In this article I will show you why sauerkraut is a real superfood, how you can benefit from it and how to make gut-healthy Sauerkraut yourself.
What is sauerkraut
Simply put, Sauerkraut is white cabbage preserved by lactic acid fermentation.
Sauerkraut is rich in lactic acid bacteria, vitamins A, B, C, minerals and fiber. It has a relatively low physiological calorific value, is almost fat-free, contains small amounts of carbohydrates and proteins. In case of histamine intolerance or when consuming large quantities, digestive problems may occur.
Sauerkraut is one of the oldest known superfoods
Sauerkraut is a real superfood and not just recently. Preserving vegetables through lactic acid fermentation is a very old, practiced technique.
As early as the 7th century AD, the Korean variant of sauerkraut, kimchi, was created. In Europe, it was first mentioned over 700 years ago. Due to its high vitamin content (especially vitamin C), it was an ideal winter vegetable to prevent deficiency symptoms.
Why is sauerkraut so gut-healthy
Sauerkraut is super healthy and here I show you why:
- Sauerkraut is a real nutrient bomb: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, sauerkraut is rich in vitamins, mineral and fiber. In addition, scientists have found recently that humans (and apes) have a receptor on their cells that is activated by signals from bacteria found in fermented foods.
- Sauerkraut is an immune system modulator: The vital substances contained in sauerkraut do not only strengthen the immune system, but the activation of the above-mentioned receptor even modulates the immune system.
- Sauerkraut supports digestion: Due to the large amounts of lactic acid bacteria, sauerkraut is a wonderful source of probiotics. It also contains enzymes that help your body better absorb and utilize nutrients.
- Sauerkraut can help with weight loss: Eating sauerkraut, which is low in calories, rich in probiotics and nutrients, can support weight loss.
Can I make gut-healthy Sauerkraut myself?
Yes, you can easily make gut-healthy sauerkraut yourself. Although you can buy ready-made sauerkraut in the supermarket, I would always prefer the homemade version – especially considering that cabbage in most regions is available all year round.
Of course, it’s also great if you have a garden and can grow cabbage yourself (which isn’t that difficult), but that’s a topic for another blog article.
Ingredients for gut-healthy Sauerkraut
If you want to make sauerkraut, you only need two basic ingredients: raw white cabbage and – per kilogram of cabbage and depending on your taste preference – between ten and fifty grams of salt. It is better to use less salt the first time you try it:
- 1 kg of white cabbage
- 10-50g salt (good quality salt)
Tools you may need
- Large bowl
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- “Sauerkraut pounder” (optional)
- Food processor (optional)
- Large glas (I always use half gallong mason jars)
- Glass fermentation weight (optional)
- Fermentation lid (optional)
Tips for making and fermenting gut-healthy Sauerkraut
- It is important that you make the sauerkraut in a clean environment and with clean materials/hands. You don’t need to sterilize the equipment with boiling water, just make sure everything is clean.
- A food processor can slice the cabbage in no time. However, if you do not have a food processor, this is not a problem. You can also cut the cabbage very finely with a knife.
- If you are not used to the taste of fermented vegetables, let the sauerkraut ferment only for 3-4 days. The longer sauerkraut ferments, the more intense the taste will be.
- It is important, that the sauerkraut is always completely beneath the liquid. It should not exposed to oxygen during the fermentation process. If it is, the sauerkraut may begin to mold.
- To keep the sauerkraut below the liquid, I like to use special glass weights designed for fermenting. However, it is also completely sufficient to cover the sauerkraut with one of the outer cabbage leaves and press it below the liquid.
How to make gut-healthy Sauerkraut – step by step
Step 1 – Chop the cabbage
First, remove the outer cabbage leaves. But do not throw them away! Unless you have a glass weight, you can later use the outer leaves to keep the cabbage under the liquid.
Then divide the cabbage into quarters and remove the core.
Now you can chop the cabbage very finely. If you have a food processor, simply chop the cabbage with the help of the food processor.
Step 2 – Mix cabbage and salt
After you have transferred the cabbage into a large bowl, add the salt. As already described, between 10-50g of high-quality salt per 1 kg of cabbage.
