The mention of Sauerkraut evokes some interesting reactions in people and I have to confess that when I first learnt about the benefits of fermented foods making Sauerkraut out of cabbage was not high on my agenda. In a previous post I have written about the necessity for probiotics in the diet to replenish all the healthy intestinal flora and kefir and yoghurt are wholefoods that can play a role in doing this, however there are many many other foods that can be fermented and incorporated into our diets to reseed the gut and provide us with a naturally healthy digestive system.
Fermenting foods is almost like a lost art, historically it was used across nearly all cultures as a way of preserving their food in the absence of refrigerators and other modern conveniences. And like most more natural traditions, our ancestors understood the many health benefits that fermented foods provided. Fermented foods go through a process called lacto – fermentation whereby starches and sugars in fruits and veges are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic acid producing bacteria. These friendly bacteria do more than just help to preserve, in fact they can help improve the digestibilty of the food, provide beneficial enzymes and have antibiotic and anticarcinogenic properties. It’s interesting that as we have lost the art of fermentation (to coincide with the industrial revolution & processing of food), we have also become susceptible to many many more pathogenic diseases.
Sauerkraut is just one of many fermented foods that you can incorporate into your diet. It can be added to meat dishes to help provide some natural digestive enzymes or eaten in small quantities daily to increase the amount of healthy gut flora. It also happens to taste delicious, I love it with pan fried salmon and mash or a nice piece of fillet steak. The best part about it is that it is super easy to prepare.
The below recipe is from one of my all time favourite books Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. There is a recipe in there on how to prepare your own whey however if you don’t have whey you can substitute for good quality salt. So there is really no excuse why we can’t all enjoy the benefits of fermented foods today.
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)
In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes or when you feel enought juices have been released. Place in a 1 litre mason jar with a wide mouth and press down firmly with each layer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 3 days then transfer to cold storage. It can be eaten straight away but keeps improving with age.