I begun my fermenting experiments 4 years ago. Little did I know that I would be following my great grandma’s footsteps. She was from Russia and fermented all sorts of things. As I child I would play in her underground pantry, where she kept all her fermented and pickled foods. Her process was slightly different, yet tasty.
Research has found that gut microbial diversity is strongly linked to improved digestive function, immunity, cardiovascular health, glucose metabolism and even cognitive function.
When I first started eating live fermented foods I felt better than ever. I was digesting food more easily and I had more energy. My first fermenting project was sauerkraut. I think it is one of the easiest recipes out there. Personally, I much prefer fermented sauerkraut to any other commercial sauerkraut as it doesn’t have that vinegary taste.
It is important not to overeat fermented foods.
Fermented sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, which is present on the surface of the cabbage leaves. The bacteria proliferates in an ideal medium, such as salty brine. Sauerkraut has a distinctive sour flavour, which is the result of the bacteria fermenting the natural sugars in the cabbage.
In the end, it’s the microbes that will have the last word. Louis Pasteur
Why fermented foods don’t work for everyone?
Fermented foods like sauerkraut contain beneficial byproducts of fermentation, as well as live microbes to boost your gut diversity. Unfortunately during the fermentation process certain bacteria also produce the byproduct, histamine. People who are histamine intolerant can feel pretty unwell after eating fermented foods.
Histamine intolerance is not a sensitivity but an indication that you’ve built-up too much histamine in the body. There are many symptoms linked with histamine intolerance that resembles allergies and food sensitivity, but the symptoms tend to be slow, subtle and even chronic. Symptoms of histamine intolerance can include skin irritation, hives, throat tightening or itching, increased heart rate, irritability and mental fogginess, nasal congestion, headaches, fatigue, trouble with inflammation, and possibly even weight gain.
If you think you may have histamine intolerance you should speak to your Naturopath to get some advice on how to lower your histamine build-up.
What is the difference with pickled vs fermented?
Pickled foods are those that have been preserved in an acidic medium such as vinegar. Even though some taste great, pickled foods are not fermented therefore they do not offer the same probiotic and enzymatic value of home made fermented vegetables. Some of the fermented foods that you find in the supermarket are not kept in the fridge therefore are the product of high heat and pressure process which in turn destroys nutrients and microorganisms. Whereas naturally fermented foods are full of beneficial lactobacilli. So let’s get fermenting!
Rainbow Sauerkraut Recipe
Try this delicious and easy sauerkraut recipe.
- 1/2 white cabbage & 1/2 red cabbage
- 1 1/2 large tablespoon celtic sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- Handful of organic cranberries or juniper berries
- Chop the cabbage finely. I like to chop mine about half a centimetre as it keeps the ‘crunch’ effect. However, it is common for people to cut their sauerkraut as finely as possible.
- In a large deep bowl mix the chopped cabbage thoroughly with salt.
- Punch and squeeze (massage) the cabbage for at least 5-10 minutes to extract the cabbage’s juices. This juice will be the brine.
- Leave to sit between 1-3 hours (depends on the cabbage – each cabbage is different). I’m normally impatient and only leave it for an hour. After an hour there should be a decent amount of brine amongst the shredded cabbage (you will know if you have enough brine once you pack the cabbage into the jar).
- Mix the caraway seeds and cranberries or junipers in the cabbage.
- Tightly pack the shredded cabbage into your mason jar. I use my hands. Make sure to press the cabbage down as tightly as you can to eliminate any air bubbles. As you press the cabbage down into the jar the brine should emerged, if this does not happen then return the cabbage back into the bowl and allow it to sit for a while longer. The shredded cabbage must be kept underneath the brine to avoid spoilage.
- Important: Plug the cabbage. To make a plug use a whole cabbage leaf and place it on top of the tightly packed cabbage. Then cut a piece of carrot and place it on top of the cabbage leaf. Once the lid has been closed the carrot plug will push the cabbage leaf and this will ensure that all the shredded cabbage remains underneath the liquid (brine).
- Allow it to ferment. Place a plate underneath your jar just in case some liquid comes out.You can un-crock the sauerkraut as early as 2 weeks.
Some people argue that real kraut is not ready until it has fermented for 6 months. You can make your own rules. I usually allow mine to ferment for about 14-28 days. Once you un-crock (open) your jar throw the carrot plug and cabbage leaf in your compost. I place my sauerkraut in the fridge once I have opened it so that it lasts longer and doesn’t produce any mould.
HINT: The ideal temperature for fermenting is 18-25ºC. If you are experiencing a hot summer, sit your fermenting sauerkraut in a tray of water and place a wet light cloth over the jar with the edges of the cloth sitting in the water. This will keep the air in between the cloth and jar cooler than outside. Hotter temperatures can speed up fermentation but don’t produce the best flavoured foods and can also encourage mould.
Other spices you can add to your sauerkraut– fresh ginger, fresh garlic, cumin, caraway, lemongrass
Other veggies you can add to your sauerkraut– carrot, beetroot, ginger, garlic, kale, green beans.
Maybe try a Thai sauerkraut?– lemon grass, chilli, kaffir leaves <3
Traditional sauerkraut inputs– apples, juniper berries & caraway.
General Fermenting Rules
- Always make sure the brine covers the veggies
- Try and choose organic vegetables for best health results
- Celtic sea salt is a one of the best options
- Trust your nose. If you see bright psychedelic mould throw away.
- Have fun!
I hope you fall in love with fermented foods. Remember to eat them in moderation to avoid histamine build-up.