I’ll show you a sauerkraut recipe for Australian conditions but first I’ll tell you about dental care in Australia.
When I qualified for my Australian age pension eleven years ago, I discovered that I could no longer afford to have teeth. Each dentist bill was more than I had to spare each week.
Then someone suggested that I volunteer for dental students practice. It’s FREE.
For ten years the students kept telling me how to avoid periodontal disease (gum disease) which was damaging all my teeth. I followed their instructions carefully, but the disease was just as bad as ever.
Then I read about the health benefits of homemade sauerkraut.
There were so many benefits that I won’t attempt to mention here, but one little item that only one person mentioned caught my attention. It cures Periodontal disease.
What is Sauerkraut?
Insulting people say that it is rotten cabbage, and it is true, just as cheese is rotten milk, and wine is rotten grapes. It is a fermentation process.
Do you get sauerkraut health benefits from shop-bought sauerkraut? Probably not – You get most of the benefit from the probiotics in sauerkraut, and they are killed when the manufacturer pasteurizes the brew.
In the tenth year, I started eating my own homemade sauerkraut. I hesitated to make it because the experts seemed to agree that it’s too hot in Australia to make sauerkraut except in winter.
Well, I can tell you from the experience of more than a year that it’s simply not true. I make good sauerkraut right through the summer.
When I went back to the student dentists for my next appointment after their three-month holiday, the student could find no gum disease. The student called his supervisor, who was amazed and called in the other supervisors to have a look. Where all their advice had failed, making sauerkraut and eating it had cured my gum disease, and I haven’t needed a dentist since then.
If only I had discovered it 65 years earlier, I might still have perfect teeth. The bacteria in Sauerkraut are selfish and crowd out the bad bacteria that cause gum disease.
What is Australian About my Recipe?
The basic ingredients in my sauerkraut recipe are just the same. If you live somewhere hotter than Perth you might like to use a Kalgoorlie safe to keep the brew cool, but it is usually ten degrees cooler inside my house in summer than outside.
Vacola Preserving Jars are an Australian invention that makes it easy to ferment your cabbage, and I’ll have more about them further down the page.
How to Make Sauerkraut
The Probiotic bacteria in sauerkraut have two enormous advantages over other bacteria. The probiotic organisms don’t need air to breathe, but air doesn’t kill them like some competitors.
So it is your job to keep the air out of your brew. More of that later. Bacteria in the air and on organic vegetables are all you need to start the fermentation. You can buy sauerkraut starter from mercola.com for increased vitamin K. It also gives you faster fermentation of the sauerkraut if you are impatient.
Ingredients: You can make sauerkraut with green cabbage and salt and nothing else, but I like a bit of variety. You can put in any variety of vegetable you like into the sauerkraut, but bear in mind that sauerkraut intensifies the flavor of some ingredients such as onions, so don’t put in too much.
I like to keep the traditional texture of sauerkraut, so I shred the cabbages as if I was making coleslaw. Carrots can also be shredded and so can onions – if you have more patience than I do. Instead, I pop them into the blender with just enough filtered water to blend to a smooth liquid; then I pour it into the shredded cabbages.
The traditional way is to put everything in a large bowl, add salt (I just add a dessert spoonful when I think of it) and pound it with a rolling pin to bruise all the shreds. The salt then sucks water out of the bruised cabbage.
Let it stand for a few hours then press it down with your fists, and if you don’t get liquid covering the shreds, just add more salt.
If you’re adventurous like me, try Aptenia cordifolia. The picture on the right shows this succulent ground cover that grows like a weed and doesn’t need much water. It’s edible.
The traditional way uses glazed ceramic pots with a moat filled with water all the way round the top, and a lid that fits into the moat. I had bought a very expensive five-liter pot before I discovered a cheaper Australian way.
You see, as the cabbage ferments, it gives off gas. The gas escapes by bubbling through the moat, but air can’t get in again at first. That is how you keep air out.
Later on, I tried the Vacola way. If you haven’t seen these preserving jars made by Vacola in the Eastern states of Australia, they have a ridge on the outside in which you nestle a rubber washer. Then you place a lid to press down on the washer, and a spring that hooks under the ridge and presses down on the center of the lid. Air can get out, but it can’t get in again.
Take handfuls of shredded cabbage from the bowl and pound it down into your fermentation container. You should end up with liquid on top. If you’re using a traditional ceramic pot, leave room for the ceramic semicircular weights. If you’re using a one-liter Vacola jar, fill it to about 20mm from the top. Now take some of the outside leaves from your cabbage and spread them over the top of your shredded cabbage, tucking in the edges down all around the sides of the container. That is to prevent little bits of cabbage floating to the surface. (These leaves usually make good sauerkraut too.)
The ceramic pot keeps out light. Just put it on a tray to catch overflowing liquid, add water to the moat, and put on the lid. For the first few days escaping gas will keep pushing out the water into the tray. Then water will be sucked back in, so keep filling the tray with filtered water. Some will get back into the sauerkraut producing lots of “sauerkraut juice”. I’m not a doctor, but I do know that if a patient can’t stand sauerkraut, they can start off with a teaspoon of sauerkraut juice and increase the amount gradually until they can handle the solid stuff. That is for sauerkraut health benefits that go far beyond gum health and is beyond the scope of this post.
If you use Vacola jars, they don’t keep out light, so you need to put them in a cupboard. You don’t have to keep refilling the moat because there isn’t one. Gas will push up against the spring and escape, but when it tries to go the other way a vacuum will form.
Which do I Prefer?
I use the ceramic pot because I have it. When the sauerkraut is ready (2 weeks in summer, 4 in winter) I transfer the sauerkraut to jars. I keep these in the fridge.
If the pot breaks, I won’t get another one. When the homemade sauerkraut in a Vacola jar is ready, I don’t need to transfer it. As long as the seal is tight, it won’t go bad, though it might get slightly alcoholic if you keep it too long. Some children will sit down and guzzle a whole liter at once. If you have children like that, five liters of this sauerkraut recipe won’t last you very long.