Our ancestors have made raw sauerkraut for thousands of years all over the globe. It has many important health benefits, such as providing an excellent source of dairy-free probiotics (to restore beneficial bacteria), helping to heal the mucosal lining of your intestines, and providing fermentable fiber for improved overall digestion and elimination. It’s nutrient dense –lots of vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. Sauerkraut is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. Fun fact: Americans called it “Liberty Cabbage” during World War I to avoid associations with Germans (“Freedom Fries” anyone?)
Sauerkraut and other raw foods pickled by lacto-fermentation are also cheap and easy to make and oh yeah, delicious! I enjoy a small serving several times a week (in my salads or on a nitrite-free organic beef hotdog for a quick snack.) You will need a few 32 oz mason jars or other storage jars and a large mixing bowl.
1 large or 2 small heads of green cabbage, chopped in the food processor or sliced into thin strips (remove and set aside a few of the outer leaves first)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 cups shredded carrots (about 2 large carrots)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled ginger, (about an inch) minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Black pepper to taste
Wash your hands – you’re about to get primal with your kraut! In a large mixing bowl, add 1/2 of your sliced cabbage and 1 tablespoon of salt. Knead and squeeze the cabbage until the water releases and it is quite damp. Add the rest of the cabbage and salt and keep squeezing to release more water. This will take maybe a minute or two.
Add the shredded carrots garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, cayenne and black pepper and mix with your hands until blended together. Resist the urge to just eat it all with a fork.
Fill your jars evenly with the mixture and press down on the kraut so that the water level is above the vegetables. Tuck the reserved cabbage leaves on top of the mixture, again, making sure it is all under water. Add a weight (I used a spice jar filled with water; you can also use a ziplock bag filled with water or small bowl with a rock in it; use your imagination :))
Store the jars in a dark cool place. Check every few days and make sure the vegetables are still under water and skim off any mold (it’s common and harmless unless it is dark and starts smelling nasty.) Taste it in about a week; it should start to be tangy and soft. It should be fermented in 2 weeks and ready to put a lid on it and refrigerate. It will last in the fridge several months.
Note: while most people can benefit from adding sauerkraut to their diets, if you have thyroid issues and are avoiding cabbage and other goitrogenic foods (such as kale, broccoli and bok choy), you can cook it first, just use carrots, supplement with sea vegetables (they have iodine which can counteract the goitrogenic properties of cabbage) or just use in small, condiment-size doses and of course consult your health practitioner. Even if you have a normal thyroid, you don’t need to be consuming large bowlfuls to reap the health benefits. A little goes a long way. More information here, here and here.