Having a happy and healthy digestive system is one of the keys to good health. An easy way to either improve your digestion, or keep it happy, is to include lacto-fermented foods in your diet. One of the most well-known foods in this regard is sauerkraut.
Traditionally a wide variety of fruits and vegetables were lacto-fermented. For Europeans, lacto-fermented sauerkraut was a crucial part of the winter diet, while Kimchi, another lacto-fermented food, is still an important part of the Korean diet.
We refer to sauerkraut as lacto-fermented because the fermentation process involves lactobacilli. Lactobacilli are especially numerous on plant leaves and roots; during the fermentation process these lactobacilli produce lactic acid from the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits.
We are fortunate that the lactobacilli impart many health benefits. The presence of lactobacilli enhances the digestive process and increase vitamin levels. It promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. These microbial cultures also create B vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, biotin, thiamin, and niacin. The lactobacilli also preserve the fermented item.
Sauerkraut has also been shown to be rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and helpful enzymes. What’s there not to like?
Preparing sauerkraut is easy to do. Following is a good basic recipe. Once you have the hang of it, you can modify it by adding other spices, and/or vegetables and fruits.
- 5 cups shredded cabbage (green or red)
- 1 Tbs. sea salt
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- In a bowl, mix the cabbage and salt. Using your hands or an implement like a meat tenderizer, squeeze or pound the mixture. This will breakdown the cellulose and release the liquid.
- Add the caraway seeds when the mixture is completely wet.
- Place into a 1 quart mason jar (wide-mouth). Press down firmly to pack the cabbage into the jar.
- Take a jar with a narrow enough bottom to fit into the mouth of the quart jar and fill with water. Cap the smaller jar and place into the quart jar until the cabbage liquid raises above the cabbage.
- Cover the stacked jars with a cloth. Keep in a warm location, check frequently to make sure the liquid stays above the cabbage. If you need to add more liquid, mix ½ tsp. salt with a ¼ cup water and place in with the cabbage.
After about 1 week it should be ready. You can taste it to see if it is to your liking. When you are happing with it, cap it and place in the fridge.