When we talk about healing leaky gut and overall gut health it’s important to consider that we’re not just working to kill off the “bad guys” but also to work to rebuild the balance of good bacteria as well. So, how do we bring the “good guys” back in?
One word. Probiotics.
There are many probiotic supplements out there and I do highly recommend taking one but make sure you do your research and find one of good quality. When pricing them, remember that you often get what you pay for and quality probiotics are not the cheapest. The one that my doctor recommended for me is MegaSporeBiotic. The reason he likes this one so much is that it can survive the acidity of the stomach where many probitoc supplements cannot. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other good quality probiotics out there. Another good one that is easier to find (like on Amazon) and recommended by many gut health doctors is Bio-Kult.
Commercial probiotics aside, did you know that one of the best ways to get inexpensive probiotics is by consuming fermented foods? Foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha are a delicious way to add quality probiotics into your diet.
So why are fermented foods so great? According to this interview conducted by Mercola with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (author of The GAPS Diet) “Fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them, so it’s a much more cost effective alternative. Here’s a case in point: It’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! So clearly, you’re far better off using fermented foods.” Check out the full interview here: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/12/dr-campbell-mcbride-on-gaps.aspx
Today I’m here to share with you just how easy it is to make your own sauerkraut at home. It only requires two simple ingredients, a fermentation lid and a little bit of time.
I’m sure you all know the base of sauerkraut is cabbage. I recommend only using organic cabbage in making homemade sauerkraut. Conventionally grown food means pesticides were used and when we’re trying to create an environment for healthy bacteria to grow it makes sense to remove as much toxicity as possible.
For this recipe I used a medium sized head of cabbage. Mine weighed in around 3 1/2 lbs but making homemade sauerkraut isn’t an exact science so feel free to go larger or smaller. You can also double the batch easily.
First things first….CLEAN YOUR HANDS AND UTENSILS!! The fermentation process relies on a certain type of bacteria for fermentation so it’s important to start as clean as possible. Make sure your jar, knife, cutting board, bowl and hands have been washed well in warm, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly.
Start by taking the outer few leaves off and setting them aside. You’ll use these as a weight later in the recipe. I usually save the first three outer leaves for this. Next, core your cabbage. Save the core too!
Next, slice your cabbage into approximately 1/4″ slices. There’s no exact size really but generally speaking the thinner the better as it aids in speeding up the fermentation time.
Add your cabbage to your bowl and sprinkle your salt on top.
Now here comes the “fun” part. Time to scrunch. Scrunch (squeeze) the cabbage and salt mixture for five to seven minutes. This is to knead the salt into the cabbage and draw out some moisture. It won’t seem as if it’s working at first but I promise it will.
Helpful hint, the fresher the cabbage the more juice will be rendered from it so try to buy as fresh as possible.
I don’t particularly enjoy this part to be honest. In fact, I’ve now outsourced it to my husband. Why? Because it can be tiring. My hands cramp up and it doesn’t seem to bother my husband so why not. I’ve also found that because he has more strength in his hands he’s able to draw out more moisture in this part than I am able to do so it works out all the way around. So find the strongest person in your household and assign this task to them. It’s good stress relief too! 😉
Once you have squished the life out of your cabbage it’s time to cover it and let it sit for 1 hour. This allows ample time for the extra juice from the cabbage to come out before packing into your jar.
Next up is to package your sauerkraut. I use a 64oz Ball jar for mine because it allows me plenty of space to make a large batch. I also have a wide mouth canning funnel that my mom gave to me years ago that comes in handy for not making a mess. It’s completely optional but totally worth the splurge.
Start by adding a good portion (maybe 1/4) of your cabbage to the jar.
Every now and then, press down firmly (I use my fist as shown) to pack the cabbage down tightly.
Continue this process until you have used all of your cabbage. Pour any juice remaining from your cabbage bowl into the jar as well. There should be enough juice to cover the cabbage completely. If there is not, add just enough filtered water to cover the cabbage completely. You want you cabbage completely submerged.
Finally, grab the outer leaves and core that you saved earlier and wrap the outer leaves of your cabbage around the core. This will act as a weight to help keep your cabbage submerged. (You can also buy fermentation weights if you choose). Your cabbage needs to remain submerged in the juice during the entire fermentation process. Check on it every day and if you notice that it isn’t, simply push down on your weight until it’s covered again.
Finally you will need something to keep your sauerkraut air tight while it ferments. I use fermentation lids because they work great and won’t break the bank. The reason to keep oxygen out of your container while fermenting is because the Lactobacillus probiotics that are created during the fermentation process do their magic while in an oxygen free environment. The lactic acid that’s created during the fermentation process allows the good bacteria to flourish while keeping the bad bacteria out.
Place your soon to be sauerkraut on the counter out of the way so it doesn’t get knocked off. I recommend not placing it in a cabinet but I’ve honestly never tried it. Now it’s time for patience. Technically fermentation begins very quickly but to really grasp all of the probiotic benefits I recommend fermenting for a minimum of 10 days. My personal ideal time is 2 weeks. After two weeks you can begin tasting your sauerkraut. If you want it to go through all three stages of fermenting then let it go for 4 weeks. The longer it goes, the taste changes significantly though so taste at 2 weeks and if you like it try to let it go longer tasting every few days (don’t forget to use a clean fork!).
After fermenting place your jar in the refrigerator and enjoy! It will be good for months in the fridge. Eat it as a side or topping with every meal. Start with a small serving. Some people can be sensitive to probiotics.
We love having homemade sauerkraut as a topping (with mustard) for our bun free hot dogs (these Teton Waters hot dogs are grass fed, no nitrates and no additives. They’re the only hot dog I recommend….in moderation of course).
Homemade gut healthy sauerkraut
- 1 medium/large head of organic cabbage
- 2 tbsp of pink Himalayan salt
- CLEAN YOUR HANDS AND UTENSILS!! The fermentation process relies on a certain type of bacteria for fermentation so it’s important to start as clean as possible. Make sure your jar, knife, cutting board, bowl and hands have been washed well in warm, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly.
- Take off the outer few leaves off and setting them aside.
- Core your cabbage. Saving it for later as well.
- Slice your cabbage into approximately 1/4″ slices
- Place your sliced cabbage into a large mixing bowl and add salt on top.
- Squish/scrunch/knead the sliced cabbage and salt mixture for 5-7 minutes to allow the juices to begin rendering from the cabbage.
- Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour.
- Add approximately 1/4 of the cabbage to a large jar and periodically press down firmly to pack the cabbage down tightly.
- Continue this process until all of the cabbage has been used.
- Pour any remaining juice from the bowl into the jar.
- Your cabbage should be completely submerged in the juice. If it is not, add enough filtered water to cover the cabbage completely.
- Grab the outer leaves and core that you saved earlier and wrap the outer leaves of your cabbage around the core. Place this in the jar on top of your submerged cabbage to act as a weight to keep your cabbage submerged.
- Cover with a fermentation lid and allow to ferment for 2-4 weeks.
- Refrigerate and enjoy with every meal.
NOTE: It is normal to see bubbles, white scum, or foam on top during the fermentation. You should NOT see any actual mold, though. I have heard of people scraping it off the top and eating the rest of the cabbage that was fully submerged BUT I personally don’t recommend this. See….mold is nasty. Mold has roots. And as someone who is mold sensitive I highly recommend ditching the whole batch should you see mold.
If you need to troubleshoot issues with your sauerkraut I recommend heading over to Food Renegade and checking out this article. They have a lovely troubleshooting chart here.
**Sauerkraut is just a place to start. Ferment other veggies too**
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