I've been up to my elbows in cabbage all morning making the sweet, sweet fermented goodness that is known as sauerkraut. Seeing as I have some German heritage, obviously I love anything pickled and this is no exception. After reading the labels on some of the jars in the shop (even my beloved Bavarian-style kraut of choice), I was dismayed to see so many additives. And, if it's in a jar on a shelf in the first place, it means it has been cooked to high temps to pasteurise, so a lot of the cabbagey (tooty) goodness has been boiled out! This would not do.
I learned recently that eating fermented foods regularly helps keep your gut bacteria happy and chugging along. Since we've cut out dairy, those Yakult drinks weren't going to cut it- same for kefir and other fermented dairy products. Sauerkraut to the rescue! A few spoonfuls of this bad boy every morning should get us Olympian-like health and fitness before long, right?
It's super easy and super satisfying, too. If you've ever dreamed of beating up a cabbage, this is the recipe for you. By mashing, squeezing, and pounding the cabbage with salt, you release the juice. And also any frustrations/revenge fantasies/etc. After it's getting really wilted and juicy, you add in shredded carrot, shove it in a big, glass jar, make sure the water level is above the veg and let sit for two weeks while mom nature does her magical fermentation work. It practically makes itself! Oh, and if you're wondering what the leaves are doing poking out of the top- I use the big, outer leaves of the cabbage to wedge the slaw in place and make sure it stays below the water line. The water flows into the "cup" created by the leaf and acts like a built-in weight. HOW GREAT IS CABBAGE?
You can also zhoosh it up with garlic, caraway, jalapeño- there's so much you can do! Since this was my first attempt, I stuck with plain old salt. We'll see how it tastes in two weeks!
If you care to try, you'll need:
1 green cabbage, sliced thinly
2 carrots, shredded
3 tbsp sea salt
Large mason jar or two
Keep the outer leaves of the cabbage to the side. Slice 1/3 of the cabbage and add 1 tbsp of the salt to a large bowl or pot. Moosh and beat and squeeze and work the cabbage strips until they start to leak water and wilt and are all squishy. Repeat with two more batches of the cabbage, 1/3 at a time. When it's all juicy and watery and lovely, shred the carrots and mix them in. Wedge the mixture into your jar and keep pushing it down tight so the liquid is above the veg. Leave a bit of air room at the top of the jar, and use the outer leaves of the cabbage to wedge the mix down below the water line. That's it! Leave the jar in a quiet, darkish place ( i just chucked a tea towel over mine) and check on it every day to make sure the liquid line is above the veg mix. If anything looks like it is above, clean it off with a spoon, as well as anything that looks like it is going off on top- you might get a little growth on the air-exposed bits, if there are any. Just clean off, and keep that liquid level above the veg. You can even top up with a little water if you are worried. Taste after 2 weeks (or 1, if you prefer) and then seal tightly and keep in the fridge for months and months!