Purple kraut has become a staple at our place. It’s so handy to have a jar of kraut in the fridge, ready to eat. I serve kraut with eggs for breakfast, on sandwiches or in salads for lunch, and with proteins for dinner, and I do my best to make sure we never run out.
Cabbage is a brassica vegetable and, although brassicas prefer the cooler months, cabbage is usually available year-round.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is arguably the most comprehensive do-it-yourself home-fermentation book ever published. If you are interested in learning more about home fermentation and gut health, this in-depth practical guide is a must-read. Available here and at most libraries.
Question: How do live-culture foods affect digestion?
First of all, fermented foods are to varying degrees pre-digested, resulting in improved overall availability of nutrients. In live-culture foods, we ingest bacteria that help digest food and produce a multiplicity of protective compounds as they pass through our intestines, enabling us to get more from our food and discouraging pathogenic bacteria by their presence. Many people find that their digestion improves as a result of incorporating live-culture foods into their diets. I have heard many antidotal reports of improvements in digestion resulting from the regular ingestion of live cultures for people suffering from a broad band of digestive conditions, as varied as constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and many more serious chronic diseases. It appears that, as a group, foods with live lactic acid bacteria can help improve almost anyone’s digestion, without safety risk or huge expense. In some cases, these foods might, just might, be able to help improve or even resolve many varied health problems, acute and chronic. That said, individual responses will vary; and it’s always good to introduce new foods, especially those containing live cultures, gradually and in small doses.
Question: How do you know you’ve eaten too much kraut? I’ll answer this one:
You’ll be bloated and have gas. Ease up on the kraut, people. 😉
As for preparing a delicious kraut, here are three tips that will help you to deliver the goods.
- Purchase an organically grown cabbage. They are not that much more expensive, they’re full of goodness and they taste better.
- Use a mandolin to shred your cabbage. Finely shredded cabbage tastes better – yes, it does. Be careful with the mandolin if you haven’t used one before. Use the guard, please!
- Use sea salt and fennel seeds. The sea salt is packed with trace minerals and is better for you than table salt. Table salt has been stripped of minerals during processing. The fennel gives you a delightful pop of aniseed when you eat it. The traditional way of making sauerkraut is with juniper berries, caraway seeds, black peppercorns, apples and white wine. I prefer the clean flavour of red cabbage, sea salt and fennel seeds. If you’re not sure, pop a fennel seed in your mouth and see if you like the flavour, or make a small amount of kraut to see if you like it.
Sauerkraut takes time to prepare and it is quite messy. You’ll more than likely need to clean cabbage off the floor and the cabbage juice off the bench, and this is why I usually make a big batch to last a few months. Less time cleaning, more time eating kraut. 😀
Kraut will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 months, maybe longer. If it tastes good – it’s good to eat.
Purple cabbage and fennel seed Sauerkraut
2 kg of kraut will fill a 2-litre jar (or use smaller jars if that’s what you have)
1.5–2 kg purple cabbage
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Wash your hands and a mason jar/s (or similar) thoroughly. The jar needs to be spotless. Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and keep for jar plugs. (I’ll explain more about this later.) Cut the cabbage lengthways into manageable wedges and shred using a mandolin (or a large sharp knife). Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, and add the salt and fennel seeds. Massage the salt and seeds into the cabbage for 5–10 minutes or until the cabbage is ringing wet.
Pack the kraut into the jar/s and press down firmly. I use a small meat mallet to do this. Pack to the shoulder of the jar; the cabbage juice should cover the kraut. Fold one of the outer leaves into the shape of a plug to fit over the kraut. Seal with the lid, not too tightly, and place the jar on the kitchen bench. Sit the jar/s in a plastic container to catch any of the bubbling fermentation that will ooze from the jar overnight.
I usually leave my kraut to ferment on the kitchen bench at room temperature for 7 days, or around 5 days if it’s very hot in the kitchen or 10 days if it’s colder. Taste the kraut after a few days – it should start to taste sour. When you like the taste, remove the cabbage plug and reseal the lid. Place in refrigerator and keep refrigerated until required.