With the rising trends of the whole foods movement, sauerkraut and other ferments are making their rightful come back in the health community. Whether you’re new to fermentation or a veteran this blog is for you! I’m going to share with you the old and new of fermenting foods and how to make them the new or “right” way, as I call it.
If you are not yet informed raw fermented foods are a super house of nutrition. They are nature’s probiotic. They provide trillions of cells of bacteria that no pill or powder could ever compare to. Because we are hundreds of trillions of cells of bacteria that means consuming healthy bacteria is fundamental to the health of our bodies. Our digestive tract stores our immune system and creates the symbiotic relationship of our intuition to brain, that “gut feeling”. Aside from its nutritional qualities like Vitamin C, phenol compounds and minerals, eating raw sauerkraut above all is a holistic and functional protocol to healing our body, mind and spirit.
The Old and the New
Kraut has been around for centuries and we’ve known about its immune enhancing properties long before this blog was created. I’m not here to discuss what we already know. Today, we’re talking kraut because like everything else in life, things are constantly being reborn. What was relevant yesterday is no longer useful today. The only things that go on existing based on the past are machines and machines are a dead phenomenon. Our bodies, our lives, our health; however, is a moving and living phenomenon! And in order to keep up with the endless expansion of our lives we have to stay incredibly present. What has served us in the past may no longer serve us and I find this to be true with diet. Food today doesn’t contain the same nutritional content it did before. Our environment is different, our consciousness is different and the way we live is very different. The old fashioned way (wild fermentation) of creating raw sauerkraut is no longer serving us! The wild fermentation process uses a SCOOBY (symbiotic culture of organisms bacteria and yeast) to convert the natural sugars into lactic bacteria (probiotics). Though this is perfectly fine for individuals with a healthy immune system, the truth is today nearly 95% of people in the world as affected by parasite and yeast infections. Our immune systems are highly compromised and we must be more health conscious than ever!
Wild Fermentation Vs. Cultured Fermentation
Cultured vegetables, a term coined by Donna Gates, is the “new” way of making and eating fermented foods. Many people have been making wild ferments their entire lives and are fine doing so. These are perhaps people who have been health conscious for quite some time now. And that is great for them! Continue to make ferments no matter what. This blog can still offer you something though so hang in there! The main difference between a wild ferment and a cultured ferment is the brine. Wild ferments use sea salt, whey, or a type of SCOOBY to ferment the food. Where a cultured ferment uses a Strain Specific Bacteria/Yeast combination. The point of using “strain specifics” is to ensure the protection of the immune system. Many of the wild yeast and bacteria that can grow during wild fermentation can be compromising for the immune system.
What are types of Wild Ferments?
- Beer (commercial beer is not only wildly fermented but processed and highly acidic)
- Dairy or Water Kefir made with Kefir Grains
- Sauerkraut made with a sea salt or whey brine
Some of these foods can be consumed by healthy individuals as I said. Home brewed kombucha, beers and other wild ferments do have benefits assuming they are made with organic, quality ingredients. However, the key point is that they are not optimal.
Who should avoid Wild Ferments?
Though I believe we should all be using more strain specific ferments to protect our immune system, the occasional wild-ferment won’t kill you. Here are some people who may want to replace them all together:
- Those with Auto-Immune Disorders
- Those with an active virus
- Anyone suffering from known yeast infections (vaginal yeast infections are a big one!)
- Those suffering from Adrenal Fatigue
- People with Thyroid disorders
- Anyone with digestive distress (bloating, gas, acid reflux, etc)
- Those experiencing skin problems; acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
- Those with a history or current mood and behavioral disorders
Making Kraut the “Right Way”
Enough talk, let’s make some kraut! As I mentioned before, the main difference between the “right” and “wrong” way of making ferments is the use of a starter culture. The use of the starter culture is going to populate your kraut with healthy probiotic bacteria. This way, while your cabbage is fermenting it already has a healthy head start. The good bacteria and yeast will grow, leaving little to no room for any harmful or immune compromising bacterias to grow.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 head green cabbage
- 2 tsp. caraway seeds
- 2 tsp. Real Salt Sea Salt
- 1 Starter Culture
- 1 tsp. prebiotic (raw honey, rapadura, or ecobloom)
- 1/2 cup. filtered water
- 4-5 Outer Cabbage Leaves
- 2 32oz. Glass Mason Jar
- Wood Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife
Here’s how you make it:
- First start with the brine. To make the brine, take your room-temp water and add the prebiotic and starter culture, sea salt and caraway seeds. Let sit for 15-20 minutes (the time you take to chop the cabbage should do!). The healthy microbes will start to come to life by eating up the prebiotics. This way when you add the brine to the cabbage it will start fermenting the cabbage with healthy bacteria before any harmful ones have the chance to grow.
- Next, you want to take your cutting board out and core and chop the cabbage. I personally like to hand chop my cabbage. I find the longer, thinner pieces of cabbage ferment nicer and have a better texture than using a food processor. If you want, you can core the cabbage and pulse it in a processor. You will get a different consistency, you can make it very fine, almost apple sauce-like if you will. Some people love it this way! At this point, it’s personal preference, it won’t change the benefits of the kraut.
- This is my secret for making the perfect kraut! Once the brine has sat and your cabbage is chopped simply take the cabbage and add it to a clean croc-pot or big glass bowl. Next, add the brine to the cabbage in the croc and mix by hand or with hand potato masher for 10 minutes. Really mix it up! Then let it sit, covered with a clean cloth for about 20 minutes to an hour. This way all the brine is completely mixed through. It will make the kraut ferment faster, more evenly and the flavor will be more tasteful and distributed.
- Lastly, you want to stuff the cabbage and brine into the mason jar. You’ll notice once you have mixed the cabbage and brine solution together and it’s sat that it has pulled out even more of a brine. There should be a lot more liquid than when you started. You might have even noticed more of a brine forming as you were hand mixing it. The goal is to have enough brine to cover the cabbage. So when you stuff the cabbage mixture into the jar, pack it down very tight so the water rises above the top. If there is any cabbage exposed to air it won’t ferment and will rot instead. If you have to, add more water to the jar to make sure it’s covered. Then roll a few of the cabbage leaves to place on top and keep the cabbage packed down.
- Let sit out on the counter or insulated cooler for 5-7 days. Ideally, you want the room to be about a consistent 72 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll know they’re done when some bubbles are present, the brine is a little cloudy and the cabbage has changed from a brighter green to more of a yellow.
To really know whether or not a wild ferment is good for you or not is going to require a great detail of sensitivity. Anyone working to build their health should be honing in on their intuition. Building a relationship with your body and seeing how it responds to foods requires honesty with yourself. Only you can know. So more than anything I offer you this recipe as an experiment for your health and the obtainment of more!
Signs you may be reacting to wild ferments:
- Itchiness on body, especially in throat.
- Increased skin problems
- A change in body odor
- Mood changes
Let me know in the comments if you’ve experienced the difference between traditional ferments and cultured ferments!
Best of health,