Anyone who spends enough time with me knows how I feel about probiotics. In your digestive system, there are all sorts of microorganisms that help you stay healthy, your gut flora. Medication, alcohol, sugar, and many other factors can harm your gut flora. This can lead to all sorts of health problems. Probiotics help restore your gut flora. Probiotic supplements are available, but not all are of good quality, and the good ones can be really expensive. This is why I’m a fan of sauerkraut (the benefits, not the taste, bleugh). It cost me all of $2 for the cabbage and about $5 for the salt because all I had on hand was iodised salt. The salt will last me for many, many uses.
Now, I know you might be asking yourself why you would make sauerkraut when you can conveniently buy it at the supermarket. Unless otherwise specified, the jarred stuff you buy at the grocery store doesn’t have the probiotic benefits. So, if you’re interested, let’s get started!
What you need
1 cabbage (red or green)
Non-iodized salt (I use 1 tbsp, but work to your tastes)
A large bowl (or two)
Jars – I reused two pickle jars
How to proceed
Quarter the cabbage. Remove the really thick ribs and the core. Take one quarter, lay it down on one of the flat sides, and slice it as thin as you possibly can without adding your fingers to the ingredients. Put the shreds into a bowl. I needed two bowls to fit all the cabbage.
Add the salt now – it will help you for the next step. Because I was using red cabbage and I didn’t want to go to work looking like a smurf, I used plastic gloves, but I just ended up ripping right through them. You might as well not bother with that.
This is where the fun begins. What you’re going to want to do now is start “massaging” the cabbage. Basically, you’ll be grabbing handfuls of shreds and making a fist with your hand, squeezing the cabbage. Kind of like when people with curly hair scrunch their hair. What this will accomplish, after you’ve repeated enough times, is squeeze the juice out of the cabbage and soften it. The salt helps speed that up. The first bowl took me half an hour because I wasn’t sure what to do, but the second bowl took me about seven minutes. You want there to be enough of the cabbage juice to cover all the cabbage once you pack it down in a jar, which is precisely what you’ll want to do at this point (unless you’re easily amused and want to keep squeezing the cabbage).
Make sure the cabbage is packed down as much as it can be in the jar so that the juice level stays higher than the cabbage level. Any cabbage which isn’t covered runs the risk of developing bad bacteria. Now you close the jar and you wait. I suggest doing other things while you wait, like going to work and sleeping, because you’ll be waiting a while. For me, that was four days. Some people say it takes longer though. Open the jar once a day to release the (foul-smelling) gasses. If your house/apartment/unspecified dwelling is too warm, you may start to see mold. You can remove a thin layer of sauerkraut without having to discard the whole batch, if that happens.
When it’s done, the finished product will be a different colour than the cabbage was when you bought it (or stole it, not that I encourage this). A few days after it’s started fermenting, taste it once a day to decide when it’s at the point when you like it. When it gets to that point, you’ll want to transfer it to the fridge.
Because I dislike the taste of sauerkraut, I add a generous amount of olive oil and black pepper when I dish it out, and it actually turns out to be quite tasty. You can cook it or fry it or whatever it is that people do with it, but that gets rid of the probiotic benefits.