As a kid with Irish ancestry, I grew up eating store bought sauerkraut which was most often pasteurized vinegar with cabbage. It wasn’t until I was an adult and started fermentation adventures that I realized that it was originally a live food, similar to yogurt. The difference is, if you ask me, that it’s a lot more intense than yogurt.
I’ve made sauerkraut once, 2 years ago when I still lived in Acapulco. I only made it once because, well, I overdid it and literally hurt myself in the process. Today I’ll share a recipe along with tips on how to avoid what I did.
The thing with probiotics is if you aren’t used to ingesting them live on a regular basis, they will be a bit hard to deal with in the beginning unless you take some precautions. As your gut gets reconditioned for the good bacteria it basically fights with the problems in your gut, sometimes temporarily making it worse.
Making sauerkraut is extremely easy I found and if we’re going based on taste alone, it’s so much better than store-bought. Realistically the only problems that come are when you eat too much of it in the beginning.
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How To Make Fermented Sauerkraut:
In a large non-reactive (that is not aluminum) bowl mash the cabbage with the salt. It usually takes between 1-3 tablespoons of salt per head of cabbage depending on tastes. The salt is important to keep the bad bacteria out while the good bacteria has a chance to grow. I used a pestle from my mortar and pestle to grind the cabbage but they do make specialized equipment for that too.
The idea is to pound the cabbage until most of the juices are released. After that you pack it tightly into jars, pouring the juice over top to make sure the cabbage is covered. If it’s not, you can add a really small amount of filtered water until it’s just barely covered. Place fermentation weights or a full cabbage leaf to help keep things submerged and cover the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band. Place it in a cool, dark and relatively dry area for 7-14 days depending on your tastes.
You should see healthy bubbles throughout the process and by the end of it the kraut will have changed in texture and flavor. If there’s mold on the surface of the liquid in the jar, don’t eat it, however if you see foam that’s totally normal.
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The kraut is now done and is best served as is because if you heat it you’ll kill the bacteria leaving only lactic acid (and other beneficial acids) but no probiotics.
Here comes the hard part, if you’re like me you’ll want to dive in and eat bunches. I was accustomed to eating a large serving in my childhood so without considering the live nature of it, I did it that time too. I made homemade pierogies to pair it with and went all out. I even ate the remainder of my partners kraut because it was THAT good.
And then about midnight I woke up to some of the worst gut pain and headaches I’ve ever experienced to this day. I sat there for about 3 hours holding a bucket trying not to throw up wondering why I felt like I was dying before I understood, it was the sauerkraut. I did some google searches and behold, I had overdosed myself on probiotics.
That effectively made me scared of sauerkraut and most fermented foods, I’ll admit it. Since then I’ve transitioned to a carnivore based diet which doesn’t require probiotics so I’ve all but given up on this. That being said if you’re consuming a diet with any carbohydrates you should be also consuming probiotics as the body literally cannot digest them without a bit of help.
If you love sauerkraut give it a try but be careful! Many people only suggest a bite to start, once a day or every few days until your body becomes acclimated to the bacteria before really diving in. Learn from my advice, approach with caution but don’t be too afraid to try something a bit different but better and more healthy than the store bought alternative!