Sauerkraut


Soon after arriving in Ireland I had my first taste of raw Sauerkraut. Even though I only ate what was left in the jar, which lasted for a few days, my stomach seemed to relax and there was a release of tension in my body generally.

Once I moved to the new house and was settled in I bought a crock and made my own, it was one of those compelled to do things 😉

The addition of raw Sauerkraut with the beneficial probiotic bacteria to my diet had a remarkable and instantaneous effect, and I mean instantaneous 😮 I went from eating a 200 gram bag of hazelnuts a day, to more or less none within a few weeks. An improvement in my general heath as well.
It was also evident that when I ran out, the nut cravings returned along with what I term stress related activities. i.e. mindlessly playing backgammon on the smart phone 😏 The chewing of fingernails, grinding teeth in your sleep, knee bobbing, would all be examples of what I term stress related activity, which I now believe is caused by nutrient deficiency. The imbalance of the gut bacteria making it difficult for the digestive system to absorb the nutrients the body needs. Malnourishment 🤔

You don’t have to put fermented food in the fridge, and my feeling is that it increases its potency if its left at room temperature. Perhaps the good bacteria are more active at room temperature and more able to penetrate through the stomach into the intestine.

Sauerkraut is claimed to be one of the best foods for healing the gut. It contains an enzyme called S-Methylmethionine also known as vitamin U which is particularly effective at healing the digestive system including stomach ulcers. S-Methylmethionine also feeds colon cells, helping them to heal from all types of damage.
Sauerkraut is a good food to reduce the impact of autoimmune disease. Allergic rhinitis which I have, has improved. It’s also one of the richest sources of vitamin C, which as well as boosting your immune system helps to stimulate collagen production for healthier skin, joints, nails and eyes.

Channel 4 – food unwrapped

This TV program gave probiotic food a mixed review, though all of the tests were in vitro, i.e. done outside of the human body. Perhaps there is something else going on and the beneficial bacteria have a way of getting through the stomach to the intestine. Perhaps even the chemicals and nutrients in the Sauerkraut have a beneficial effect on the digestion and body. Sauerkraut is full of vitamin C and other nutrients.
Raw Sauerkraut certainly has a hugely beneficial impact on me, trying it for yourself won’t be expensive, and there are no downsides so far as I am aware. A good risk to possible reward ratio 😉
There was some other dubious science in the episode, and I’ve had dealings with this type of popular TV program in the past. Their main objective is to tell a good story to attract viewers. As I say Sauerkraut worked for me and significantly so !

After initial success using a crock, every batch I made after that was “cabbaged” to coin a phrase. I looked around for another method.

Below is my critique of the different systems I’ve tried.

Harsch fermenting Crock

  • Pros
    • Large volume.
  • Cons
    • Expensive in the US.
    • Very heavy to move around.
    • Personally after an initial success lots of failures.

Easy fermentation lids

  • Pros
    • Used in conjunction with glass wide mouth jars; you get to see what’s going on during fermentation.
    • No need to transfer into smaller jars or containers.
    • The lids have a date setter, so you can keep track of the fermentation period.
  • Cons
    • Expensive.
    • At the time I researched, not shipped out-with North America.
    • They came with a vacuum pump to extract the CO2, but I found this just increased the evaporation of the brine.
    • One of the lids didn’t seal properly.

Sterilock

  • Pros
    • Used in conjunction with glass wide mouth jars; you get to see what’s going on during fermentation.
    • No need to transfer into smaller jars or containers.
    • Shipping to Ireland was quick and relatively inexpensive, and it seemed global shipping was easy as well.
    • The small capsules have an antibacterial insert which can be replaced rather than replacing the whole plastic capsule, making them environmentally more friendly.
  • Cons
    • You need to replace the small antibacterial insert each time. A small expense, but an expense.

