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Sauerkraut

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Sauerkraut came to America primarily from Germanic countries, where the word literally means “Sour Cabbage.”  For centuries, people preserved vegetables with salt and natural fermentation to extend the life of their harvest. The fermentation process actually helps break down the food and render it more digestible, and turn it into a probiotic food. Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is one of the most classic examples of a fermented vegetable in western culinary traditions.

Making traditional lacto-fermented sauerkraut is simple. Sauerkraut is a staple in my household. Once prepared, it is an “instant veggie” that can just be pulled out of the jar and added to any meal on a busy night as a vegetable side. We rarely have a day where we don't serve it with dinner in my household.

Core and finely chop your cabbage, saving a few of the outer leaves whole. Toss it in a bowl with two tablespoons sea salt.  Pound and smash the cabbage until you begin to see juices forming in the bowl (the more you pound and break it down the better.)  Add the cabbage to Mason jars.  Wide mouth quart Mason jars are easiest , you'll probably need two depending on cabbage size.  Use a large spoon or another tool to press the cabbage firmly in the jar.  Apply significant pressure, and you will start to see the juices rise above the chopped cabbage.  The firmer you can press it down, the better.  

Once all the cabbage is submerged, fold one of the outer leaves you saved from earlier and press it down to keep the cabbage below the liquid. Apply a weight, such as a small clean stone , but this is not strictly necessary. Cap the jar tightly and leave at room temp for three days. “Burp” the jars once daily by opening the lid just a crack to let out any built up pressure. If some liquid oozes out, that's OK. Transfer to the fridge after three to six days, and store it indefinitely. If a room of your house stays somewhat cool, you can also store it in a cool room, since the lacto bacilli probiotic organisms proliferate in the anaerobic environment and preserve the cabbage.

When you are ready to serve, discard the leaf at the top, and peel off the top layer of sauerkraut which may have been exposed to oxygen, if it looks darker than the rest of the jar.  It goes very well as a veggie condiment with almost any meal -- the pleasantly sour taste complements many foods nicely.  Consuming sauerkraut with your meal should aid your digestion, since it adds fiber and probiotics.

You can literally make sauerkraut with no other ingredients except cabbage and salt. If however you want to add some more flavor to your sour kraut, press 2 cloves of garlic into the chopped, smashed cabbage before adding it to the Mason jars. My personal favorite combination is garlic and dill added to the cabbage. A little bit of grated carrot will add beautiful color and diversity of nutrients in your kraut. 

Fun fact: Dr. John Jay Terrell was a military doctor during the civil war, who voluntarily accepted a station at a quarantine hospital for wounded soldiers suffering from smallpox.  He implemented many reforms at the hospital, including having a barrel of sauerkraut made for the patients.  The sauerkraut, together with other sanitary improvements made to the hospital, reduced the smallpox death rate from over 50 percent to 5 percent!

If you live within our delivery zone and would like to purchase some of the key ingredients for several of the variations below, click here to pre-load them in your shopping cart. (works only in browser, not in our mobile app)

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  • Max Becher
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