“In a small but profound way, getting involved with fermenting food in your home is a way to embrace the bacterial allies that are all around us. And rather than getting caught up in the foolish, indiscriminate war on bacteria, we can embrace the bacteria around us and turn them into our physiological allies.”
~ Sandor Ellix Katz
- Digestive Enzymes: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride introduces sauerkraut from day one on the GAPS Diet. Why is she such a strong proponent of this old-fashioned food? Because it’s one of the strongest natural digestive enzymes in existence. Advertisements for Tums antacids will have you believe that the majority of people suffer from an overabundance of stomach acid, when actually the reverse is true. A deficiency in stomach acid makes food take longer to digest (and often incompletely digest), causing the symptoms that make Tums a bestseller. In addition, there’s a domino effect in our digestive system, where one digestive process leads to the next. When we eat, the natural production of stomach acid stimulates the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and gallbladder into the small intestine. Together, they break down our food into absorbable nutrients. When stomach acid production is faulty, the other enzymes get released in smaller quantities as well, adding to our digestive woes. A little bit of sauerkraut before a meal stimulates the production of stomach acid (and therefore our other enzymes), preparing our body for the meal to come.
- Probiotics: If you’ve ever bought a probiotic supplement, you’ve seen the word lactobacilli. These bacteria exist on the surface of all living things (including cabbage) and during fermentation, they break down the starch and sugar in the cabbage and produce lactic acid, which is a natural preservative. That is how people thousands of years ago were able to preserve food without the use of refrigeration. At the same time, the lactobacilli multiply during fermentation, making sauerkraut a potent ally for our health. In our digestive tract, they: (1) protect us against viruses, pathogens and harmful bacteria; (2) help maintain a healthy internal pH; (3) neutralize toxins; (4) chelate heavy metals; (5) suppress cancer formation; (6) convert food into nutrition for the cells of our intestinal walls; and (7) help to prevent or heal leaky gut. They’e good friends to have. (Source: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-Mcbride).
- Vitamins: Another piece of fermentation magic is that it increases both the amount and bioavailability of nutrients. Sauerkraut is exceptionally high in Vitamins C, B and K, has a substantial amount of calcium and magnesium, and contains both antioxidant and detoxifying compounds. It is definitely a superfood.
Buying vs. Making Your Own
- Bubbies is the most popular brand of “raw” sauerkraut sold in health food stores. In my town, it costs $6 for a 25 oz. jar. The cost per ounce is 24 cents, and since the sauerkraut is loosely packed, a good portion of each ounce is liquid.
- The average price of cabbage is 70 cents/pound. The recipe below calls for 5 pounds, which is a total of $3.50. This is enough cabbage to fill a 65 oz. jar. The cost per ounce is just 5 cents, and the sauerkraut is tightly packed, giving you much more sauerkraut per ounce as well. (Cabbage is a member of the Clean 15, so you don’t need to splurge on organic.)
- In addition, Bubbies is partially pasteurized & fermented only a short period of time. Both of these steps reduce its probiotic benefit. This recipe for homemade sauerkraut is truly raw, long fermented and full of probiotic goodness.
Fido Jars & Other Tricks of the Trade
When it comes to fermenting foods at home, I look for easy and foolproof options. Sauerkraut doesn’t usually fall within that definition. Many friends have tried and failed to make this superfood over the years, either battling mold, funky smells or strange tastes. Honestly, their failures scared me a way, so I bought my sauerkraut, and that gets expensive. Then I read two articles that changed my perspective: Lea of Nourishing Treasures wrote about a special jar that provides the perfect fermentation vessel. It keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in, all with no need to weigh down the cabbage. End result: tasty, probiotic-rich, sauerkraut every time. Kim of Nourishing Gourmet wrote about a no-pound method, where there’s no need to spend fifteen minutes beating up your cabbage before putting it in the jar. Put those two tips together, and you have my kind of recipe!
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