Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Making Simple Sauerkraut

Making sauerkraut and other lacto-ferminted foods is something I've never done, but always wanted to know more about it all, so when my friend Paula from Whole Intentions, said she knew how and was willing to write up a guest post for all of us here at Hidden Treasures, I was more than thrilled!!  {I even went out yesterday and bought myself a few organic cabbages so I could try my hand at this too.}

Paula Writes....


If you had asked me five years ago if I'd ever eaten sauerkraut, I would have wrinkled my nose and said, "NEVER!" And if I'd never eaten it, you could bet your boots I'd never made it!
My first recollection of sauerkraut was as a young teenager visiting a friend's house. We walked in the front door and were assailed by a smell that could make your eyes water. When I asked her what it was she shrugged, "Mom's making sauerkraut."

For the next 20 years I steered clear of sauerkraut like it was the plague. (Gasp! Did I just say 20 years!)

Up until a few years ago, I never thought I'd give it another look. Yet here I am, bringing you a recipe and secretly planning several paragraphs of well-written research to convince you to try it for yourself. :) If the information I discovered could change my mind, surely it has the chance of changing yours. Right?

So without further ado, I'll begin my compelling and persuasive argument. . . ;)

What does "Lacto-Fermented" Mean?

Sauerkraut is a condiment that's lacto-fermented. To clear up some misconceptions, the 'lacto' part of this word is not referring to "lactose" - the sugar found in dairy products, but the shortened name of “lactobacillus”or "lactic-acid bacteria".

These bacteria work together to break down and convert raw food into more easily digestible components, along with releasing and stabilizing the food's nutrients. There are many stages and processes along the way, but the end result is a food that's now healthy, easy on your digestion, and preservable for an extended period of time without a freezer or canning methods.

Nowadays it's common to have a freezer or a pantry full of canned foods. But just because we have those conveniences doesn't mean it's better to use them. Preserving foods by fermentation has numerous health advantages we'd miss out on otherwise. When lacto-fermenting fruits and vegetables, you're
  • enhancing their digestibility
  • increasing their vitamin levels
  • producing helpful enzymes
  • producing antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances
  • normalizing the acidity of the stomach
The main by product, lactic acid:
  • promotes healthy flora in the intestines
  • helps break down proteins
  • aids in the assimilation of iron
  • activates the secretions of the pancreas which is particularly important for diabetics
  • cleans the intestines
And then consider the health benefits of lacto-fermented sauerkraut alone. It:
  • contains choline which lowers blood pressure, regulates nutrients in the blood, aids the metabolism of fats in the body
  • contains acetylcholine which has a powerful effect on the nervous system, reduces blood pressure, slows down the rate of heartbeats, promotes calmness and sleep, and has a beneficial effect on the movements of the intestine which makes it recommended for constipation
A 1999 study published in the Lancet found that eating lacto-fermented vegetables was positively associated with low rates of asthma, skin problems, and autoimmune disorders.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, you guys! There are numerous books about lacto-fermenting that you can spend hours digging into.

Sauerkraut and Pickling Crocks and Supplies
Some of my favorite online resources include Cultures for Health and the in-depth and fascinating research Lea at Nourishing Treasures did about the science behind sauerkraut fermentation and which containers are best for reducing the chance of molds. Because of her research I bought a 3-piece set of Fido glass jars and absolutely. love. them.

The sauerkraut recipe I'm sharing with you today is right out of Nourishing Traditions - one of my favorite cookbooks and the same one I base my Fermented Ketchup recipe on.

Sauerkraut (casein-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free, yeast-free, anti-candida, low-carb)

1 medium cabbage (red or green), cleaned and shredded
1 T. caraway seeds
1 T. celtic sea salt
4 T. whey (optional - if you don't use whey then add an additional 1 T. of salt - however, using whey is consistently successful and adds it's own health benefits. If you don't use whey this recipe will be casein-free)
1. Wash a head of cabbage and chop up by hand.

2. Now you can join the ranks of women from days gone by and rhythmically pound the cabbage over and over until it's smashed into itsy bitsy, tiny little pieces and the juices are released (about 10 minutes), or you can place the cabbage in a food processor and turn the switch. I love the crunch of crisp cabbage, but my arms eventually force me to use the automatic spinning blades. They make me to do it against my will. Really.

3. Now we add the caraway seeds, salt, and whey if you're using it, (if you're not using whey, add another Tablespoon of salt) and stir it well.
4. Push the cabbage firmly down into a jar (have I mentioned how much I love my Fido jars?) until the juices come over the top by about 1 inch. Cover tightly and do. not. open.
Note: The recipe's directions say to let it sit for 3 days before you refrigerate it, but after reading  The Science Behind Sauerkraut Fermentation (again, this was Lea's genius) I realized that a three day ferment was not nearly long enough for the lactobactillius to do their job. I keep my sauerkraut on the counter for at least 30 days. It's ready when the bubbles on the sides and top of the jar are gone.

Paula Miller is a child of God, wife to Travis, homeschooling mom of five, Christian children's author, lover of coconut oil, and Lilla Rose consultant. She and her family live on a small hobby farm in the Midwest. Several years of family health problems led her to learn about whole foods, candida, food allergies, and healthy alternatives to modern medicine. She chats about whole food, whole living, and whole faith on her blog, Whole Intentions. You can also find her on Facebook and and Twitter.

We'd love to invite you to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.  Or you can choose to have our post delivered directly to your E-mail or RSS feed.  


  1. Every time I read about making sauerkraut I get excited and then don't do it. this looks like very straightforward instructions - thank you

  2. I always disliked sauerkraut and when I first heard about lacto-fermentation, I was resistant because of this dislike. But to me, it is so different than the canned version. I'm now hooked. I've been fermenting just about everything that's in my garden now and just love it!

  3. I always thought you canned sauerkraut. So if you do not pressure can it then how do you get a good seal on the jar? How long will it last in the pantry?

    I am new to canning and am still working out all of the kinks :)

  4. This looks much easier than the other methods I've tried!!

  5. Lindsey, I believe Paula made enough to keep in the fridge for a while. I'm going to can mine though. I want lots of it!! :)

    I'm going to make it as directed here and then process in a boiling water caner for 20 minutes. {quart jars}

    Thank you all so much for the comments!!

  6. Thanks for a great post! I made sauerkraut before with just the cabbage and salt but had to let it sit for months. We have whey since we make our own yogurt so I can strain some off. I'm excited to try making it with some whey added in. I pinned your post :)

  7. In our country we do lacto-fermeted cabbage in a simpler way. No caraway, no whey (just take some water). Some shredded carrot may be added for appearance. The proprotions are as follows: for 800 g of shredded cabbage you need 250 mL of water, 21 g of plain salt, 40 g of sugar. Mix everything and place in a warm place for 3 days (preferred temperature is 25-30 Celsius, or 77-86 F).