I'm all about the DIY, especially when it comes to fermented foods that are normally crazy expensive to buy, but crazy delicious to eat.
We've talked kombucha on this blog before, and if you're interested in making your own check out that post here. But maybe kombucha isn't your thing or you're looking to branch out? Great! Because the feel-good bacteria don't stop there, and can be found in the best sandwich, salad or breakfast topper ever: sauerkraut.
Not only is homemade sauerkraut much less expensive than store-bought, but in many cases it's also much healthier to eat.
An easy rule of thumb is to never buy the sauerkraut you find on the shelf if you're looking for the gut-healing benefits. The ones on the shelf are often pasteurized, meaning heat is applied to allow the cabbage to stay fresher for longer. But when we pasteurize fermented foods, we're also killing off the good bacteria that is beneficial for gut health, and therefore removing the health benefits.
The good bacteria found in properly fermented 'kraut help to keep our BM's regular, our immune system thriving and boosts our energy levels. It does this by taking up space that can otherwise by occupied by the harmful bacteria that suck nutrients away from us and create the perfect environment for illness to arise.
To ensure you're making a safe batch, clean everything prior to use including your hands. Always try to use a mild, scent free soap to avoid any chemical contamination or contaminants from scented oils (I recommend Dr. Bronner's unscented baby soap for cleaning jars and tools).
If you DO see mould, discard the entire batch, clean the jar really well, and start the whole process over. It's unfortunate, but it's always better to be on the safe side when fermenting!
NORMAL SIGNS OF FERMENTATION
1) BUBBLES: we love bubbles! They show us that there is active fermentation happening and are a sign of a healthy batch.
2) FILM/FOAM: it's normal to get a thin film collecting at the top of the jar, or to have a collection of foam as well.
3) VINEGAR-Y SMELL: that's the acetic acid forming, and is 100% normal and welcomed (this is also what makes kombucha smell like old gym socks...), as it is great for our digestion and keeping the ferment free of bad bacteria.
Now let's get to it:
WHAT YOU NEED
1 head of cabbage (you can experiment with different kinds)
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 fermentation weight (or something heavy that fits in the mouth of the jar)
Slice the cabbage thinly by hand or using a mandoline, and place in a large bowl. Add salt and begin massaging the cabbage with your hands, until you can squeeze out enough of the cabbage juice to cover up the sliced pieces (takes about 10-15 minutes). Slowly, the cabbage will begin to soften and the juices will be pulled out by the salt.
Once enough juice is extracted to cover, tightly pack the cabbage into your mason jar as firmly as possible. Really pack it in there! Cover completely with the extracted liquid (if there is not enough liquid to cover, you can add a bit of water as necessary).
Use the fermentation weight, or heavy (clean!!) object to weigh down the cabbage in the jar, keeping it below the liquid. Avoid anything plastic for the weight since it could leach into the jar as the fermentation process creates organic acids that can break down plastic over time.
Cover the jar with a cloth and secure it with an elastic band. Leave the jar for 2-3 weeks, out of direct sunlight and in an area that stays close to room temperature.
Keep tasting your batch between the 2-3 week mark until your desired flavour is reached:
Not strong enough? Let it sit for a few more days.
Too vinegar-y? Reduce the fermentation time on the next batch.
Cabbage has just started it's season here in Ontario, so go grab some fresh from the farmer's market and try it for yourself! Get creative with added spices and ingredients based off of this basic recipe and be amazed (or maybe disgusted, some combos just don't work out...) at the unique flavour this ferment can create.
E N J O Y.