Friday, April 19, 2013

Recipe: Raw Sauerkraut for Gut Health

I recommend including a bit of naturally-fermented food with every meal.

Naturally-fermented food enhances the digestibility of the meal it's eaten with. Benefits of fermented foods include:

  • increased vitamin levels
  • a wealth of beneficial enzymes
  • antibiotic and anticarcinogenic properties
  • promotion of healthy gut flora throughout the intestines.

All sorts of benefits from eating naturally-fermented foods have been demonstrated in research studies. Just one example: In a 2013 review of studies on probiotics in pregnancy: "Results demonstrated that probiotic use in pregnancy could significantly reduce maternal fasting glucose, incidence of GDM (gestational diabetes) and pre-eclampsia rates and levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation)." Pretty amazing!

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation originated as a means of preserving vegetables for long periods of time without the use of freezers or canning technology. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Sugars and starches in vegetables & fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria, or lactobacilli. Lactobacilli re on the surface of all living things, especially leaves and roots of plants living in or near the ground. People around the world have developed techniques for controlling and encouraging the lacto-fermentation process. From them, we inherit all sorts of recipes for naturally-fermented fruits & veggies: pickles, relishes, chutneys, kimchees, etc.

In Europe, the principle fermented food was sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is an easy first project if you want to begin making your own ferments at home.

Here is a recipe from Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions. I bring home a cabbage every week or two, make a big jar of kraut & serve a little bit as a garnish for almost every meal.


1 medium cabbage, cored & shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds 
(you can experiment with other herbs & spices. I like to use juniper berries, rosemary, bay leaves, or toasted mustard seeds.)
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey*

*If you don't have whey, don't worry. Just use an additional 1 tablespoon of salt.

(Whey is the fluid part that results when dairy products like milk or yogurt separate. It's obviously a great source of lactobacilli, and can be used in pickle recipes to enhance the fermentation process. In the absence of whey, the lactobacilli occurring naturally on the cabbage leaves is sufficient. Here's a link to information on how to make/where to obtain whey.)

To make:

In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 2-3 days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately after jarring, but it improves with age.


Sally Fallon Morrell with Mary G. Enig, PhD. Nourishing Traditions:  The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.