Simple Sauerkraut

No doubt you’ve all heard by now how good fermented foods are for you, for your gut health, which science is now discovering plays an incredibly significant role in your overall health and wellbeing.
Looking into the types of fermented foods that are espoused by Those In The Know, I considered sauerkraut to be the easiest one to attempt myself (besides natural yoghurt… which I already make… But my sourdough bread attempts haven’t been ultra successful) :/
So, Googling in my usual style, I discovered the basic elements for homemade sauerkraut. And they are cabbage and salt. Yep, that’s all folks. Of course you can add things in for variety and taste – like other veggies, herbs and spices, even extra probiotic cultures – but on the whole I usually stick with the basics.
It’s ridiculously easy. The hardest part is waiting for it to become edible: waiting out the fermentation period.Food Fervour

You can buy special equipment for the process (this can ensure better success) but I literally began with a 1 litre glass jar. An ex-coconut oil jar (pictured right). No frills whosoever. (Except that it had to have a mouth that I could fit my hand into; that’s imperative …you’ll see why.) Food FervourIf, however, you end up liking and wanting to continue production after your first test batch, I’d highly recommend at the very least purchasing a jar with a proper rubber seal, such as the one pictured left.

Food FervourLuckily for me, a very inventive friend made a couple of purpose-built jars (equipped with beer brewing parts that allow oxygen to escape but not enter, for a more sterile environment) and gave them to me (pic right) so I can make ‘kraut til the cows come home 😛

For a 1 litre container you’ll need 1kg of cabbage (about half of a large head) and 1 tablespoon of salt (I opt for Celtic sea or Himalayan for the higher trace mineral content). When I remember, I pop a bay leaf in too. Note: if you’re trying this for the first time and fear failure (don’t worry, I often do too) simply halve the amounts and the jar size. That way there’ll be less to throw out if (1) it fails or (2) you decide you don’t like it!

Step One: Peel off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and set them aside… don’t discard, we’ll be needing them later.

Step Two: Simply shred the cabbage and place into a very large bowl. You can finely chop with a large knife on a large chopping board, in batches. Or using a food processor if preferred, and also in batches (I have done it in my Thermomix, smaller batches, a few seconds on Speed 4-5)

Food Fervour

Yes, ALL of this does eventually fit in that jar…and easily!

Step Three: Add the salt (*and any other herbs or spices you’d like to include) and now you gotta git yer hands dirty! So make sure they’re clean. You need to get both hands into the bowl and massage the salt though the cabbage (et al). Really squeeze it, crush the life out of it! Food FervourThis is important to release the fluids (predominantly water) in the vegetable so that – combined with the salt you added – a brine can manifest. Give it a good couple of minutes… the longer, the better.

Step Four: Let it rest. Wash your hands, set the timer for 15 minutes and go have a cuppa or something. The magic happens here: the salt continues to draw the fluid from the cabbage, increasing the amount of all-important brine.

Step Five: Grab your jar and (with clean hands of course) begin stuffing the cabbage mixture in. Take a break when you think it’s lookin’ kinda full and start squashing the cabbage down to the bottom of the jar. As hard as you can. You are squeezing out as much air as possible and you’ll probably notice all of a sudden the brine is coming to the top. Food FervourYeah! Keep going! Chuck more of that stuff in and keep pressing it down. Eventually you’ll reach the end and you should be lucky enough to have all of the mixture well below the level of brine.

 

Step Six: Those spare outer cabbage leaves you kept at the start? This is where they come in. Choose one and push it in, down below the brine, as level as you can, across the top of your original ‘kraut mixture. Again, you’re trying to get as much of the air out from underneath that baby as possible. Food FervourI often do it with a couple of pieces to make well-and-sure that my mix is well under the waterline. When you’re satisfied, tightly cap the jar. (Professional home-sauerkraut makers buy special weights to ensure the sheltering cabbage leaf stays down but… I’ve never felt the need…)

Step Seven: Date your creation (I pop little stickers on the lid, see pic below) and store for at least one week, maximum two, in a cool dark place (the back of the pantry is ideal). Food FervourAfter one or two ‘explosive’ experiences (not really as scary as it sounds, just pressure build-up..) I decided to sit the jar in a little bowl just in case there’s a Great Brine Escape (leakage).

