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Sauerkraut are healthy and easy to prepare at home. The result of lactic fermentation, many versions can be made and be used in even more recipes.
The origin of sauerkraut has ancient and surprising roots. It appears that as early as 4000 BC in China, cabbage was fermented using lactic fermentation. Later they got to Europe and spread rapidly around the world thanks to the simplicity of its preparation, combined with the benefits associated with the consumption of this food rich in lactic and probiotic enzymes.
LET’S MAKE SAUERKRAUT:
- 2 kg of cabbage
- 2 tablespoons of sea salt
1. Chop or grate the cabbage as you like, finely or coarsely, with or without the heart, and place it in a large bowl.
2. Transfer the cabbage to the bowl and sprinkle some salt gradually, Begin to massage and work on it with your hands for 5-10 minutes. The cabbage will become more tender, the salt will extract liquids from the cabbage creating a vegetable brine where the cabbage can ferment. Salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, inhibiting organisms and enzymes that would soften it too much. About 2 tablespoons of salt can do for 2 kg of cabbage.
Personally, I never measure the salt, but I add a little after cutting each portion of cabbage. Using more salt the fermentation will be slower and more acidic, and the other way around. Possibly, sauerkraut could also ferment without salt, while with too much salt it won’t be possible for the lactic bacteria to thrive as we need.
3. Add other vegetables and flavorings to your taste, you can grate some carrots for example, or use different qualities of cabbage and turnips together. You can also add fruit such as apples or spices to your liking, the process remains the same.
4. The time has come to put the sauerkraut in the jar or crock where they will have to ferment. There is generally enough moisture in the cabbage to create a sufficient amount of brine to soak the preparation without the need to add more.
5. The most important thing to remember when preparing sauerkraut is that the cabbage must be completely immersed in the brine throughout the fermentation period. For this reason we need to find a way to apply a weight that keeps the sliced cabbages at the bottom of our jar, completely immersed in their brine.
Using jars with a wide mouth, just find smaller jars to use as a weight, filling them with anything, so by putting them in the jar containing the sauerkraut they can push all the preparation to the bottom keeping it pressed and immersed. If you use a crock instead, you can use the outer leaves discarded from the cabbage rather than a plate on which you place a weight that keeps the preparation immersed. Cover the mouth of the largest jar with a cloth securing it with an elastic/string in order to allow air to enter and exit the jar, and prevent dust or insects from entering.
6. Let your sauerkraut ferment in a cool place (ideally around 20°C/68°F), away from direct sunlight. Check daily that the sauerkraut remains submerged. In the unlikely event that mold forms on the surface, do not be alarmed, it could be an indication that the ambient temperature is too high, and it won’t be necessary to throw away the sauerkraut.
Just collect and discard any small pieces of mold on the surface, we could still safely store the rest of our sauerkraut. Bubbles and white froth on the surface are signs of a healthy and happy fermentation process.
7. In addition to checking the brine level and the appearance of any contamination, taste your sauerkraut. After a few days the flavor begins to be slightly spicy and the taste becomes more and more intense with time. When the sauerkraut tastes good, remove the weight, close the jars and store them in the fridge for several months. The advice is to consume them within the first months to fully exploit the benefits of live cultures and probiotic strains.
Unfortunately, there are many fermented foods on the market that brag the presence of probiotics, and they are pasteurized. Pasteurization stabilizes the product and allows it to be stored without the need for refrigeration. At the same time this process diminishes the health benefits of food because the heat degrades the natural enzymes and healthy bacteria present.
The best part of preparing and fermenting my drinks and food is definitely being able to choose the flavor that suits me best. With little experience, I can adapt any fermentation and recipe to my tastes. I usually let the sauerkraut ferment for a month in the coldest months, while ten days or less are enough to get a similar result when the temperatures are higher.
Finally, the brine that is created can be used to make a vinaigrette to season your dishes. I invite you to experiment different fermentation periods and different environmental conditions to find what best suit your taste. Remember, here is no single “correct” recipe for preparing sauerkraut, but only our ideal recipe!