Traditional fermented foods like sauerkraut are usually bursting with beneficial lactic acid bacteria that boost digestive health. But because the FDA requires commercial sauerkraut to be pasteurized, which effectively destroys all the bacteria in it—including the beneficial bacteria—homemade sauerkraut is definitely a better choice to improve your digestive health.
The following sauerkraut recipe is from Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions. If you don't have it in your health library, I highly recommend that you purchase it. Only one chapter deals with lactic acid–fermented foods, but it contains numerous recipes, including not only sauerkraut, but also pickled cucumbers, garlic, beets, radish, corn relish, potatoes, various chutneys, Korean kimchi, and more.
(Makes 1 quart)
4 cups of shredded cabbage, loosely packed
1 teaspoon juniper berries
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons liquid whey (if not available, add an additional 1 teaspoon salt)*
1 cup 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 three days, then 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 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.
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.