It's finally here! A probiotic-rich, fermented salad you can easily make in your very own kitchen! This Beet and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut boasts the good-for-you bacteria that we all want in (but are usually missing from) our diet. And I'm so excited to finally be sharing a friendly, approachable, and delicious fermented recipe with you!
Since moving to Europe almost six years ago, I've realized how much I took for granted the relative accessibility (and affordability) of nourishing, whole foods in the U.S --- fermented foods being one of them. So over the years, I've experimented making several fermented recipes at home. And my favorite all-purpose, best bang-for-your-buck recipe is this kraut!
Having done the research, I feel very strongly that fermented foods should be part of our regular meal landscape. So I'm going to geek out today to exshare why I love it so much and how it can become part of our everyday meals.
Why Should I Care about Fermented Food?
Gut health is paramount to whole health. And an important factor in gut health is including probiotic-rich, fermented foods, like this Beet and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut, in our diet. Scientists have proven that we crave the food we eat. This is because the food we eat influences the type of bacteria living in our gut, and therefore our health. (e.g. Eating processed carbs and sugar encourages the growth of sugar-craving bacteria while eating greens and fermented foods propagate fiber-craving and other good strains of bacteria.)
Here are some more gut facts that I get excited about:
- 60% of our immune cells live in the lining of our intestinal walls
- 70% of serotonin (the good-mood hormone) is produced in the gut
- Overweight and obese people have fewer diverse strains of good bacteria in their gut
Translated: There's a strong link between gut health and….everything. The immune system, brain, hormones, and gut are not isolated systems in the body that act independently. They interact and influence each other. In fact, a healthy gut means we're better able to:
- regulate mood and deal with stress, anxiety, and depression
- manage digestion, hormones and weight
- ward off seasonal colds, flu, and allergies
- fight free radicals and slow the aging process
Plus, the fermented food itself is packed full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In the case of this Beet and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut, it contains all the detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer-fighting properties that cabbage, beets, ginger, and garlic already offer, but in a more digestion-friendly format. Meaning the nutrients are more available to be absorbed and used in your body.
If you're interested in geeking out even more on this topic, revisit this blog post where I talk about our microbiome, gut health and all the foods to support it.
Why Should I Make Sauerkraut at Home?
Customization: There are many places where it's difficult to find unpasteurized, fermented foods from a quality, trusted source. And when you do find them, they might not be to your taste. The astringent, briny flavor of traditional sauerkraut isn't for everyone. But this purple kraut, with a sweet, well-rounded flavor and punch of ginger and cilantro, is such a departure from the original that it shouldn't even share the same last name!
Nutritional Diversity: Even if you do have access to quality fermented foods, it's still a good idea to vary the ferments you eat. Our microbiome consists of many diverse strains of good bacteria. And occasionally changing the type and source of ferment we eat ensures we get a broad range of bacteria to support the diversity in our gut.
Furthermore, making kraut at home is a process in making living food. As you throw in different ingredients and massage with your hands, the bacteria on the food interacts with the bacteria in your environment -- on your hands and in the air -- resulting in more diverse strains of good bacteria than can be found in many commercial, store-bought ferments.
If you're still reading, you're either fully convinced and can't wait to get into the kitchen, or you're skeptical, wondering 1) if you'll even like the kraut and 2) whether you'll be able to incorporate it into your normal meals. In either case, this section should help convince and spark ideas. ;-)
Think of this kraut as a delicious, whole food sweet, tangy, and crunchy supplement to your meals; an all-natural digestive and immunity-booster that needs only a forkful to do the trick. I'm typically able to pair it with 3-5 meals in any given week. It's a great topper for avocado toast, and it's a no-brainer in hummus wraps or folded into an omelet or scrambled eggs. If you make curries, stir-fries, or grain bowls often, those are fabulous meals for a kraut topping.
Ask yourself two questions when deciding whether a meal makes a good pairing for the kraut. If you answer yes to either of the below questions, you're in good company. Pair away!
- Does this dish have complimentary flavors? Think about meals that are fairly neutral or simply flavored and won't compete with the kraut. (I'm posting a quinoa bowl next week that falls in this category! This is also where eggs, avocado toast, and hummus wraps come in.) Or think about recipes with notes of ginger, garlic, and/or cilantro -- namely Asian (Indian, Thai, Korean) or Mexican cuisines. See the Everyday Dal in last week's post or any of the number of recipes with the "Asian" tag.
- Does this dish need a brightener to elevate the flavors? Think of this kraut as a substitute for vinegar or lime. Anywhere you need a sour element (and where a bit of crunch wouldn't hurt), this kraut will do the trick.