Now you need some muscle power! If you have a Sauerkraut pounder, great, now is the time to use it. In case you don’t have one, just use your hands and knead the cabbage. If you have sensitive hands, it may be advisable to wear disposable kitchen gloves. Massage the cabbage until liquid pours out. Do not throw this liquid away. It is the brine in which the cabbage will later ferment in a jar.
Step 3 – Add cabbage and brine to a large jar
The next step is to pour all the cabbage, including the brine, into a large jar. I always use a clean half gallon mason jar for this. Squeeze the cabbage tightly in the jar so that the brine completely covers the cabbage.
Now take one of the outer cabbage leaves, fold it according to the jar size and place it on top of the cabbage to keep all the cabbage beneath the brine.
If you have a glass weight, you can use this instead of the outer cabbage leaves to keep the cabbage beneath the brine.
Remember: the cabbage must be completely covered by the brine to avoid mold.
In order not to disturb the fermentation process (for example by small fruit flies that love fermented vegetables), it is important to close the jar. During the fermentation process, CO2 is produced. It is important to keep releasing this CO2 (by unscrewing the lid and letting the gas escape) so that the jar doesn’t explode when the pressure gets too high.
Since I ferment regularly, I have bought a special fermentation cap some time ago. These caps are not expensive and they have the advantage that a tiny opening at the top allows the gas to escape but does not allow “unwelcome guests” to enter the jar.
Step 4 – Let nature work its magic – Fermentation
Leave the jar on your kitchen counter at room temperature for 3-5 days. After a short time, you will notice small bubbles in the jar. This is the fermentation process.
A little tipp in this repect, place the fermenting jar on a small tray or baking dish to catch any liquids that run out of the jar during the fermentation process.
After you have reached the desired level of fermentation, remove the large outer cabbage leaf or jar weight, close the jar with a lid and place it in the refrigerator.
You can store properly made sauerkraut in a cool, dark place (e.g., the refrigerator or a cool root cellar) for at least 6 months. But to be honest, for us it never lasts this long as we go through a glass of sauerkraut quite quickly.
How to serve gut-healthy Sauerkraut
You can eat sauerkraut every day if you do not suffer from histamine intolerance. At our house, we eat sauerkraut almost daily. Either as part of a salad, or as a side dish instead of other vegetables.
If you are not used to the tangy taste of fermented vegetables, it might be easier to eat the sauerkraut along with a salad and, for example, a sweet mustard-honey vinaigrette.
What I’ve personally noticed with myself is that after changing my diet and eliminating gluten, lactose, and sugar by large, my taste has totally changed.
I used to have an incredible craving for sweets. This craving has now completely disappeared and fermented vegetables no longer seem sour to me!
In case you would like to dive a little deeper:
If you are a science nerd like me, you may want to dive a little deeper into the topic and do your own research. As such, listed below please find a selection of research articles to provide some more “food for thought”. Of course, this list is by no means complete but hopefully a starting point for further reading.
