Over the past couple of weeks I have been continuing the theme of fermented food and about a week ago decided that it was time to use up the organic white cabbage that had been lurking in my refrigerator for at least a week and a half. Fermented food is one of the latest fads that has been starting to trickle down to mainstream media recently with an article on the BBC website mentioning its health benefits posted just a day ago.
So, fermented foods are supposedly rich in probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’ and of course the process of fermentation is an age old form of food preservation in the days before refrigeration. I am saying supposedly because I have not tested these substances myself in a laboratory. I am just a mum looking for answers to my family’s health issues. I am trusting that these foods can help a digestive tract that may be suffering from leaky gut and/or dysbiosis, to heal. I am not basing this on my own scientific experiments and do not pretend to have all the answers. What I do know from common sense and my personal research as a mother trying to understand what has lead to the health issues in her own family, it is pretty obvious to me that even if our digestive tract is full of sh*t and itself ‘dirty’ being paranoid about ‘dirt’ is why we have developed chronic diseases in such epidemic proportions over the past fifty years or so. There is a time and a place for dirt and we have to work out ourselves what bugs are useful and which are detrimental. I have only to look at recent research that has linked C-section births and obsessive sterilisation procedures with long term problems later developing in babies born this way. This has happened in my own family with my own C-section premature baby….
Being paranoid about cleanliness has been mostly to our detriment as a species as we have turned to artificial chemical means to try and destroy ‘99% of household germs – dead’ (to quote a famous advertising slogan for bleach). By trying to create a germ-free environment there is statistical evidence which links strict hygiene standards with increased numbers of autoimmune diseases developing in the so-called developed world! Most westerners are just not eating enough of the right kinds of food from plastic wrapped salads that have already been prewashed in chlorinated water to ‘ping’ meals that you shove in the microwave oven. In spite of all the advertising campaigns to get people to look after their diets, relying on mass produced body and household cleaning and ready-made preservative and pesticide filled meals, people are succumbing to more and more chronic diseases than ever before.
Fermented foods by definition involve bacteria breeding in them. It is time to overcome our fear of all bugs and take the plunge into a pot of home-made sauerkraut. It might smell a bit ‘off’ but at the same time, we need to re educate our taste buds to what real food tastes like, as opposed to the mass produced artificially flavoured pap that a lot of us eat on a daily basis that really shouldn’t be considered food at all…
Recipe & Equipment:
- A whole organic white cabbage
- 3-4 tsps of sea salt or Himalayan salt (ground)
- Large bowl
- Sharp knife
- Storage jar
- Muslin and tie/elastic
- Remove the hard stem/core and outer leaves if particularly dirty.
- Shred finely with knife.
- Place in large bowl and add the salt. Now start pummelling the cabbage with clean detergent free hands. Your skin’s own ‘bugs’ or microbiome will ‘add’ to the mix – this might sound slightly dodgy but this is part of the fermentation process and your ultimate connection with the finished product. Obviously do not do this if you have any open wounds in your hands, etc. ‘Knead’ the salt into the cabbage (it will soon dissolve as the water starts to seep from the strands of vegetable matter) and use the opportunity to relax – it really can be quite meditational. This process should take about five to ten minutes by which time the material has softened considerably, changed colour slightly and produced lots of liquid.
- Place the cabbage in a clean storage jar and press down until liquid is covering the top of the shredded material. If necessary, place a small lid or saucer small enough to fit inside the jar to keep the cabbage below the water’s surface.
- Cover the opening with a tea towel or muslin tied in place and store in a dark cupboard for four to five days.
- After this time, the sauerkraut should be ready to eat. If there is any mould on the top, just remove it. A few ‘germs’ will not kill you! Try to use your gut instinct to trust that the ferment is ok. If for some reason it isn’t ‘right’ you should know. The sauerkraut will develop a slightly vinegary taste as well as having quite a pungent smell. This is natural and how it is meant to be.
Tips: You can add any other plant based material to the ‘kraut’ as well as just the original cabbage. A friend of mine who makes it regularly says she even adds nuts and seeds to the mix!