Whew! That was a lot to swallow. But hopefully it was easy to digest and gets you excited to make this sauerkraut! I'll continue offering meals ideas that pair well with kraut. In fact the lineup for this entire month is kraut friendly. Above picture is a sneak peak of next week's simple quinoa bowl.
Click on the heart icon below if you like the sounds of this kraut or plan to make it! And leave a comment letting me know what you think or if you have questions and need help troubleshooting!
Beet and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut
Makes a lot!
Notes: Homemade sauerkraut requires that you get in there with your hands to massage the vegetables. You would think the red beet and cabbage stain your hands. But remarkably they don't! Simply wash your hands with soap after packing the jar, and you'll notice very little pigment is left behind. This recipe requires 20-30 minutes hands-on time. After which the kraut sits out to ferment for 7-10 days. Be sure to read instructions entirely before beginning.
- 6 cups (730 gr) shredded red cabbage (~1 small-medium red cabbage)
- 2 medium beets (350 gr.), scrubbed and rinsed
- 3 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. chili flakes (optional - it doesn't make it spicy, just rounds out the flavors)
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 small bunch (20 gr.) cilantro (leaves + FULL length of tender stems, finely minced)
- 2 small-medium pears, thinly sliced
- 1 wide-mouth glass jar (2 liter or 8 cup/64 oz. capacity), or two smaller jars
- 1 large, deep bowl
- Large sharp knife + cutting board
- Mandolin or food processor
- Remove outer leaves of cabbage and set aside (we'll use them later). Quarter cabbage and cut into each quarter at an angle to remove core. Shred cabbage using a mandolin (with the thin setting), the slicer attachment of a food processor, or a large, sharp knife cutting as thinly as possible.
- Remove ends of beets and any dry or rough areas of the skin. Use the extra thin setting on a mandolin to slice beets. Stack slices and cut across to get thin matchstick. Alternatively, shred in a food processor.
- Add shredded cabbage and beets to a large, deep bowl along with remaining ingredients, except for pear. Make sure your hands are clean. Toss ingredients with fingers to combine so salt gets distributed. Then, firmly and vigorously massage the ingredients, scrunching between your hands, until vegetables soften and release a good amount of juice at the bottom of bowl (~8 minutes). (See side-by-side pictures above.) Mix in pear slices.
- Transfer ingredients and their juice to a large clean jar. Add a few handfuls in jar at a time, then press down firmly on veggies (see side-by-side pictures above) to pull up more juice and ensure there are no air pockets. Finish layering and packing. Make sure the cabbage at top is below the liquid. And leave a few inches of space at the top. Place 1 or 2 of the reserved outer leaves of cabbage, folded over, on top, pressing down firmly. These outer leaves will sit on top of the liquid.
- Seal the jar and place it in a dark area of the house that is at comfortable room temperature, away from drafts or light. I like to set the jar inside a shallow bowl to catch possible leaks. Cover jar with a tea towel to ensure it stays dark. Every day or two burp the jar by unscrewing the lid to release pressure and carbon dioxide that's built up.
- After 7-10 days your kraut should be ready, but you could leave it fermenting up to a month. The longer you leave it the stronger and more sour it will become. Taste it at 7 days. It should taste pleasantly sour and slightly salty. If it's too salty or you want a stronger flavor, leave it longer. I generally let mine ferment for 10 days. If mold forms at the top, simply scrape it away along with the surrounding cabbage. Then ensure everything is submerged in the liquid.
- Once kraut is to your taste, seal the jar, and place in the fridge. It keeps for months -- it's a naturally preserved food. The cold slows down the fermentation process but it doesn't stop it all together. Our jar doesn't last more than a few months, but if you kept it longer the flavor may become slightly stronger.
*A note on shredding cabbage and beets: You can get the job done using just a large, sharp knife. But if you have it, a handheld mandolin or food processor with the shredder attachment makes quicker work and gives the vegetables a finer, more desirable texture than you'll be able to achieve by hand.
*Recipe inspired by Wild Brine sauerkraut.
Best Practices (aka: Kraut Care)
This is a raw, living, probiotic-rich whole food. Show it some respect and give it some love!
- Once fermented to your liking, store kraut in the same jar, in the fridge. Make sure kraut remains in liquid to prevent molding.
- No double-dipping! Use a CLEAN fork each time you dig into the jar. Make sure to scrape any pieces stuck on the sides of jar back down beneath liquid line.
- Don't heat kraut. Add it only to plated food that's already been warmed. Keeping it raw protects the delicate Vitamin C, enzymes and bacteria.
- Use this as a condiment; think a forkful or two added to a meal.
- If you're new to raw, fermented foods, start slowly. Have a forkful once per day or once every other day. A little goes a long way.