Who would have known that getting probiotics into your diet from basic food, could be entirely easy and super inexpensive! All it takes it some good ol’ fashion lacto-fermentation! Now, when I throw out the fancy term “lacto-fermentation,” I know you’re scared…it sounds like a process and it sounds like work. However, I am happy to say, fermenting foods does not require blood, sweat and tears in the kitchen. Being a “10 minute meal” kind-of-woman, when I say easy, I mean your dog could probably do it. So let’s talk business…why should one consume lacto-fermented foods and why is it best to make your own?
What is Fermentation?
First, lets define fermentation. Fermentation is the process of exposing a substance (food or drink) to inoculation or air. Fermentation was actually what our ancestors did before refrigeration in order to cure meats, pickle vegetables, and clabber milk. This was the only way to extend the life of perishable foods and keep unwanted or harmful bacteria away. What is so amazing about the fermentation process is the fact that traditional cultures experienced several health benefits from consuming these fermented foods, such as increased vitamins levels and the ease of digestion.
According to Nourishing Treasures,
In sauerkraut, the fermentation process has an important aim: to quickly proliferate through the food by lactic acid-producing bacteria (LABs), primarily Lactobacilli. These Lactobacilli cause the pH to be reduced, making the environment acidic and unsuitable for the growth of unwanted bacteria.
Modern studies now show the benefits of lactic acid bacteria–the naturally occurring probiotic found in sauerkraut–are effective in cancer protection, particularly colon, prostate, lung and breast cancer. In fact, a large number of clinical studies with probiotics found that the most common probiotics in the human gut are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. So, lactobacillus is exactly what our gut largely consists of! This is why sauerkraut is actually helpful in healing and supporting the gut, better know as our digestive system–it helps to proliferate our naturally occurring bacteria.
Benefits + History of Sauerkraut
More interestingly, lacto-fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, etc., can actually help our bodies to extract the vitamins and minerals from our foods more efficiently. This basically means you receive an extra super-charge vitamin boost! More simply, because cabbage already has a substantial amount of vitamin C and B vitamins, the fermentation process actually increases these values. In fact, 16th-18th century sailors making long treks across the sea were sure to have sauerkraut on board because the high vitamin C values of this fermented food prevented scurvy. Quite amazing! Michael Murray reports that cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, biotin, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Can you imagine getting an extra boost of all these vitamins, simply due to a head of cabbage, water and sea salt? In a nut shell, this is essentially the fermentation process.
Homemade ‘Kraut is a Superfood
Ok, so clearly sauerkraut is an amazing food to incorporate into the diet, but why make it yourself? According to Eden Foods, a leading organic producer of sauerkraut, “there is substantially lowered amount of Lactobacillus bacteria” in store bought sauerkraut due to the pasteurization process. It does however, contain some lactic acid, vitamin C and nutrients, so there are still benefits to consuming store-bought sauerkraut. However, the pasteurization process reduces the properties of fermentation, simply because it is heated to maintain shelf-life. That’s okay, because soon you will be making your very own highly concentrated, vitamin C-rich, mineral-rich kraut yourself! And when the American Cancer Society’s key dietary recommendation to reduce the risk of cancer is to include cruciferous vegetables, such cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower, I say bring on the ‘Kraut!
Here it is the recipe you’ve been waiting for…or rather your digestion!
Ginger + Garlic Sauerkraut Recipe
- 3 cups of red or green cabbage, finely sliced
- 1 cup grated beet (or leave it out and add an extra cup of cabbage or grated carrot)
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1-2 garlic cloves grated
- 1-2 teaspoons grated ginger
- Finely slice and grate cabbage, garlic and ginger. You need about 4 cups total.
- Place in a bowl and massage with 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Let sit on the counter, mixing occasionally for 1-2 hours, until cabbage has wilted and released a little water.
- Place cabbage beet mixture and all the juices in a very clean Mason jar, pack it down with a muddler, or the end of a wooden spoon. Cover with a cabbage leaf. Pack it down once more. Cover it with a cloth, or the lid with a little opening—you want it to able to breath a bit.
- Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage, compressing. After 24 hours, if there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage, mix 1 teaspoon salt with 1 cup water, and ONLY add enough to bring the water level to top of the cabbage. (You will not need to use the whole cup of water).
- Leave on the counter for 3 weeks away from sun, occasionally pressing down on the cabbage. *You will know your sauerkraut is ready for long-term storage (or to eat), when no more bubbles appear on the sides or top of your jar.
- Then place it in the fridge. After it’s chilled, give it a taste! *Enjoy 1-2 tbs a day to keep your digestion happy!
In divine health,
Harris, L. (2012). The Science Behind Sauerkraut Fermentation. retrieved from http://www.nourishingtreasures.com/index.php/2012/05/15/the-science-behind-sauerkraut-fermentation/
Gut Microbiota For Health. Retrieved from http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-diet-gut-microbiota/
Bauman, Ed. & Friedlander, J. (2015) “Foundations of Nutrition.” Bauman College: Penngrove , CA.
Crosta, P. (2015). Medical News Today. Scurvy: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155758.php
LeBlanc, T. (2014). Farm. Food. Life. Magazine. How Sauerkraut Helped Saved the Age of Sail. retrieved from http://modernfarmer.com/2014/04/magical-sour-cabbage-sauerkraut-helped-save-age-sail/
Eden Foods. retrieved from http://www.edenfoods.com/faqs/view.php?categories_id=6