Beetroot, Fennel & Ginger Sauerkraut
My introduction to sauerkraut came only about 4-5 years ago around about the time when it went from reviled German traditional food to trendy new addition to every nourish/buddha/poke bowl in upmarket health food cafes. Frank brought some home and regularly cracked open the jar throughout the day to groans of disgust from myself and our girls … the smell was reminiscent of sweaty shoes or bad flatulence!
Somehow, however, we have all slowly become addicted to this fermented cabbage elixir and eat it most days, on avocado, in a nourish bowl or with an omelette & salad.
Sauerkraut (or sour cabbage) is one of the original fermented foods, believed to be created by laborers building the Great Wall of China over 2000 years ago, not the Germans as commonly believed. It was one of a number of culinary techniques that allowed people to preserve vegetables so they would have a food source during lean times.
The process of making sauerkraut hasn’t really changed from the 16th century when the Germans began owning this tradition. Cabbage is sliced finely and massaged with salt to extract the water from the vegetable. The cabbage then ferments with the natural bacteria from the leaves, turning the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid which acts as a preservative.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut are awesome for helping build a healthy gut biome which we now know is essential for supporting so many systems in our body including our immunity, brain function, and metabolism. Fermentation also boosts the nutritional value of food producing essential amino acids, fatty acids & enzymes and also helps make many nutrients more bioavailable. Many people that feel uncomfortable eating cabbage, onion or garlic, will happily enjoy it once fermented into a sauerkraut.
Given how simple (and fun – you get to squish food with your hands!) it is to make sauerkraut, it is a great ritual to introduce to your kitchen. It can be made in a large glass jar, or in a ceramic fermenting pot that sits on the kitchen bench looking good while it works. A ceramic pot can also help minimise light from adversely affecting the bacteria.
Another reason sauerkraut has become so popular is probably because it is no longer simply made just from cabbage - there are so many other possible varieties, adding options like beetroot, carrot, sweet potato, onion, garlic & chillies or perhaps seaweed, turmeric or spirulina! You can pimp your Kraut however you like!
Here’s the recipe for one of our all time favourites…Beetroot, Fennel & Ginger Sauerkraut.
INGREDIENTS (Makes around 1litre of kraut)
We use organically grown ingredients.
½ -1 tbsp fennel seeds (or 1/2 fennel bulb finely sliced if available)
Fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
Fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp coarse sea salt
½ green cabbage, finely sliced
2 large beetroot, grated
1 brown onion, peeled & grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 cm knob ginger, grated
Wash hands well.
Place all ingredients (except salt) in large bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.
Add salt and massage into the vegetables. Continue massaging until enough liquid has formed to cover the cabbage mix. (usually around 10 minutes)
Scoop sauerkraut into jar or pot and push down firmly into the bottom. Add all the liquid so it covers the mix completely.
Cover with additional cabbage leaves or ceramic holder to keep contents pushed down.
Put lid on jar and put jar in a shallow bowl to catch any spills during fermentation. The first bacteria that kicks into action produces C02 which creates bubbles, and you can get a build up of gas in the jar. Release the lid slowly to disperse this over the first few days.
If using fermenting pot, put lid on and fill lip cavity with water.
Leave at room temperature for at least 7 days although the time required will depend on the climate you live in. Between 18- 22oc is thought to be ideal for allowing the three main strains of bacteria to do their job.
Each time you check your ferment, ensure you cover it all up well again before leaving.
Once you are happy with your kraut, transfer to a clean jar, seal and store in the refrigerator ready to enjoy.
Then start your next batch so its ready when you’ve finished the first one!