Monday, March 8, 2010

Sauerkraut - A Delicious Addition to Your Meals

Why a sauerkraut recipe? Easy – it's extremely good for you and goes so well with a variety of dishes, especially sandwiches! Plus, since this is a new blog, I think it's important to start with the basics. Eating a natural, homemade diet is new to most and can be difficult to transition into, especially if processed foods make up the main part of your diet. Sauerkraut is extremely easy to make, costs little and can be stored for extended periods (months) in the fridge. When I started using "traditional" and "slow" cooking methods several years ago, this was one of the first foods I tried making. It was a bit daunting at first because I wasn't comfortable leaving a food item on my kitchen counter to ferment. I was worried I was going to make myself sick. I was used to having everything overly-sanitized, refrigerated, etc. This was as foreign to me as picking up a new language. Let's see, it's probably been three years and I've yet to make myself sick. Actually the only time I've had food poisoning was from processed restaurant food. Plus, my health and energy are night and day to what they were several years ago!

For a little more info, homemade sauerkraut is a lacto-fermented food. Note that I wrote homemade. The store bought stuff that comes in a can or a jar and isn't refrigerated, is basically a dead product. The only reason to purchase this is for the flavor. From my understanding it does little-to-nothing for your health. When sauerkraut is heated to can and pasteurize it, the lactic-acid-producing bacteria is destroyed, thus getting rid of it's beneficial effects on our digestive system. Sad. Just one more reason why you should stay away from the center isles (aka processed food areas) of your grocery store. I think it was my mom who told me to only shop on the outside isles of the grocery store (this goes for co-ops too) since that's where all the fresh, real food exists. Everything else should be ignored! Hard, I know – but still a good rule to try to follow at least some of the time.

Having a healthy digestive system is essential to maintaining a healthy body and lacto-fermented foods are one way to encourage this.

"Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses--not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer and arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world." - Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

If you aren't accustomed to eating sauerkraut, one way I suggest using it is on a breakfast sandwich. My husband lives on these. He makes one every morning before work, wraps it in a paper towel and then eats it at his desk while he goes over his morning emails. He has made more then one co-worker a bit jealous of his breakfast! It's easy to make, lightly toast some bread and spread a little mayonnaise and if you want, hot sauce on it. In a pan, fry 1-2 eggs (break the yokes so you don't have a mess when you eat) and cook any meat that might sound good, like a slice or two of ham or bacon. Place on bread, along with a decent helping of sauerkraut that has been drained of it's liquid.

There are of course tons of ways to eat it and you don't have to eat a lot, a couple tablespoons at each meal will do wonders for your digestive system. Think of it like eating a pickle with your meal!

Note: This recipe is from Nourishing Tradition by Sally Fallon

What You'll Need
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, washed and exterior leaves removed
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of whey or an additional 1 tablespoon of salt

  • Sharp knife and cutting board
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Meat tenderizer or wooden pounder
  • Quart size or larger wide-mouth mason jar

Getting Started

Slice your cabbage in half and remove the core. Slice the cabbage finely and then dump into a mixing bowl. Add your caraway seeds, salt and whey and mix together.

Next, using your meat tenderizer or wooden pounder, start pounding the cabbage mixture until the juices release. This takes approximately 10 minutes. I purchased a meat tenderizer at Target for less then $10 and it works great. I also use a metal bowl instead of a glass/ceramic one to make sure I don't accidentally break the bowl when pounding the cabbage.

Spoon the cabbage mixture into your mason jar and press down firmly with your meat tenderizer/wooden pounder until the juices come to the top of the cabbage. Make sure there is at least one inch of clearance room between the top of the jar and the top of the cabbage.

Cover your jar tightly and place on your counter and let sit for 3 days. One thing I've found is during the winter my house is much colder and the fermentation process takes a bit longer, so I leave the sauerkraut on my counter for 4 days.

After the 3 days are up, put sauerkraut in the refrigerator for storage and enjoy as often as you can! It should keep for several months or longer in the fridge. It will improve in flavor as it ages.

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