When I was undergoing my Raw Food Chef Training, I fell in love with fermented vegetables. I had an idea that probiotics were good for you but I didn't know why and how to go about making my own probiotic rich foods on the cheap. Fermentation is the way people have been preserving vegetables and making drinks and alcoholic beverages since way before our time. This is one of the most basic ways to begin making your own fermented veg. I like to make kimchi or spice this up with other veggies and ingredients and we will get into all that, but for now, let's master the minimal favorite, the naked kraut. What is it? Sauerkraut is essentially chopped cabbage that has undergone an anaerobic (no oxygen) fermentation using lactic acid bacteria, which gives it the distinctive sour flavor and preserves it for months when stored in the fridge. I like mine chunky, so you will see the leaves here are hand torn and the stem in tact. So it turns out that when you eat fermented foods and beverages with meals, their effect is that they help you digest all the other food you eat along with it and in just a small portion you get over 100 times what you get in a probiotic supplement. Cheap, easy, and good for your gut? Count me in any day ;)
1 head napa cabbage
1-2 T sea salt
yes, that's it!
Let's begin. First you need to clean and dry your cabbage and all your bowls, jars, and hands! Once you chop your cabbage, you place in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the sea salt, making sure to toss it in to coat the leaves. Some people go ahead and get to massaging right away, but I like to let it sit for about 20 minutes as this will make the cabbage start to sweat and break down, reducing the time needed to massage it.
To massage the cabbage, simply get your hands in there and keep squeezing until the leaves wilt and there is a noticeable amount of brine in your bowl. Cabbage responds quickly so this won't require much.
Get our your clean jars or crock or large glass/ceramic container and place your cabbage in it, being sure to press it down and jam it in to get out the air bubbles. Top it off and make sure all the cabbage is coved by the remaining brine.
If you have clean mason jars lids that are fairly new you can get by with covering with a whole leaf of cabbage and setting aside with the lid on or a tea towel on top. If you do place a lid on as I like to, be sure to place the jar on top of a plate or another surface as the liquid may spill out during fermentation and you will need to "burp" it in the morning and night. (2-3x/day) to get the air bubbles out. As you do, taste it! If you use a larger vessel, either place a plate or another jar on top of the cabbage and weight it down and cover with a tea towel.
If you are in a warm climate, remember that fermentation will happen faster but if you have room temp about 70 degrees F, then you get let it sit for about 3 days until it is ready to go into the fridge and ready to eat! If its warmer than that, pay attention after 1 day and see how it is going. Remember you will only get better at this. I have to remind myself in my phone the day I start these things and sprouting too as I often lose track!
One last thing to note - I typically get exactly 2x16 oz mason jars of kraut with 1 napa cabbage head. My wide-mouth mason jar lids are older so in order to use them and avoid harmful bacteria exposure, I place a layer of plastic between the kraut and the lid. A sandwich bag cut in half will do.
Enjoy on salads, sandwiches, wraps, as a side dish or on its own!