My mouth is watering! Learn why you should be eating fermented foods and how to make mason jar sauerkraut! Yum!
by Chanelle Henderson | staff writer for The Snap Mom
In an effort to add more fermented foods to our diet, my family and I have been including things such as sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, and kombucha to our daily meal plan. Fermented foods are foods that have undergone lacto-fermentation, a process where healthy bacteria feast on the sugars and starches in the food creating lactic acid. This breakdown naturally preserves the food in the acid while adding enzymes, vitamins, and probiotics to the food.
Why fermented foods?
Eating fermented foods introduces beneficial bacteria into your body and may help balance the bacteria in your system. (source) Some strains of lactobacillus have been shown to temporarily colonize the gut, which can lead to a decrease in lactose intolerance, improve digestion, and potentially stimulate an immune response.
2. Help Absorb Nutrients
The enzymes in a fermentation help make the nutrients in the foods more bioavailable. When consumed regularly and paired with meals, they can help absorb more nutrients from other foods you eat.
3. Stretches your Budget
Fermented foods are cheap, easy to make, and can really stretch out a product’s shelf life! After all, it is the oldest form of preservation out there. A good jar of sauerkraut can last months when stored properly. Same goes for salsas, kombuchas, and all sorts of fermented veggies! It can really save your grocery bill while still adding the necessary vegetables to your family’s diet.
I had been buying fresh sauerkraut for the most part because all the recipes I had read called for gallon-size crock-pot batches of kraut. No WAY my tiny family of 3 (one being a toddler!) in our small apartment could store so much sauerkraut.
Then I stumbled upon a MASON JAR version of the same process! I can make a small batch without the hassle and commitment of a gallon-size load. And seriously. IT’S SO EASY. Give it a try—you’ve got nothing to lose!
MASON JAR SAUERKRAUT
- 1 head of cabbage
- 2 tablespoons of himalayan salt
- (OPTIONAL: spices/herbs such as carroway seeds or dried dill for flavor)
- 2 quart-sized mason jars
- 2 smaller jars that fit in the mouth of the large jar (I found that a small empty bottle of Healthy Living vitamins fit perfectly!)
- Cheesecloth, or other breathable fabric to allow airflow and keep out bugs
Remove outer, wilty leaves from the head of cabbage
Chop it up fine (like coleslaw)
Place chopped cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle the salt all over. Gently massage the salt in until the cabbage gets a bit wilted and a little soggy.
(OPTIONAL: you can sub the salt with a bit of whey to kickstart the fermentation process. Although veggies like cabbage have lactobacillus naturally, adding a bit of whey can ensure a healthy first attempt fermentation. Sometimes, I’ll use a spoonful or two of the old batch as my starter)
Transfer the batch a bit at a time into the jars, tamping it down a little as you go to remove air. If there is a bit of juice left in the bowl, pour it over the cabbage.
Insert smaller jar on top. Top with the cloth and secure. Use the smaller jar to push down the kraut periodically. You might have to fill it with marbles or stones to make it heavy enough.
Store jar in a cool dark place (65-75 degrees is optimum).
Over the next 24 hours, push it down every few hours. The cabbage should begin to release juice, thus creating its own brine. Use the small jar to hold the cabbage under the brine so it remains submerged (this keeps the fermentation anaerobic and from growing mold).
After about 3 days, start tasting the sauerkraut. When it has reached a flavor you like (usually within 3-10 days), cap the jar, and store it in the fridge. It should keep for 2 months or so.
**a little note:
If some of the cabbage is exposed on top (above the brine), it may grow a little bit of mold. While distasteful, it is perfectly safe! Simply scrape off that layer before consuming and throw it away. The remaining sauerkraut below the brine level continues to be in an anaerobic environment, thus is safe to eat. (source)
THAT’S IT! Enjoy your tasty homemade kraut any time you want!
About the writer
Chanelle spends her hours as a mom, a writer, a wife, and a mental health counselor–not always in that order! When she and her husband aren’t chasing after their renegade children, they ponder the finer philosophies of Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss (while wiping finger paint off the pages).