It is time to make your sauerkraut. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, please read this in about six months.
A 2011 article in Psychology Today by Emily Deans, M.D. reviewed an amazing study on stress and gut health. It turns out that we can damage our own gut probiotics, or “commensal microbiome” when we are under emotional stress.
Now this is interesting. Our mental health is enhanced when we have the right probiotics in our gut, and our physical health is enhanced when we lower our stress. Have I mentioned that we ought to be practicing gratitude and meditation?
Probiotics are valuable bacteria that live in the gut and help us in many ways. They protect us from bad bacteria, they help us digest some foods, and they support our immune system. When the gut has the right probiotics, our general health is much better, and when the balance tips toward the bad bacteria, we can get pretty sick.
For example, an unwise overuse of antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria and a nasty strain of bugs can get the upper hand. This will often result in growth of Clostridium difficile, or “c diff” as it usually called. A broad spectrum antibiotic like clindamycin can pretty much wipe out all the good and much of the bad gut bacteria. The c diff bug (a very resilient bacterium) dominates the gut and churns out lots of toxic byproducts. Without the good bugs to limit the c diff, bad things happen. The patient gets flu-like symptoms and chronic diarrhea. Some patients can progress to a condition called toxic megacolon which can be a fatal disease.
My dentist once gave me a nasty case of c diff because he was being overly cautious and over prescribed antibiotics after some dental work. I soon became an expert on this ugly condition.
Today my health is excellent because I am constantly replenishing the good bugs by eating yogurt and sauerkraut. And that brings me to the point of this post.
It is time for you to make your sauerkraut. My cabbages are all ripe and ready. The food processor is waiting. The wide-mouth quart jars are eager to come up from the storage room and be filled with cabbage and salt.
The actual making of sauerkraut is something any fool can do. I am a fool, and I made a nice batch last year that I have been eating ever since. I am now on my last quart jar, so the timing couldn’t be better. Here is a typical YouTube video on how to make it.
Some people use a large crock. You don’t need it. Just use quart jars. Works just fine. You chop and grate the cabbage and pack it into jars or crocks. Smith used sugar in his sauerkraut. I didn’t and I didn’t use vinegar, just salt. He uses boiling water, and I wouldn’t do that because I think it might kill off our nifty commensals. We want the bacteria that naturally live on the cabbage that start the fermentation process. You want about a tablespoon of salt for each quart, or a brine of one tablespoon of salt for each quart of brine.
This is closer to how I did it:
No boiling water! No sugar, either. I sealed up my sauerkraut and left the bottles in the garage for a week. They bubbled for a while (it is a fermented food!) and then stopped bubbling and I topped off the jars with some brine and stored them in a cool place. All last year I would bring up a jar, eat until it was gone, and now I am a picture of health.
Kimchee, yogurt, kefir, natto, miso, and sauerkraut are all traditional fermented foods that give us the good bugs. Make them yourself, because you can control what goes in, unlike the food-like substances you find in the store. If you didn’t grow cabbage, get some organic cabbage from some hippy store and get after it. You’ll be glad you did.