January 2016
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Easy Homemade Sauer Kraut

It is a well-documented fact that fermented foods are good for your health. If your digestion is not good, you won’t absorb the nutrients in your food. Eating a little bit of fermented food every day will help populate your gut with the healthy bacteria you need for proper digestion.

A lesser known fact is that antibiotics kill off the healthy bacteria in our bodies as well as the bad ones. Most of us want to take as few drugs as possible, but sometimes we get sick and it is necessary. So it is extra important to repopulate your gut after you take a course of antibiotics.

There are many foods that may help your digestion – yogurt, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha to name a few. Today I’m going to explain how to make one of our favorites at home – Sauer kraut.

Our early fermentation efforts involved pickles in mason jars. Once we understood the importance of fermented foods, we decided to invest in a 5 liter German fermentation crock. These make it easier to do larger batches and our results have been more consistent since we started using it. Here’s the one we have: 5 Liter Ceramic Fermentation Crock. It’s not cheap but will last a lifetime with proper care.

The fermentation process is fairly simple. The vegetables are submerged in a salt brine that prevents bad bacteria from growing while allowing the good bacteria to grow. If you’re interested in more information, here’s a good article on the benefits of Sauer kraut: http://www.probiotics-lovethatbug.com/bacteria-in-sauerkraut.html. Let’s get started making some!

What You Need
You only need a few supplies to make Sauer kraut:
• A Crock – we use a 5 liter ceramic crock.
• Cabbage – 2-4 heads depending on the size.
• Sea Salt – about 1 tablespoon per pound of cabbage. Don’t use iodized salt.
• A Kitchen Knife
• A Cutting Board
• A Clean Dish Towel

Crock, Salt, Cabbage, Knife, Cutting Board

Crock, Salt, Cabbage, Knife, Cutting Board

How to Make It

For this batch, I used 2 heads. Depending on the size of the head, the 5 liter crock will hold 3-4 heads. Use organic cabbage if you prefer. I have made it with both. Wash your hands thoroughly before you start.

First, remove the outermost leaves which are usually dirty and discard them. Then wash the cabbage head. Remove 1 more leaf and set aside for later.

Next, quarter the heads and remove the core. The core is the hard part in the middle. I chop this up and give it to the chickens later.

Cabbage Head Quartered and Core Removed

Cabbage Head Quartered and Core Removed

Slice each quarter thinly and chop it. You’re looking for thin pieces a couple inches long so don’t dice it too small.

Cabbage Sliced and Chopped

Cabbage Sliced and Chopped

Layer it in the crock. I use each quarter head as a layer. Spread the chopped cabbage in the bottom of the crock in an even layer. Now mash it down with your fist. Sprinkle some salt on top evenly over the layer. Portion your salt so you’ll have enough to do all the layers.

Repeat these steps until all the cabbage is in the crock. Each time, spread a layer of cabbage, mash it with your fist, and sprinkle the salt. When you’re done, you shouldn’t have any salt left. If you do, sprinkle it on top.

Once all the cabbage is in the crock, place the clean leaves you set aside earlier on top to form a layer over the chopped cabbage. Place the 2 half-donut looking stones on top of the cabbage leaves. Press down hard again with your fist. Soak the clean dish towel in water and cover the top of the crock.

Crock Loaded and Covered with Wet Dish Towel

Crock Loaded and Covered with Wet Dish Towel

We’re going to leave it like this for about 24 hours. Cabbage has a very high water content. The salt will help release that water slowly. Every few hours you can help it along by pressing down on the stones. Within 24 hours there should be enough water in the crock to visibly cover all the cabbage. Moisten the dish towel if necessary each time you check it. Don’t let it dry out.

If there isn’t enough water to cover the cabbage after 24 hours, it is ok to add a little brine. Dissolve a small amount of salt in some filtered or bottled water and pour on top. Only add enough to cover the cabbage. I find that I rarely need to do this if I’m patient and give the cabbage enough time to release the water. Don’t use chlorinated tap water because it will harm the good bacteria we want.

I’ve seen recipes that call for adding brine as soon as you get all the cabbage in the crock. I think this is a bad idea. I tried this once and the batch failed. The finished product didn’t ferment well and was soggy. Just be patient – there is almost always enough water in the cabbage so you won’t have to add much if any at all.

Now that the cabbage is completely submerged in liquid, place the lid on top of the crock. Fill the groove on top with water making sure the air holes are completely covered. This creates an airlock and allows the gases from fermentation to escape but doesn’t allow any bad bacteria in.

Check the crock daily and add water to the airlock as needed to make sure the air holes are covered. Don’t allow them to get exposed. After about a week or so, you can begin tasting small samples. Fermentation time varies depending on a lot of factors, so go by how it tastes. I’ve had batches that were good in as little as 10 days, and others that took 3 weeks. The longer it ferments, the tangier it will taste.

When it tastes the way you want it, put it in mason jars or a container of your choice and place it in the refrigerator. Make sure you put some of the juice in each jar because it has a lot of the good stuff you want.

Now enjoy it!
Some say eating just a small spoonful of Sauer kraut every day can do wonders for your digestion. I think it is a better way than taking probiotic pills every day. It is definitely less expensive. As a prepper, I look for ways to stay healthy even during hard times when the pills might not be available at a store.

Once you master the basic batches, you can experiment with adding other ingredients like carrots or apples. Have fun while being healthy. Sauer kraut is very easy to make. It tastes good, and it is good for you too. Try it for yourself.

Resources for this post:
Health Benefits of Sauer Kraut: http://www.probiotics-lovethatbug.com/bacteria-in-sauerkraut.html
5 Liter Ceramic Fermentation Crock on Amazon

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