The Perfect Probiotic

The $1 Superfood You Can Make Tonight

That weird, fragrant cabbage condiment in our grandparents’ fridge has made a comeback—and for good reason.

If you’re reading this article, I’ll take a guess that you love superfoods. You’re no stranger to an açai breakfast bowl, a spirulina green smoothie, or a hot drink featuring unpronounceable hippie herbs (ash-wa-gan-dha?). No shame. I’m in the club, too. Once I stumbled my way underground into an herb depot of Toronto’s Chinatown, and paid a man $45 to grind an entire reishi mushroom into super powder. I regret nothing.

Since then, however, I have become more frugal. Not all superfoods need to cost a fortune, and this is especially true if you’re willing to do the work yourself. Perhaps we can take a cue from our grandparents’ generation on this one.

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Sauerkraut is the best example: It’s cheap, accessible, hands-on, simple—and will keep in your refrigerator for ages. By fermenting cabbage, you create a probiotic powerhouse and enzyme-rich superfood. You turn a cheap and abundant vegetable into a delicious digestive aid, contributing high amounts of Vitamin C, iron, and fiber to your body.

One head of cabbage and two spoons of salt is all you need to start the process of lacto-fermentation. By massaging the two together, packing fistfulls into a jar, and letting sit for a week plus, you create a living, bubbling jar of magic. In this case, “magic” is the naturally occurring lacto-bacteria eating the plant’s sugar and by-producing lactic acid. It is this pre-digestion that makes sauerkraut so healthy. A living army of beneficial bacteria warriors work hard inside the jar—until you eat it. Then, the microscopic army (and their digestive juices) work hard for you.

Above all, sauerkraut is just tasty. Its tangy flavor pairs well with meat, fish, salads, grains and any dish in which you might want a vinegar-y, relish-y type of condiment. (Think sandwiches, eggs, sausages, etc.) But why not just buy sauerkraut from the store, you ask? Nine times out of ten, store-bought sauerkraut will have been pasteurized, thus destroying all the benefits of its living enzymes. And, for that matter, cooking your own homemade sauerkraut does exactly the same thing. So, make it yourself, and eat it raw, using the below delicious (and easy) (and cheap!) sauerkraut recipe.

Make at home sauerkraut recipe

MASON JAR SAUERKRAUT RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 big head of green cabbage
  • 2 tbs of kosher or sea salt

Equipment

  • Your biggest mixing bowl
  • 1 big mason jar, very clean
  • 1 smaller jar to fit inside
  • Dried beans, stones, or something similar to fill the small jar
  • A tea towel
  • An elastic band

Directions

  1. Remove any bruised outer leaves from the cabbage.
  2. Wash, slice in half, and shred with a knife or food processor.
  3. Place the cabbage shreds and salt in the mixing bowl.
  4. Massage roughly, crunching and squeezing the cabbage. At first, it will be very difficult, but after a few minutes it will become easier. The salt will draw the water out of the vegetable, making it soft and weak. After 6-10 minutes, there will be a pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. When you can’t squeeze any more juice from the cabbage, take handfuls and pack into the mason jar. Every time you add a new handful, punch down with a closed fist to make room for more. When you have added all the cabbage, pour over the juice.
  6. Now, fill your little jar with some type of weight and press it into the big jar. Push down to pressure the cabbage even more and make the liquid level rise. If you still can’t make the salty juice come up over the cabbage, you can add a little water to do the trick. Place your tea towel over top of the two jars and seal firmly with an elastic band, around the edge of the big jar. This will help to keep the little jar in place and doing its job. Store in an undisturbed corner of your kitchen, unrefrigerated on a counter or shelf.
  7. Over the next few days, take a peek at the sauerkraut every so often. Push down the little jar even further to make the liquid level rise more. If need be, refasten the towel and elastic contraption tighter. After seven days the sauerkraut is ready, but I recommend 2-3 weeks for the best flavor and health benefits.
  8. Enjoy your living superfood!

And to mix it all up, add the following ingredients to the above basic sauerkraut recipe.

Traditional German:
Include 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds.

Carrot & Ginger:
Include 1 shredded carrot and a tablespoon of fresh, grated ginger.

Intense Purple:
Use purple cabbage instead of green, and add one shredded raw beet.

Curry Flavored:
Include ½ chopped onion, one thumb of grated fresh turmeric, ½ tablespoon of curry spice, and ½ tablespoon of coriander or fenugreek seeds.

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