A few weeks ago, some friends visited us for the weekend in Tahoe, and we got to talking about healthy snacks. It turns out one of their favorite healthy snacks is sauerkraut.
“Seriously?” I asked, my eyes bulging a bit at the thought.
“Yep. We make a fresh batch every week and leave it on the counter to snack on. You should try it.”
I’d been thinking more along the lines of reduced sugar cookies made with coconut oil for a healthy snack. But anyone who knows me knows I’m usually game to try something new. And I had never made my own sauerkraut.
I grew up with sauerkraut – it showed up regularly at our house alongside pork chops on top of platters of mashed potatoes. But it was only recent that I became aware of its health properties. It’s all about fermentation. Ferments with live lactic-acid producing bacteria, lactobacilli, intact are particularly beneficial to digestive health, immune function, and general well-being.
Too much science? Bear with me for a moment.
Lactobacilli are ubiquitous, found on the surface of all living things, but particularly plentiful on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or close to the ground. Through the fermenting process, the starches and sugars in fruits and vegetables are converted into lactic acid. As the lactobacilli multiply, they enhance the digestibility and nutrition of the food being fermented, and promote the growth of healthy flora in the intestine. In a nutshell, fermented foods tend to be very good for the gut. It’s written that Tiberius, of Roman fame, always carried a barrel of sauerkraut with him on long voyages to protect himself from intestinal infections, so the Romans figured this out long ago.
If you’re interested in delving into the science and nature of fermented foods, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, a true expert on fermenting, is a must read. Another great resource, a little less technical, is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
I've picked up some tips now on making sauerkraut, and fermentation in general, and am sharing them along with my simple recipe for making sauerkraut here on Eating Rules as part of Andrew Wilder's annual October Unprocessed campaign. Please hop over there to show your support for eating unprocessed. And make your own attempt at making sauerkraut for dinner. Or for a healthy snack.