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While it may seem like one of your run-of-the-mill condiments, it does so much more for your body than a bit of chopped onion or pickle relish.
- It's full of probiotics, or good bacteria that works with your gut to digest food.
- It's so packed with Vitamin C that sailors used to take it aboard with them to avoid scurvy.
- It is also a good source of Vitamin K, iron, and magnesium.
- The bacteria in sauerkraut have been known to reduce the risks of certain cancers, and can reduce cholesterol levels as well.
Luckily, it's also incredibly easy to make yourself. Due to pasteurization processes, grocery store sauerkraut loses out on a lot of nutrition. Plus, it's much cheaper to do it yourself, and you can enhance the flavor of your sauerkraut however you'd like.
Here's the base recipe for making sauerkraut:
Basic Sauerkraut Recipe
- 1 medium green cabbage
- 1 tbsp non-iodized salt (kosher works well)
Cut your cabbage into halves and shred it as finely as you prefer, then put into a large bowl. Add salt to the cabbage, and gently massage the salt throughout the mixture for a few minutes.
Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and you should find a briny liquid forming at the bottom of the bowl, and your cabbage will be more limp.
Transfer the liquid and cabbage to a mason jar, and pack the cabbage down so that all pieces are completely submerged in the liquid. This is an important step: The liquid keeps bad bacteria and molds away from your sauerkraut.
If you have something heavy to keep the pieces packed down, add it now. If not, you may have to go back to the kraut to pack the cabbage down again.
Cover the jar with a cheese cloth, towel, or any other breathable covering. Do not close the jar with a lid, as the cabbage will begin releasing gas as it ferments, which could lead to a burst jar if you don't allow the air to escape.
Put the jar in a cooler area. The ideal temperature for fermentation is about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18-21 degrees Celsius.
Within about one week, you'll have sauerkraut. If you like the flavor, put it in the fridge. If you want it more powerful and tangy, leave it out for longer. Some people leave it out for up to five weeks!
If you find some white scum or mold on the surface of your brine, you may have not added enough salt, or stored it in a place that was a little too warm. Your sauerkraut can still be salvaged. Just skim it off as you see it, and the sauerkraut will still be safe to eat. If the mold is black, pink, or orange, however, it's best to throw it out. Use your best judgment, and it's always better to start again than to get sick.
Ideas for Flavoring Your Sauerkraut
When you make your own sauerkraut at home, the sky's the limit when it comes to different flavor combinations. You can add all kinds of spices, herbs, and even other veggies to your kraut. Here are a few popular combinations to inspire you.
- Carrots and garlic
- Carrots and ginger
- Beets and caraway seeds
- Radish, ginger, and red pepper flakes
- Apples and juniper berries
You can also experiment with red cabbage sauerkraut, or use napa cabbage to make kimchi. With sauerkraut, you're only limited by your own creativity.
Keep in mind that sweeter variations may be subject to more yeasts and molds than others, so make sure to adhere to the ideal temperature, and add a little more salt to protect your kraut.
Sauerkraut makes a wonderfully delicious addition to just about any dish. Toss it up in salads, garnish it on soups, layer it on sandwiches, and of course, pile it on your franks.