Fermented cabbage--known as Sauerkraut to the Germans, who made this dish famous--was first made in China about 2000 years ago. They would ferment their cabbage in rice wine as a way to preserve it.
This preserving fermentation comes with some surprises. It imparts a tart and tangy flavor while making the nutrients in the cabbage more bioavailable and adding a layer of health-boosting bacteria (probiotics) to the cabbage. It preserves the cabbage and turns it into a superfood at the same time!
Sauerkraut that is traditionally fermented in this way (and not pasteurized) is a superior source of microbiome-supporting probiotics--it contains far more lactobacillus than yogurt. Because of these healthy bacteria, eating sauerkraut can vastly improve digestive health and provide a boost to the immune system.
In addition to healthful probiotics, fermented cabbage is loaded with vitamins C and K, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and fiber. It is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also really delicious!
At our house when my kids have tummy troubles I’ll often find them snacking on sauerkraut or drinking straight sauerkraut juice. (They just pour it into a glass!) Depending on the ailment, they may experience immediate relief. Sauerkraut usually makes quick work of gas, bloating, and indigestion and can calm some stomach bugs pretty quickly, too.
I don’t like to ever run out of sauerkraut, so my solution is to make it at home. This recipe is simple and easy to make with just two ingredients--cabbage and salt. The fermentation does all the work.
This same process works just as well with other vegetables, so try it with all your favorites. Start a new healthy habit of eating some raw fermented vegetables every day and see the positive effects on your health!
Note: Depending on how sour you like it, it will take 1 to 4 weeks for your cabbage to ferment.
Homemade Sauerkraut for Gut Health
2.5-lb Head of Green Cabbage
4-5 tsp Salt
If possible, weigh your cabbage to determine the exact amount of salt you'll need--use 1.5-2 tsp per pound of cabbage.
Remove the outermost few leaves of the cabbage and cut out and remove the core. Rinse the remaining cabbage leaves well. Shake out all the excess water.
Reserve on outer leaf. Thinly shred the rest of the cabbage with a knife or food processor and place into a large bowl.
Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and toss well. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Massage the cabbage with your hands for 5 minutes to get it to release its liquid.
Pack the cabbage firmly into a clean quart-sized jar. Pour the liquid that was released from the cabbage over the top.
Return to the reserved cabbage leaf from Step 3. Cut a circle out of it sized to cover the cabbage in the jar and fit your circle into place. Place a weight (pieces of the core work well) on top of the cabbage to keep the shredded cabbage submerged in the liquid. If the liquid doesn't completely cover the cabbage, top it off with a 2% solution of salt water (1 tsp. salt per cup of water).
Screw a lid onto the jar and place the jar in a rimmed pan (in case of overflow). Allow cabbage to ferment in a dark location (or covered with a dark towel) at room temperature for at least one week and up to four. The longer you leave your kraut to sit, the more sour it will be.
Once your sauerkraut is done fermenting, store it in the fridge and enjoy!