Let’s talk about guts. Ewww, right? No.
Our “guts”, when working properly, are a beautiful thing and oh-so vital to the way every other system in our bodies perform. Often, when we think about boosting our immune system, we think of washing our hands, getting plenty of vitamin C and so on… but protecting our intestinal wall with living, disease-fighting bacteria is actually one of the most powerful ways we can improve our health and vitality in every area.
One of the best ways to protect our guts (or digestive tract, to be more specific) is with live, fermented foods that are packed with lactic acid bacteria. These good bacteria aid the break-down of food, keeping harmful microorganisms at bay and allowing for better nutrient absorption. They’re also loaded with micronutrients, such as choline, that can be tough to get in our everyday diet.
“All Disease Begins in the Gut”- Hippocrates
One of my favorite ways to reap the benefits of living, fermented food is through raw sauerkraut (note that the unrefrigerated sauerkraut on most store shelves is pasteurized and contains no live cultures). Not only does raw sauerkraut boast the benefits of a fermented food, but cabbage happens to be a cruciferous vegetable, along with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and radishes. These vegetables combat many cancers, lower cholesterol, have anti-inflammatory properties and enhance your liver’s detoxification process. One serving of quality, raw sauerkraut delivers a health boost that surpasses many expensive probiotic supplements in stores, and for a lot less money!
A few conditions that fermented foods, like sauerkraut, help combat:
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Mental Illness
- Autoimmune Diseases
Three-Ingredient Sauerkraut Recipe
Medium Head of green, red or napa cabbage (approximately 3 lbs)
1 ½ tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp caraway seeds
What You’ll Need
Chef’s knife or food processor
Two quart-sized mason jars
Jelly jar or cup
Clean stones or marbles
Piece of cloth for covering jar
- Cut Cabbage. Remove wilted, limp outer layers of the cabbage. Cut cabbage into large chunks, removing core. Slice each chunk into thin ribbons.
- Add Salt and massage. Move cabbage into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt. Begin massaging the salt into the cabbage with your hands. After 5 or 10 minutes, the cabbage will start to have a more tender texture, more like coleslaw than raw cabbage.
- Mix in caraway seeds.
- Pack cabbage into the mason jars. Every so often, push the cabbage deeper into jar. Pour any remaining liquid into the jar- just leave an inch of space on top as the mixture will start to bubble after a couple of days.
- Weigh the cabbage down. Once all the cabbage is packed into the Mason jar, slip a smaller jelly jar or cup into the mouth of the larger jar and fill it with clean stones. This will help push the cabbage down so that it’s eventually submerged in its own liquid.
- Cover the jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air into the jar but prevents dust and insects from getting into it.
- Press the cabbage every few hours. Over the next 24 hours, press the cabbage down into its liquid. As the cabbage releases more liquid, it will become limp and compact and the liquid will increase.
- Add extra liquid if needed.
- Ferment for 3 to 10 days. Keep sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a temperature between 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.
- Start tasting it after three days. You can let it continue fermenting as long as you’d like- there’s no absolute answer- just whatever tastes good to you at this point. When the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw the cap and refrigerate.
And voilà! Aside from the health-benefits of sauerkraut, its tangy crunch is a great addition to soups, salads, proteins or even by itself.
Things to Note
- Since sauerkraut is fermented, it will keep for at least two months if refrigerated. As long as it still smells and looks good, it will be.
- You’ll likely see bubbles and foam as your brew matures to its most beneficial state. This is all normal and part of the process.
- Note that your mix may develop a white, velvety film on the top. If this happens, simply skim it off the top and fish out any solids that it may have left behind.
Other fermented foods that benefit gut health:
- Greek Yogurt