Fermentology Sauer System

  • Pros
    • Used in conjunction with glass wide mouth jars; you get to see what’s going on during fermentation.
    • No need to transfer into smaller jars or containers.
    • Got these from amazon, so you are probably going to get them everywhere at reasonable cost with fast delivery.
    • Nothing to replace.
  • Cons
    • Sometimes a residue builds up inside the airlocks, though it’s relatively easily cleaned out.

The useful thing about these airlock lids and wide mouth Kilner jars, as opposed to the Traditional crocks is that you can see whats going on. One litre wide mouth jars are widely available. I also use a couple of 2 litre mason jars, good for larger batches. You need to transfer to smaller jars if you want to put them in the fridge, though as I say, Sauerkraut may be more potent when left at room temperature.
So after six plus years of making Sauerkraut (November 2023) I’ve settled on an inexpensive and full proof method.

Making Sauerkraut is very easy.

Equipment:

  • A means of labelling the jars with the start date of the fermentation. I’d recommend leaving the fermentation for at least four weeks, so it’s useful to reference the start.
    I use the Dymo Letra Tag has been excellent, very easy to use.
  • Sharp kitchen knifes.
  • A chopping board.
  • You can cut up your cabbage with a sharp knife, though if you are making large amounts regularly, then a food processor with a slicing blade will be very helpful, and reduce the time it takes considerably.
  • A weigh scale to ensure you add just the right amount of salt to your cabbage. The ratio is 2%, i.e. 20 grams of salt to 1000 grams of cabbage.
  • A small bowl to weigh out the salt.
  • A large mixing bowl to weigh out the cabbage, and mix the salt into it.
  • Wide mouth Kilner jars.
  • A rolling pin. Special cabbage bashers are available. An inexpensive supermarket rolling pin works fine for me.
  • A measuring jug, to mix up a 2% brine mixture 20 grams of salt to 1 litre of water, filtered or spring water if possible.
  • Fermentology Air Lock kit or your own choice.
  • Glass fermentation weights.
    Beware that glass weights vary in diameter and so do wide mouth jars, so be sure they fit perpendicularly as in the video.

Ingredients:

  • White cabbage.
  • Pure salt ! Salt without any additives like caking agent. Some people use Himalayan rock salt. I prefer pure sea salt.

The consensus is that Sauerkraut takes at least four weeks to fully ferment. Personally I think the flavour improves the longer it’s left.

When you open the lid on your Sauerkraut it should smell acrid and acidic.

My final thoughts are that making Sauerkraut is very easy. Keep everything clean. You don’t need to sterilise everything. Initially I was overly careful to keep any air from getting in, but really the most important thing is to make sure the Sauerkraut is covered in brine.

During the first week or so when the fermentation process gives off most CO2; I open the jars and squeezed down on the glass weights to squeeze out the fermentation gasses and keep the cabbage covered in brine. This helps prevent the CO2 pushing the brine out of the airlock. CO2 is heavier than air, so a covering of CO2 should remain  at the top of the jar.
After this stage I pretty much leave it be, unless the brine level falls below the top of the glass weight. If it does I open the jar and top it up with a 20 grams of salt to 1 litre water which makes brine.
Likewise, I make sure the airlock has sufficient water.

One of my favourite meals 🙂

Sauerkraut on toast complete meal
  • The health benefits and my experience of Sauerkraut above.
  • Sourdough bread is claimed to be a prebiotic, so it very much compliments the probiotic Sauerkraut 😉
  • Nuts are packed with nutrients, in the mix I have with this meal, Hazelnuts, Cashew nuts, Walnuts and Almonds; all unsalted 😉
  • Avocados are full of vitamins as well as omega-3 and are high in healthy fats.
  • Olives are high in vitamin E and other antioxidants.
  • There are some interesting health claims for Blue cheese, it will be a source of calcium for bones and teeth, it may even help boost the immune system.
    The taste compliments this meal perfectly 🙂

The citrus squeezer has been great for squeezing out the excess brine, though the riveted pin did fail quite early. No probs, I improvised with a nut and bolt. A bit rusty now, though it’s clean.

Citrus squeezer