Grow your own Sauerkraut Garden.

The sensation that bursts through my mouth when I eat sauerkraut is always a pleasure. Sour but alive, hard to describe. Hints of whatever I have decided to add to the basic cabbage recipe. Even just plain old sauerkraut made only on cabbage and salt is a treat when fermented correctly.  As it ferments it magically transforms from ‘salty cabbage’ (gross) to a zingy, sour, make your tastebuds really come alive kind of food. It transforms the humble cabbage into sauerkraut – full of Vit C,  B Vitamins and living enzymes.

And it is so versatile.  Apart from eating it straight out of the bottle (no double dipping please!) and not being able to stop at the first mouthful it compliments so many foods.

Whether it is eaten on homemade sough dough for breakfast, tossed through my shredded salad at lunch time or on my plate at dinner time with veggies and meat, sauerkraut always helps to lift a meal.  It takes the flavour, the nutrient and the whole experience of eating to a new level. It helps my body to digest and absorb all those nutrients better and each spoonful of this delicious live food is teaming with probiotics – beneficial bacteria which help colonise the gut, boost the immune system and help our nutrient levels.  Millions in every spoonful. No bland pills to swallow but a whole food that helps re-establish and revitalise my system.

But by adding in kale or carrot, caraway seeds, and also prebiotics (foods that feeds probiotics) like garlic and onion, I feel really energised just thinking about the goodness created in that magic jar of living food.  The sky’s the limit. I’ve added beetroot, apple, barley green, orange juice, matcha green tea powder, turmeric, and on and on.  Some of them were a little overpowering. A bit strong – like when I added too much garlic or too much beetroot.

Experiment ’til you find what suits you.  I like 2 parts cabbage to one part Cavolo Nero or Curly green kale. Some grated onion, a few cloves of crushed fresh garlic, a little turmeric (but not too much) and a hint of match green tea powder for that extra boost of nutrient.

The amazing thing about this wonder food is that it is SOOO easy to make. So simple that it is profound how good it truly is.

  • I use 1 tablespoon of sea salt to 1 kg of cabbage. 

Just cut the core out of your cabbage, reserve a couple of the whole outer leaves for later and shred the rest of the cabbage very fine. Toss in the sea salt and massage it through with your hands so that cabbage starts to shrink as it releases it’s juices. You can add some caraway seeds for flavour – this is optional. As mentioned above, there are lots of things you can add. Try the basic sauerkraut first and then start experimenting. 

I give mine a bit of a pounding with the end of rolling pin to help the process along.   HINT: Don’t do the pounding in the glass jar. I did this only once – the side of the jar exploded from the pressure and it made a huge mess with juice running down the sides of my bench and wasted a lot of time and good food!

Pack the cabbage tightly into a wide mouthed glass jar or crock. Press it down as tight as you can. Leave a couple inches of headspace. 

I place a scrunched up cabbage leaf (reserved from the outer leaves of the cabbage) into the top of my jars. This keeps the cabbage submerged under it’s own liquid. It needs to stay submerged in liquid.  The top of the actual cabbage leaf is often above the liquid but this is ok. So long as the sauerkraut underneath is submerged from the air it will be fine. 

I place a loose fitting lid on top so that it can breath. You can use a flip top jar with a rubber seal – this expands with the gasses.  I also place my jars on a tray because during the first day or two the juices expand so that they sometimes overflow out of the top of the jar. After a day or so it settles back down but can make a smelly mess in the meantime if the jars aren’t on a tray.  As it starts to ferment you will see little bubbles making their way up through the cabbage to the surface. Yay – it is coming to life!

If for some reason not enough liquid comes out of the cabbage after a day or two or it evaporates along the way you can make a mixture using 1.5 tablespoons sea salt dissolved in 1 Litre of un-chlorinated/filtered water to top it up so that it stays submerged. 

Let it stand at room temp for a week or longer.

We live in cool climate so when I make it at the beginning of winter I will leave it for a month or two or three.  So long as it is submerged and not too warm it just gets better. 

When done, take the cabbage leaf off the top, toss it away, check that it all looks good and taste the goodness underneath. It should taste sour, not salty. It shouldn’t be slimy but sort of crispy soft.

 Don’t be fooled by the smell…it tastes nothing like it smells…always a pleasant surprise! 

Keep the sauerkraut in the fridge.  It doesn’t need to be submerged in its own liquid once in the fridge but will keep for a long time…it never stays for very long in our fridge… disappears quite quickly. 

If you over salt it, it won’t ferment properly and will stay salty.   I have found that I need different amounts of salt in Summer than Winter.

I have a ‘sauerkraut’ afternoon every few months and make up several very large jars at a time and empty them into smaller jars when I need them for the fridge.

When the bottle of kraut has been eaten there is usually some of the fermented juice in the bottom of the bottle. This is a delicious super tonic. I resist drinking it myself and save it for the kids because not only do they love it – it is so healthy for their tummy’s.  They love being handed ‘the dregs’ and slurping on this probiotic, nutrient dense, zingy juice.

When someone in the household is feeling a bit off they will often reach for the sauerkraut jar and have a few spoonfuls to help settle their stomach.

If you buy pre-made sauerkraut it needs to be unpasteurised.  The pasteurising kills off the beneficial bacteria and while it may taste nice, you are missing out on the real benefit.  Sort of like a beautiful rose with no scent….kind of feels like half a rose…if you know what I mean.

The pasteurised stuff you buy in a can on the shelf in the supermarket is dead. As is the stuff imported from overseas.  It was my first introduction to sauerkraut and I must say I wasn’t sold on it…it was sort of slimy, looked gross and didn’t taste that great.  So if that was your first impression too then don’t give up….find the real deal.  It should be in the refrigerated section of the supermarket/ health food store.

My 2nd introduction was a bottle of ‘live’ sauerkraut. Very live!  I placed it on the floor of the car and during the 2 hour car journey home it warmed up and I could hear it hissing and expanding as the lid bulged and it overflowed down the side of the jar and filled the car with a not too nice smell.  A gassy cabbage smell.  I took the lid off and tasted it and it was DELICIOUS. I was hooked.  It didn’t last long. By that night the whole bottle was gone.  Made by “Gutsy Ferments” in QLD.  Some of the nicest store bought I have eaten.

Now when I go on holidays I like to try sauerkraut from all around the country. It really is a unique product and has so many variations. A bit like kombucha…but that is another subject.

So that is why I love sauerkraut.

It adds zing , life and interest to my food and my body.

And it is SOOOO easy.

Why not go one step further and plant a ‘sauerkraut garden’.  You wouldn’t need much space to grow a cabbage or two and a few kale plants or anything else you might like to add. It’s a great feeling to know that it all (or part of it) came from your own back yard.