Probiotic Kaua‘i-style Sauerkraut to Boost Your Immune System

Posted on Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Sauerkraut, or some variation of it, has been used widely by many cultures throughout Europe and Asia for its health benefits and long shelf-life. Traditionally made live sauerkraut is an amazing super food that is easy to make at home. Keep a few jars in your fridge and use it as a supplement to boost immunity and as a side dish throughout the year to aid in digestion.

When the naturally occurring sugars in the cabbage ferment they produce vitamin C, which helps prevent scurvy, and lactobacilli, a probiotic culture. Captain James Cook was just one of many sea men who always took sauerkraut on ocean voyages to help protect against scurvy. Sauerkraut is very beneficial for digestion and has been known to help treat and cure many gastrointestinal conditions including diarrhea, constipation and ulcers.

Sauerkraut may also be used to treat flu and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and has been found to have anti-cancer agents isothiocyanates and sulphoraphane. Mainly, the probiotic content in sauerkraut helps to build up the good bacteria in the gut and can really help aid in digestion, especially when eating meat of any kind. The very first time I ate grass-fed beef after being vegetarian for 10+ years, I ate it with a side of homemade sauerkraut and was pleasantly surprised to have not suffered from indigestion.

This recipe for probiotic Kaua‘i-style Sauerkraut makes use of whatever locally grown ingredients are available and uses natural sea salt and whey for the lacto-fermentation process. If you want a vegan alternative, more sea salt may be added instead. (I have never personally tried the whey-free version but I heard that it works.)

Whey is very easy to make and is a great tool for making many lacto-fermented, probiotic foods and drinks. If you get fresh milk from your own goats or cows simply let the milk sit at room temp for a day or two until the cream and water separate. The watery part is the whey.

For the rest of us, organic plain yogurt works great. I personally prefer Straus Organic plain yogurt. Use a linen bag or cheese cloth rubberbanded over a jar, spoon in yogurt and let sit overnight to strain. I usually put it in the refrigerator just to make sure no bugs get it. When the yogurt is done straining, scoop out what is left from the cheese cloth. This strained yogurt is actually a great cream cheese with active cultures intact, so save it for later use. The liquid left in the jar is your whey.

This recipe only calls for a quarter cup. If you have extra you can either save it for up to two months for future use, or you can make a tonic with it by putting it into a jar with some chopped cabbage, sea salt and filtered water. Leave sealed jar at room temperature for three to four days and then put into the refrigerator. This tonic is great for helping populate your gut with good bacteria and helping your body get rid of toxins.

Resources: “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon, available at Wikipedia: The Nourishing Gourmet, information and recipes: Happy Herbalist sells fermenting supplies such as reusable linen bags:

Kaua‘i-style Sauerkraut

Makes about 2 quart-sized jars

1 head of locally grown napa cabbage, or cabbage variety of choice (washed and finely chopped)

1-3 tablespoons fresh locally grown ginger (finely chopped)

1-3 green onions (washed and finely chopped)

1/4 cup whey (see above for directions)

2-3 tablespoons unprocessed sea salt

1-3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Wash cabbage thoroughly and chop up on a cutting board. Place chopped cabbage into large bowl as you go to make space on the cutting board. Next add chopped ginger, green onions and whey. Make sure your hands are clean and toss ingredients together in the bowl adding the sea salt and cayenne pepper as you go. Rinse your hands. Using the bottom of a glass jar or sturdy plastic cup, begin pounding the ingredients in the bowl. Keep pounding until all the juices in the cabbage and ginger are released and ingredients look well combined and condensed. If you happen to have a meat pounder you could use that too.

Stuff the ingredients into large quart-sized mason jars. This recipe will fill about two jars. Pour the remaining liquid equally into each jar and pack ingredients down until the liquid comes over the top. A little filtered water may be added if there is not enough liquid to submerge the ingredients. There should be at least a quarter inch space below the top of the jars. Wipe mouth of each jar and seal tight. Store in a dark warm place such as a kitchen cupboard for 3-5 days and then transfer to the refrigerator. The sauerkraut usually has the best taste after it has matured for a month or more. It will keep in the refrigerator for a very long time.

Many different combinations of ingredients may be added to change the flavor of your sauerkraut. This lacto-fermentation method works on almost any vegetable including carrots, peppers, ginger, garlic, onions, cucumbers and green beans. For a more traditional sauerkraut use just cabbage, mustard seed and fennel. Give it a try, experiment and have fun!

• Recipe adapted from the book, ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally

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Author | shastin

I am an aspiring artist, chef and free-thinker. I am into health, organic local food, nature, art, music, reading, writing etc…:-)

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