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Krazy for Krauts – Harness the Power of Fermented Foods! 

For those of you who didn’t catch my class at Natural Grocers in Flagstaff last Friday, I’d like to share with you my handout which has an overview of the health benefits of kraut on your gut microbiome AND easy recipes to make your own vegetable kraut at-home! I hope to catch you all at my next class at Natural Grocers with a future date TBD. If there is a particular topic you’d like me to discuss in the realm of health and nutrition, I’m all ears, so just let me know and I’ll put something together! Your ally in health, Dr. Paul Despres


Krazy for Krauts – Harness the Power of Fermented Foods!

Did you know? You are actually more “microbe” than human. It is estimated the gut has roughly 1000 bacterial species and an estimate of 2,000,000 genes, which is 100 times greater than the approximate 20,000 human genes.

6 Reasons Why Making and Eating Fermented Foods is a Good Idea: 

  1. Fermented foods are loaded with beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria. They are vital to help you break down your food and synthesize certain vitamins (like B vitamins and vitamin K).  
  2. Microbes in kraut help modulate your immune system. An estimated 90% of your immune system lines your digestive tract and beneficial bacteria are our first line of defense against infection. It’s vital to help you fight off pathogenic bacteria. 
  3. Fermenting foods is safe and easy. Fermentation specialist Sandor Katz reports there are no known cases of food poisoning from fermented veggies. Buying fermented veggies can be pricey, so why not make them yourself!
  4. Microbes can help you fight off more severe Covid-19. Studies have shown that patients with low levels of several beneficial species of gut bacteria were more likely to have a severe case of Covid-19 as well as higher markers of inflammation and tissue damage. And delayed recovery of the microbiome can be a driver of Long Covid. 
  5. Supports a healthy “Gut-Brain” axis. There is an intricate bidirectional “superhighway” between the gut and brain. Probiotic treatments are being used to impact essential mental and biological functions such as pain and mood, social behavior, and cognition. 
  6. Also supports a healthy “Gut-Skin” axis. Conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, alopecia, and rosacea have clear correlations with gut disorders and dysbiosis. This relationship is known as the gut-skin axis.

Introduction to Fermentation:
Making fermented vegetables is easy and fun. You can ferment nearly ANY vegetable! Lactofermentation is a term that refers to harnessing the power of a tiny little microorganism called Lactobacillus. Essentially, there are Lactobacilli bacteria all over the place. On your hands, on vegetables, everywhere! When you chop up vegetables and add some salt, you create the perfect environment for the Lactobacilli to grow. When they munch on the veggies, the byproduct they create is lactic acid. You’ve probably heard of it, your body produces it when you exercise really hard. Because lactic acid is an acid, it keeps other microorganisms from growing and preserves the vegetables. Lactofermented vegetables can last for months to years. Common fermented products include sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, cheese, and kefir.

General Supplies to Begin Fermenting: 

  1. A large bowl 
  2. Fermentation vessel (I like to use mason jars, but other people buy really beautiful crocks) 
  3. A lot of vegetables: Plan on 5 lbs for 2 quarts of fermented vegetables. Note: this is not exact. 5 lbs of cabbage will make a lot more kraut than 5 lbs of beets.
  4. Cutting board
  5. Chef’s knife

General Instructions: 

  1. Chop or shred vegetables. Size and shape is up to you. The finer the chop, the faster the fermentation because it provides more surface area for the bugs to munch. 
  2. Put the bunch of chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle with some salt (a teaspoon or more or less).
  3. Massage or beat with some sort of wooden implement. Massage until the cell walls begin to release liquid and when you squeeze a handful of vegetables, liquid emerges.
  4. Then, stuff the vegetables into a clean, quart size mason jar. Put a layer in and smush it to the bottom. Continue doing this until the jar is as tightly packed as possible.
  5. Hopefully, at the end of this process they’ll be enough liquid in the jar that the top layer of vegetables will be submerged. If there is not, add a few tablespoons of salt water to submerge the vegetables.
  6. Then, put a lid on your jar and set it on the counter. Optionally, use a freshly scrubbed rock to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine.
  7. After three days, begin tasting your kraut. Some people like their veggies crisp and some people like it after 7-10 days or even a few weeks or months. If it’s hot outside, the kraut will ferment faster. If it’s cold, it will ferment slower. Usually, kraut that is fermented for several months is made during cool seasons like fall or winter.
  8. When you like the taste of your kraut, move the jar to the refrigerator, so you can start enjoying it. The cool temperature of the refrigerator will help slow fermentation down to a crawl. Fermented vegetables will keep for several months in the fridge 

Specific Recipes

I. Hearty Kraut Recipe

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 Large Cabbage (Red, green, or napa) 
    • 2 Carrots 
    • 2 Turnips 
    • Head of Garlic (6-8 cloves) 
    • Salt to taste 
    • Caraway seeds to taste
    • Brine if needed: Saltwater at a ratio of 3 tbsp of salt to 1 quart of water. 
  • Instructions: 
    • Finely shred cabbage. Salt it and put it in a large bowl. Massage a bit. Finely chop carrots. Add to the bowl. Add a bit of salt. Finely chop turnips. Add to bowl. Add a bit of salt. Add caraway seeds (less is more with caraway seeds). Massage until drops of liquid emerge from the kraut when you grab a handful and squeeze. Then, tightly pack fermented vegetables into your fermentation vessel (in our case mason jars). Pack as tightly as possible! 

II. Gingered Beets Recipe

  • Ingredients:
    • 5 lbs Beets (or just enough to fill your fermentation vessel) 
    • 3 Inches of Ginger 
    • Salt to taste
    • Optional: 3 heads garlic (24 cloves) 
    • Brine if needed: Saltwater at a ratio of 3 tbsp of salt to 1 quart of water. 
  • Instructions:
    • Wash and trim beets. Thinly slice beets into rounds. Pack tightly into fermentation vessel (mason jar). Add 5-10 slices of thinly sliced ginger and and an optional 1-2 cloves of garlic to the jar. Cover with brine until all the vegetables are submerged. 

Some of My Favorite Fermentation Books:
– Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
– The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
– Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon