“Make my own sauerkraut? Really? That seems complicated…” That’s what I thought, too! I was extremely intimidated by the idea of trying to ferment my own foods. Much to my surprise, it’s anything but complicated. You need not be a stellar cook or a “foodie” to try your hand at fermentation—all you need is a knife, cabbage, sea salt, and a glass jar or ceramic crock to stuff it in. Trust me, I’m a serious sauerkraut novice, and through experience I’ve realized that making this stuff is not as difficult or complex as our minds make it out to be.
Fermentation, an ancient approach to food preservation, has been practiced across cultures for thousands of years. Through the process of fermentation, food is not only preserved but also becomes more digestible, nutrient-rich, and chock-full of probiotics. The digestive benefits of fermented foods are the most widely discussed and explored health aspects of fermentation. Beyond the positive impacts of fermented foods on digestive health, the health benefits are vast—ranging from immune system support, to mental health and well-being—and we’re learning and discovering more every day. (I’ve listed some great fermentation resources below, including an article that explores the relationship between beneficial bacteria in the gut, digestive function, and mental health.)
I could go into detail about the myriad benefits of fermented food…But we’ve got some sauerkraut to make! I’ve kept it simple, and the following recipe makes a modest amount of sauerkraut—perfect for just getting started. I’ve included some spring herbs in the recipe, but the kraut can be made with or without these herbs—leave them out for a simple cabbage-only kraut, or experiment with other herbs and spices if you’re feeling creative. Ok, let’s get to it.
1-2 cabbages (red or green), sliced
2 medium-sized Burdock roots, sliced
1-2 cups fresh Nettle leaves (spring-harvested, before the plants flower)
Sea Salt (without added iodine or anti-caking agents)
Large mixing bowl
Glass jar or a ceramic crock (large enough to pack all your ingredients into once processed)
Smaller glass jar or ceramic plate that will fit inside the larger jar or crock (see photo for example)
* Do not use metallic containers
Clean rubber gloves (unpowdered, not used for cleaning…to keep your hands from getting stung by the Nettles!)
** Final note: If something goes awry the ferment will begin to smell REALLY bad/putrid. Use your common sense and intuition and if your body says, “Don’t eat that”…Then don’t! And don’t be discouraged, either. Try again!