When you’re ready to open it, discard the top cabbage leaves (and the excess brine if you like) and keep refrigerated. I’ve had opened jars in the fridge for up to 4 months!

Now I must stress this is not the most hygienic way to make sauerkraut (as I said, there is proper equipment available out there in the marketplace) but of all the batches I’ve made (I’d guess nearly a dozen?) in the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one batch that failed. And I knew it simply because it just didn’t smell right. Trust your nose, People. Science tells us there is no better apparatus to recognise bad food, than our own noses.

If you’re wondering whose sauerkraut recipe inspired me, take a look at The Healthy Chef (Teresa Cutter)’s Polish Sauerkraut. If you’re not exactly sure what to do with your sauerkraut once it’s ready open, check out some of the meals I’ve used it in:

https://foodfervour.com/2014/11/25/a-probiotic-toastie/

https://foodfervour.com/2016/01/18/an-eclectic-rainbow-salad/

https://foodfervour.com/2014/12/11/asparagus-sprouted-lentils-with-avocado-sauerkraut-mash/

 

 

 

 

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An Eclectic Rainbow Salad

Variety is the spice of Life. It also happens to be really good for your body.

That’s why it’s one of the drivers behind the meals I make: the greater the variety of food in a meal, the higher its nutritional content (generally speaking). That’s why ‘they’ say “Eat a Rainbow”.

Well, today’s lunch certainly nailed the colour bit. Which is interesting, considering it all began with a thought about boiled eggs as I drove home from yoga. You see, I often boil a few up and keep them in the fridge (…for moments just like these – instant gratification meals). Mum used to make an avocado, tomato & cottage cheese salad that I loved and even though it didn’t relate directly to my egg craving, I began to envisage a meal based on this combination.Food Fervour

This is how it came together:

Scattering a large handful of roughly chopped baby spinach on my plate, I then topped it with 3 quartered cherry tomatoes, 2 quartered hard boiled eggs, about 5cm of chopped lebanese cucumber and chunks of flesh from ½ large avocado.

Next I piled on about 3 heaped tablespoons of (my homemade) sauerkraut to please my gut bacteria, then a mound (approximately 2 tablespoons) of grated vintage cheddar …simply because it goes so well with avo and sauerkraut (have you ever tried a Reuben’s Sandwich? Here’s a link to my recipe for one of them: https://foodfervour.com/2014/11/25/a-probiotic-toastie/)

That’s kind of edgy enough for a salad but I felt like pushing the boundaries a bit further so, instead of my standard vinegar & oil dressing, I drizzled the plain EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) over everything but followed it with a dollop of homemade sweet chilli sauce on the top. And if that wasn’t daring enough, I sprinkled approximately a dessertspoon of nutritional yeast flakes over the whole lot. BOOM. Gut-lovin’!

Now admittedly, even before I tucked in, it crossed my mind that I might’ve gone too far: gone overboard with elements & confused the flavours …but I wasn’t disappointed. I ate the lot. Maybe I was too hungry to notice whether the flavours really worked together or not? So please, by all means, if you decide to try this meal for yourself, and you come to a different conclusion, feel free to remind me that sometimes nutrient density should take a backseat to simplicity…

Asparagus & Sprouted Lentils with Avocado Sauerkraut Mash

The key to healthy eating is experimentation. Really, it’s not that hard, with the bottomless supply of information available at your fingertips on the net. I reckon I search for recipes (food ideas) pretty much every day of the week.

Today’s lunch was no exception. I checked out what I had in the fridge – paying particular attention to the veggies that needed to be used up first – and dived right into Google (the best thing since sliced bread….if you want to call that the best thing…)

Asparagus and sprouted lentils were first up. I found an appealing recipe (5th from the top of the first results page). But my (OCD!?) desire for nutrient density meant I had to search further. So I entered avocado & sauerkraut (just getting into sauerkraut for the first time in my life, so am kind of at a loss as to what to do with it) and found this interesting little recipe…

Envisaging how the two separate dishes may just compliment each other, I set to work, and produced this:food fervour

So, what’s in it? And in particular, what the hell is that stuff on top? It kinda looks like refried-beans-but-not? It’s actually avocado & sauerkraut.

