When was the last time you had real sauerkraut? If it’s been longer than you care to remember (or maybe never), then now is the time to start. And you don’t even have to leave your house.
You can easily make your own lactic acid-fermented cabbage and other vegetables right at home. There are several books currently in print on the subject of lactic acid-fermentation as a method of preserving food. However, some are quite complicated and intimidating, to say the least.
I suggest you start with the following recipe from Sally Fallon's excellent book, Nourishing Traditions. If you don't have her book in your health library, I highly recommend that you purchase it. It has a wealth of information on various health topics, and dozens of great recipes.
Lactic-acid fermentation is good way to preserve foods, and the flavor of vegetables preserved in this manner improves with time. While this sauerkraut can be eaten after only 3 days, some say that sauerkraut doesn't fully mature for at least six months.
(Makes 1 quart)
4 c. of shredded cabbage, loosely packed
1 tsp. juniper berries
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. whey* (if not available, add an additional 1 teaspoon salt)
1 c. filtered water**
In a bowl, mix cabbage with juniper berries, cumin, and mustard seeds. Mash or pound with a wooden pounder for several minutes to release juices. Place in a quart-sized wide-mouth Mason jar and pack down with the pounder. Mix water with salt and whey and pour into jar. Add more water if needed to bring liquid to top of cabbage. There should be about one inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. Place a lid on the jar and close very tightly. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic (without oxygen) process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product. Keep at room temperature for about 3 days. Transfer to a root cellar or the top shelf of your refrigerator. The sauerkraut can be eaten immediately but it improves with age.
*If you use whey, it must be in the liquid form, not powdered. You can make your own whey by pouring yogurt into cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a clean kitchen towel. Capture the whey liquid as it drips into another container. Using whey allows you to decrease the amount of salt needed and will improve consistency. It is naturally rich in both lactic acid and lactic acid-producing bacteria.
**Don't use tap water if it is chlorinated. The chlorine can destroy the lactic microbial organisms and prevent the fermentation.
Note: It's normal for white spots or a white film to form on the surface of the liquid covering the sauerkraut. It's a form of yeast called kahm. Although it's totally harmless, it can impart a bad taste to the cabbage so I would recommend simply removing it gently with a spoon before removing any of the sauerkraut.