17 March 2012

Real Saurkraut

Why lacto-fermentation? What's wrong with store bought saurkraut & pickles?
All cultures include lacto-fermented foods. Vinegar pickling is a way to preserve food, but nutritionally, it doesn't do much. Vinegar only became the popular way to pickle, when the process became industrialized, for more uniform products, to increase the saleability. Nutritionally, lacto-fermentation is way better. We all know about probiotics these days, with the amount of yogurt commercials on TV, lacto-fermented foods are a source of those. The enzymes produced are antibiotic and anticarcinogenic, and help with digestion, especially beneficial as we age. The food is predigested, making more of the vitamins in it, available to us. They are raw foods, so the vitamins and probiotics are not lost to heat. Vinegar preserves are dead, and too acidic to be of benefit.  Lacto-fermentation is becoming a lost art, where even in our homes, if we do preserve, we are using the vinegar method. By abandoning these foods, we may be leaving ourselves open to increased intestinal parasites, yeasts and possibly degenerative diseases.

How does it work?
The fruits or vegetables are washed and cut up, then pounded briefly to release juices. They are packed into an air tight container. Salt inhibits putrifying bacteria until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables. When whey is added, the amount of salt can be reduced, since whey, rich in lactic acid producing bacteria speeds up the process. Lacto-fermentation is anaerobic, so keep the lid on tight, or the final product may be ruined. If a batch goes bad, you'll know it by the smell. There are no printed expiry dates, trust your nose, that's why you have it.

All of the information in this post, including this recipe is from the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.



  • 1 medium cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 4 Tbsp whey (from yogurt cheese, or use an extra 1 Tbsp salt)

Core and shred cabbage. I'll admit it, I googled how to shred cabbage. The best way is to cut it in half first, then cut out the core. Place the flat side down and with a sharp knife, slice it very thinly.

Mix the cabbage, caraway seeds, sea salt and whey in a bowl.


*** A note on salt: Not all salt is equal. Table salt is highly refined, leaving you with only sodium chloride. iodine is added, then an iodine stabilizer is added, and finally an anti-caking agent, so your salt stays dry. Table salt deserves it's bad reputation.  Not all sea salt is fantastic either. It may also be highly refined. Look for a natural organic, French grey sea salt, or celtic sea salt. This salt includes all of the minerals present in the sea, as well as natural source of iodine from microscopic amounts of seaweed. It's salt that's actually pretty good for you. ***


Now for the workout. Pound with a meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices.

I added on a couple of minutes because I had to be careful not to smash my ceramic bowl. If your biggest bowl isn't ceramic, that would be good.


Press the cabbage into a quart sized jar, until the juices reach the top. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 3 days (give or take a day due to temperature).


After 3 days, the saurkraut should be preserved and can be eaten. I tried it, it still mostly tastes of caraway, with a very slight sourness. The flavour develops more, with age.

The recipe says to move it to cold storage after 3 days. I wish wish wish I had cold storage, but for now it'll find a cooler corner of my basement. I imagine it could go in the fridge as well, after the flavour has had time to develop a little more.

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