Healthy Food Raw Sauerkraut

January 25, 2010

Raw Sauerkraut, not just for hot dogs it’s the Healthy Food of the Week!

In fact, raw sauerkraut is an amazing digestive aid and can be added to a wide variety of dishes. The emphasis here is on RAW. Sauerkraut made with uncooked cabbage contains many beneficial enzymes and vitamins that are absent from the more common pasteurized variety. The natural fermentation process helps to make food more digestible and allows nutrients in the cabbage to become more bioavailable.

Real sauerkraut should have only two ingredients: cabbage and salt (preferably sea salt). Commercial varieties may contain sugar, too much sodium and other preservatives and can be bad for your health.  Raw sauerkraut on the other hand, is rich in Vitamin C, fiber and is low in fat and calories. It can improve the digestion of fats, strengthen the pancreas and immune system and help to rejuvenate the whole body.

You can find good quality sauerkraut at many farmers’ markets, in the refrigerator section of health food stores or look for homemade varieties at traditional German or Polish delis.

If you are feeling really ambitious, you can make your own. Dr. Weil, a proponent of fermented foods, offers excellent instructions.

Sauerkraut at Home

Making sauerkraut at home, with or without special equipment, is “really quite simple,” says Dr. Weil. “First, I get fresh cabbage from the garden, shred it and mix it in a bowl with salt,” at a ratio of roughly 3 tablespoons of salt for every five pounds of cabbage. “I load it into the crocks and really pack it down with my fist.” He then puts a pair of half-circle-shaped ceramic weights (which are sold with the crock; a water-filled bottle set atop a plate will also work) on top of the cabbage and puts on the lid.

A unique feature of a sauerkraut crock is that the lid’s edge sits in a circular trough that can be filled with water. This forms a one-way seal: carbon dioxide given off by fermentation can bubble out, but air cannot get back in. Sauerkraut can be made in a glass or ceramic vessel without such a seal, but tends to form a mold on the brine’s surface that requires regular skimming or the batch will spoil.

The salt draws water from the cabbage. Because Dr. Weil uses only garden-fresh cabbage, a brine usually forms in a few hours. But if, after 24 hours, enough brine has not formed to cover the cabbage, which can happen with older, drier vegetables, “you can just add salted water,” at a concentration of roughly one teaspoon of salt per cup.

Dr. Weil lets the batch sit at room temperature for three days, which is why the crocks were in the center of his kitchen. “It starts this weird bubbling. Then I move it back to a cooler location for about six weeks. That’s all there is to it.” Sauerkraut can be sampled just a week or so after fermentation starts, but the flavor improves over time. Once it tastes just right, the finished product can go into the refrigerator, packed in its own juice, for several weeks more.

Read more information on amazing Dr. Weil’s recipe!

Start off with small servings, 1 tablespoon for the first week or two, and work up to as much as a quarter to a cup per meal. (Because of its digestive benefits, it can be slightly jarring to your stomach if you are not used to ingesting fermented foods.)  Enjoy mixed in with salad, as a topping for rice or other grains, on a sandwich or alone. Add some caraway, sesame or chia seeds for added nutritional punch and flavor. Be creative!

One note of caution, some people with certain health conditions should not eat fermented foods. If you have any concerns please consult your doctor or natural health practitioner.


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