We know that cabbage has a multitude of health benefits, but incorporating cabbage into your daily life can be a challengeâ€”there are only so many versions of slaw and fried cabbage one can make. One of my favorite ways to use and preserve the vegetable, though, is to make it into sauerkraut.
Fermented foods are beneficial for digestive health, and sauerkraut is one of the easiest ways to eat a bit of real-food probiotics each day. All that is needed is a pinch of properly made kraut at most meals. When it is that simple and delicious, itâ€™s easy to get a little cabbage into your diet everydayâ€”plus, you can forego those expensive probiotic pills.
What Is Properly Made Sauerkraut?
Unfortunately, if your sauerkraut recipe involves vinegar, it wonâ€™t do. All you need is cabbage, salt and a bit of patience. The presence of vinegar gives fermented vegetables, like kraut and pickles, a sharp flavor but lacks the probiotics that you are looking for.
Kraut For The Home Kitchen
Making sauerkraut can seem daunting to some. Many recipes suggest that you make very large batches, but itâ€™s really better if you make your own recipe fresh every couple months. In our house, that means making it by the quart or half-gallon rather than in a large crock. Properly made kraut doesnâ€™t keep forever. You arenâ€™t going to can it and have a supply for the yearâ€”it is a living product and must be refreshed often.
The great thing about making sauerkraut in small batches is that you can constantly change the recipe. Our kids like to mix in carrots and beets while my husband and I enjoy a spicy pepper or two. Variety is the spice of life and you should experience it with your health supplements as well as your food!
Your Kraut-Making Supplies
In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, I figured Iâ€™d share some of my favorite tools to make small-batch sauerkraut-making easier. You can always buy a small fermentation crock, but in my kitchen I aim to be frugal and keep multitasker tools on hand.
Who doesnâ€™t have a whole basement of these? We use them for so many of our basic household needs that they are in among our daily dishes. A quart jar of kraut will last a family of four a couple months if you donâ€™t get too greedy with your servings. If youâ€™d like to eat more or share with others, youâ€™ll want to stock up on a package of half-gallon jars.
Sometimes I use another jar filled with water to weigh down my sauerkraut so it stays below the level of the brining liquid. I found that Cultures for Healthâ€™s Pickle Pebbles glass weights made the process much easier inside of a small jar.
My absolute favorite kraut tool is one that a friend of mine makes that doubles as a muddler, but it works great for vegetables. Traditional sauerkraut stompers are made to work in a large porcelain crock. When you are working in a small jar and need to squish your cabbage to release the juices, these large stompers wonâ€™t work. This beautiful tool is not only handcrafted, but is made from hard wood harvested from naturally downed trees.
If youâ€™ve got someone in the family that is curious about exploring natural solutions for digestive health, homemade kraut is a great place to start. Put together a kit of multi-tasking tools for them this holiday seasonâ€”and add a grocery run for some cabbageâ€”and I promise you your gift will be well appreciated!