Sorted in descending order by publication date:
- Eating Fermented: Health Benefits of LAB-Fermented Foods
Vincenzo Castellone, Elena Bancalari, Josep Rubert, Monica Gatti, Erasmo Neviani, Benedetta Bottari
Published 2021-10/31: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620815/
- Cabbage and Sauerkraut Consumption in Adolescence and Adulthood and Breast Cancer Risk among US-Resident Polish Migrant Women
Dorothy Rybaczyk Pathak, Aryeh D Stein, Jian-Ping He, Mary M Noel, Larry Hembroff, Dorothy A Nelson, Fawn Vigneau, Tiefu Shen, Laura J Scott, Jadwiga Charzewska, Bożena Wajszczyk, Karen Clark, Leszek A Rybaczyk, Bogdan A Pathak, Dorota Błaszczyk, Ann Bankowski, Walter C Willett
Published 2021/10/14: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8535652/
- Anti-Inflammatory and Immunomodulatory Properties of Fermented Plant Foods
Roghayeh Shahbazi, Farzaneh Sharifzad, Rana Bagheri, Nawal Alsadi, Hamed Yasavoli-Sharahi, Chantal Matar
Published 2021/04/30: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8147091/
- Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease
Eirini Dimidi,†Selina Rose Cox,† Megan Rossi, and Kevin Whelan*
Published 2019/08/05: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723656/
- Metabolites of lactic acid bacteria present in fermented foods are highly potent agonists of human hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 3Anna Peters, Petra Krumbholz, Elisabeth Jaeger, Anna Heintz-Buschart, Mehmet Volkan Çakir, Sven Rothemund, Alexander Gaudl, Uta Ceglarek, Torsten Schoeneberg, Claudia Staeubert
Published 2019/07/19: https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1008283
- Lacto-fermented sauerkraut improves symptoms in IBS patients independent of product pasteurisation – a pilot study
Elsa Sandberg Nielsen, Eirik Garnås, Kathrine Juul Jensen, Lars Hestbjerg Hansen, Peder Sandvold Olsen, Christian Ritz, Lukasz Krych, Dennis Sandris Nielsen
Published 2018/10/17: https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2018/FO/C8FO00968F
- Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond
Maria L Marco, Dustin Heeney, Sylvie Binda, Christopher J Cifelli, Paul D Cotter, Benoit Foligné, Michael Gänzle, Remco Kort, Gonca Pasin, Anne Pihlanto, Eddy J Smid, Robert Hutkins
Published 2016/12/18: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S095816691630266X?via%3Dihub
How to make gut-healthy Sauerkraut
- 1 large bowl
- 1 cutting board
- 1 sharp knife
- 1 Sauerkraut pounder optional
- 1 Food processor optional
- 1 large glas I always use half gallon mason jars
- 1 glas fermentation weight optional
- 1 fermentation lid optional
- 1 kg cabbage white or red
- 10-50 g high-quality salt
- First,remove the outer cabbage leaves. But do not throw them away! Unless you have aglass weight, you can later use the outer leaves to keep the cabbage under theliquid.Then dividethe cabbage into quarters and remove the core.Now you canchop the cabbage very finely. If you have a food processor, simply chop thecabbage with the help of the food processor.
- After you have transferred the cabbage into a largebowl, add the salt. As already described, between 10-50g of high quality saltper 1 kg of cabbage.Now you need some muscle power! If you have aSauerkraut pounder, great, now is the time to use it. If you don't have one,just use your hands and knead the cabbage. If you have sensitive hands, it maybe advisable to wear disposable kitchen gloves. Massage the cabbage untilliquid pours out. Do not throw this liquid away. It is the brine in which thecabbage will later ferment in a jar.
- The nextstep is to pour all the cabbage, including the brine, into a large jar. Ialways use a clean half gallon mason jar for this. Squeeze the cabbage tightlyin the jar so that the brine completely covers the cabbage.Now takeone of the outer cabbage leaves, fold it according to the jar size and place iton top of the cabbage to keep all the cabbage beneath the brine.If you havea glass weight, you can use this instead of the outer cabbage leaves to keepthe cabbage beneath the brine.Rememberthat the cabbage must be completely covered by the brine to avoid mold.In ordernot to disturb the fermentation process (for example by small fruit flies thatlove fermented vegetables), it is important to close the jar. But be careful: CO2is produced in the fermentation process. So it's important to keep releasingthis CO2 (by unscrewing the lid and letting the gas escape) so that the jardoesn't explode when the pressure gets too high. Since I ferment regularly, I have bought a special fermentation cap some time ago.These caps are not expensive and have the advantage of being made of rubber,with a teeny tiny opening that allows the gas to escape but does not allow"unwelcome guests" to enter the jar.
- Leave thejar on your kitchen counter at room temperature for 3-5 days. After a shorttime, you will notice small bubbles in the jar. This is the fermentationprocess.After youhave reached the desired level of fermentation, remove the large outer cabbageleaf or jar weight, close the jar with a lid and place it in the refrigerator.You canstore properly made sauerkraut in a cool, dark place (e.g., the refrigerator ora cool root cellar) for at least 6 months. But to be honest, for us it neverlasts this long as we go through a glass of sauerkraut quite quickly.