Why would we want to ferment cabbage?

Many Traditions before us did – and some still do

It is difficult to say with certainty when intentional fermentation began; however, measurements of the chemical content within Neolithic vessels suggest intentional fermentation of fruit, rice, or honey beverages has been in common practice for close to 10,000 years ago!

The Chinese started fermenting cabbage using rice wine some 6,000 years ago and they brought the idea to eastern Europe.  It was then thought to be developed into the dried cured version by the Germans using salt in the 16th Century, when people realised its link in preventing scurvy it gained further popularity.

Now several versions of fermented cabbage exist

  • Sauerkraut is a German word and literally translated is sour cabbage.
  • Korean Sauerkraut or Kimchee or Kimchi made with Cabbage hot peppers, garlic and ginger – see my version here
  • Latin America Cortido or curtido shredded cabbage and carrots with hot peppers, salt, spices such as oregano and cumin
  • Chinese sauerkraut is called hum choy using Chinese cabbage leaves and salt

It has great benefits to health

Emerging research indicates that fermentation may magnify the known benefits of a wide variety of foods influencing the bio-availability and activity of the chemical constituents. In addition it is becoming increasingly clear that the way in which microbes act upon dietary items pre-consumption then in turn, influence our own micro-biota.  The make up of our gut micro-biota (bacteria and other micro-organisms) is a huge are of research and the balance of  bacteria have been linked to many areas of health.  If our micro-biota is positively influenced by fermented foods it could lead to many health benefits.  Some of which include benefits to gut function, immune function and to mental health – anxiety depression.   A well know authority in Nutrition, Mercola, sent off his home made Sauerkraut to a lab to measure the levels of beneficial bacteria

“We had it analyzed. We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of the fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria.”   More than in jars of probiotic supplements.  Other benefits of  Cabbage are its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as good levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin K.

Caution should be taken when first eating fermented vegetables, start with a little to ensure no undesirable effects are experienced.  This is dependant on how optimal your gut is functioning, equally, you may find immediate benefit in particular to constipation.

It tastes great – yes it really does

Sauerkraut’s sharp flavour and crunchy texture complements heavy food such as cooked meats and fat rich dips such as guacamole or humus.  Use it like a relish, mix it into salads or add as a topping for horderves.

Its easy to make

Simply cabbage (any type any colour ) and salt who could believe it could be so powerful.

1. Shred cabbage and add salt once mixed together should have the salt level of a French fry or more scientifically about 2.25% salt. Use rock salt.
2. Using your hand’s squeeze and massage the cabbage until juices start to come out this reduces the volume significantly so use a whole cabbage or two.
3. Then Pack into a Kilner jar the type with a sprung lid and pack down really tightly if you have produced enough juice this should cover the cabbage if not add some water. Leave a 2 cm gap at the top. A leaf can be put on top to hold the cabbage under the liquid.

4. Close the jar and set it at room temperature and wait for the magic to begin.

5. Place the jar on a saucer or plate, over the next 3-4 days liquid will be forced out of the sealed jar. You can release gas each day by opening and closing the jar.  Beware sometimes this can cause liquid to spray out!  You may also see bubbles forming.

6. The fermenting will become less vicious after 3-4 days and you can then try the sauerkraut some prefer to leave it to ferment much longer up to 6 months. It can be stored in the fridge to slow this process or once opened and in use.

7. If you are making a second batch you can add some of the liquid from the first batch, this can change the characteristics as will instigate a different mix of microbes.  This is where you can start to experiment, changing the bugs as well as trying other ingredients.

Don’t forget if you’re looking for an alternative recipe with more flavour try my Korean Sauerkraut.

Its magic how the microbes work

The fermentation happens in two stages both work anaerobically, without oxygen, hence the importance of keeping cabbage submerged.  The first stage is done by microbes that work at a higher pH and are gaseous, producing CO2 this then reduces the pH.  Once the solution becomes more acidic the acid-loving bacteria take over.  The lactic acid produced by the bacteria is what gives sauerkraut the sour flavour. Each stage sees the natural sugars present in the vegetable reduce and levels of beneficial bacteria increase.

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