sure they have begun to ferment and are good to begin to eat. As you leave them longer they will develop more complex and interesting flavours. Again experiment till you find your own perfect combination.