I found the Sprouted Lentils with Asparagus recipe here, on the blog ‘My Own Private Kitchen’ and I altered very little: apart from the amounts (I’m ONE person) I omitted the basil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and I cooked in coconut oil instead. Oh yeah… and a lazy thing: I caramelised the onions in my Thermomix, per a recipe in Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking cookbook (making extra for later use, coz I LOVE caramelised onions).

The Avocado Sauerkraut Mash – on the website purelytwins.com – intrigued me. It’s so simple …but I found it needed something extra, and that extra was a dash of apple cider vinegar (lemon or lime juice might also do) for more, slightly sweeter, acidity. (I might’ve needed the added ‘oomph’ because my sauerkraut is homemade so could taste completely different – milder – than the stuff the twins use/d.)

To describe the processes super-briefly (for those who can’t be bothered visiting the links) here’s how it all came together:

Firstly I set the Thermomix to work on caramelising the onions for me (this takes about 20 minutes, the same amount of time as doing it yourself in a frypan) so I had time to prep my capsicum & asparagus. Frying them in coconut oil, over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, gave me time to make the ago mash simultaneously: halving an avocado, mashing & mixing it with 2 heaped tablespoons of sauerkraut. I pulled the veggies off the heat (leaving them in the frypan to ‘rest’) then mixed the (dash of) apple cider vinegar through the mash mixture and laid the bed of baby spinach on my plate. I added ½ cup of sprouted lentils straight into the frypan with the cooked capsicum & asparagus and stirred them through to warm. When the onions were done, I added about ¼ cup of them to the frypan, again mixing up the contents before placing them on top of the baby spinach. I scraped out every last bit of the avo sauerkraut mash from the mixing bowl and sat it on top of the lot.

It creates a visual feast, but you have to mix it all through when it’s time to consume: the sweetness of the onions and the capsicum counters & compliments the tang of the mash and there’s definitely one helluva lot of texture in the meal. You could also add a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon juice if you prefer more moistness.

A Probiotic Toastie?

Since fermenting is now the latest thing in nutrition (to support and/or feed our gut bacteria which play possibly the mightiest role in our overall health) I have tried my hand at making sauerkraut, so that I have at least one natural, clean, ready-to-eat probiotic in my fridge…besides yoghurt, of course. Sauerkraut seemed like the easiest place for a Fermentation Beginner to start. “Probiotics 101”?

My first batch kind of failed, but my second attempt was a success. The question then became what to do with it. How do you eat it? I mean, how is it incorporated it into meals? After just eating it by the spoonful from the jar for awhile (hey, I don’t have to share with anyone so it’s ok!) I discovered it paired well with avocado: its salty tang, moisture and crunchiness compliments avo’s smooth, bland texture. I later realised that I could make a very quick, very simple tasty meal with some nutritional diversity, by adding in some ‘ever-ready-to-eat’ sprouted lentils I have stored in the fridge (no dressing required, thanks to the sauerkraut).food fervour

But today, I wanted something different; something a little more complex and filling. So I went hunting on the net, and came across a few recipes for ‘Reubens’: American-style sandwiches which usually include some kind of cured meat, like pastrami or corned beef. But then I found this vegetarian one: Vegetarian Reubens with Russian Dressing and it looked like something worth adapting.

Since I like to save time & effort (read: lazy!) I went without the dressing, adding avocado instead. It’s a surprisingly quick, warm nutrient-dense meal.

I quickly sautéed the mushrooms with chopped shallots, in coconut oil, pepper & salt, then added the baby spinach, stir-frying until it wilted. Removing that from the pan, I added some more coconut oil and lay my two pieces of gluten free bread, with the avocado already mashed on top, down to “fry-toast”.

A couple of minutes later the grill was warm enough, so I transferred my bread & avocado to the grill, then heaped the mushroom-spinach mix on top of one slice and my sauerkraut over the other, before laying slices of beautiful Nimbin Natural Tasty cheese over the top of both stacks. In less than a minute in my fast, hot grill, the cheese had melted beautifully so all I had left to do was press the two toasties together and transfer to a plate before devouring.food fervour

Now there’s a meal and a half, packed with nutrients, protein, fibre, good fats and of course ….wicked, gut-loving pro-biotics. 😉