Kickin’ it with Karen: Beyond Sauerkraut
In previous posts I have mentioned that I started making and eating probiotic foods such as
sauerkraut because I had been diagnosed with something called “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. Leaky gut
syndrome occurs when there is an increased intestinal permeability which causes bacteria and toxins to leak through the intestinal wall directly into the bloodstream (McMillan). Though, in the Western medical community, the debate rages on as to whether this is a real thing (GI Society), I know for me it is definitely REAL! Before the diagnosis and the subsequent treatment with probiotic food and supplements, I felt awful! All the time!
So why probiotics? Because they heal the gut! Probiotics are the good bacteria that line the intestines and help break down food and help your body absorb nutrients as well as help regulate and increase energy (Krajmalnik-Brown et.al.). I no longer take probiotic supplements because I get all of this through the foods and drinks I make in my own kitchen.
I am not a connoisseur of all things probiotic, but, being from Minnesota, I do know my sauerkraut. In terms of brands, my favorite is Bubbies because it is ALIVE! It is naturally fermented and full of billions of probiotics in every bite. However, like anything good you buy, this brand can be pricey. Long ago I asked myself – why buy something for $25 per two pack, when I can make the same amount or more for less than $5? So $5 and 4 ingredients later, I have a simple yet spicy & sweet recipe to share with you:
Apple Jalapeño Sauerkraut:
I like to spice it up a bit. But to counteract that heat, I added something sweet. Apples are a perfect addition to this recipe because it is the ingredient that ties all the fermented tastes together into a sauerkraut unlike any other.
A large bowl
Food grade gloves (optional)
A sharp knife
A heavy plate that fits in the bowl (optional)
Quart size canning jar
Fermentation lid with air lock (this is what I use)
1 small head of red cabbage + 2 large cabbage leaves set aside
1 large jalapeño pepper
1/2 large apple or 1 whole small apple
1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Quarter the head of red cabbage by cutting it in half, cut out the core, and cut each half in half. Slice each half as thinly as possible. Put the cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt. With your hands, mix the cabbage around so that the salt is evenly distributed. Let the cabbage rest and begin releasing it juices while you work on cutting up the jalapeño pepper.
Cut the top off the pepper and cut the pepper in half (wear gloves to avoid getting pepper juice on your hands and inadvertently rubbing your eye a feelin’ the burn). Depending on how spicy you want your kraut, either remove the ribs and seeds or leave them in. I prefer to leave the seeds and ribs in because I like the bite and heat of the whole jalapeño. As the kraut ferments, the heat mellows enough that the heat just warms the palate. Mix the jalapeño slices in with the cabbage.
Let the cabbage and peppers continue to release their juices for another 20 minutes. During this process, the cabbage and peppers are actually making their own brine. If you wish to help this process along, place a heavy plate on top of the cabbage and jalapeño mix to help force the water out of the vegetables.
After 20 minutes, start working the vegetables with your hands. Again, I would wear gloves to avoid a burning sensation from the peppers. I work the vegetables like I am kneading dough and by grabbing fistfuls and squeezing hard enough that the water runs out of the vegetables into the bowl. When you notice about a 1/2 cup or more of liquid at the bottom of the bowl, stop squeezing.
Cut the apple into 1/2 inch piece. You do not need to peel the apple. Apple peels are a good source of pectin – a soluble fiber which may: aid in digestion, help the heart by binding to cholesterol and sweeping it out of the body, and help regulate blood glucose (Gardner). Mix the apples in with the vegetable ferment.
Taste the mixture.
Is it salty to your liking? If not add more salt until it tastes good in its raw state. If it tastes good raw, it will taste better as it ferments.
Pack the Kraut Into Your Jar:
Believe it or not, all of the vegetable and apple mixture will fit in your quart size ball jar. As you pack it in use some sort of pounder to continue forcing the cabbage to release its water. I use a food pounder (like this one). But any heavy oblong object should do. Keep pounding the mixture into the jar until there is no more in your bowl. Pound until the “brine” rises above the vegetables and apples. When the brine is above the vegetables, top it off with the brine from the bottom of the bowl. All of he vegetables should be submerged below the brine.
Top it Off With a the Cabbage Leaves.
To keep the vegetables below the brine, fold the remaining cabbage leaves up and press it over the top of the ferment and push them below the brine. It is important that you make sure that the ferment is submerged at all times or the kraut may develop some kahm yeast or some sort of mold. Kahm yeast is harmless but can add an off flavor to the ferment. Just skim it off the top along with any vegetables that may have been affected. Make sure the vegetables are submerged and go about your business. If you think you have developed mold THROW IT OUT AND START OVER. Of course all of this can be prevented by making sure the ferment is submerged in the brine.
Close it Up and Let it Sit!
Screw your fermentation lid and place the lock on top. That’s it! Let it sit in a dark cool space for 3 or more weeks. Starting on day 2 (depending on the climate you live in) you should start to see some bubbles and in 3-4 days, you should see some active bubbling. YAY! It’s fermenting. Wait for it. Wait for it. You can start tasting it in a week or so. The longer it sits the more the flavors will bloom. It will get more sour, but also more floral. The apples and jalapeño will give it a special ZING!
I hope you find this recipe interesting and tasty. Please visit, subscribe and like my YouTube channel “Beyond Sauerkraut: Let’s Make Somethin’ ” to find more things I’ve made.
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Gardner, Amanda. “Guide to Soluble and Insoluble Fiber.” WebMD, WebMD, 23 July 2015