Potions in Action: Sauerkraut

Out here in Olympia, Washington, we take sauerkraut seriously.  There’s a ton of people out here who positively thrive on fermented food products and are solid devotees of Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.  We even support an artisanal kraut company, OlyKraut, which disperses pint-sized jars of delicious raw kraut throughout the Northwest.  In fact, one of OlyKraut’s founders, Summer Bock, routinely offers kraut-making workshops to the public in Olympia and in Portland (where she now resides).  They’re always filled to capacity.

Olympian artist Nikki McClure's print

Olympian artist Nikki McClure‘s print “Culture“, which OlyKraut also uses for their jar labels.

Now, Olympia-style kraut is pretty different from the stuff I grew up with.  Back home, making sauerkraut was a one-a-year, day-long affair.  After harvesting the many, many heads of cabbage from our gardens, we’d spend the whole day shredding them up, salting them down, and smashing them down into huge crocks.  For the next couple months (because we always fermented the kraut in a really cold basement, so it took forever to ferment), we’d occasionally skim the mold and scuzz from the top of the kraut and make sure it was still covered in brine.  Once it ‘tasted right’, we’d take another day to stuff the kraut into quart jars and can them.  And that was the sauerkraut we ate nearly every Sunday for ‘pork and sauerkraut night’ throughout the next year.  If you’re interested in the recipe and methods my family uses to make traditional kraut, I’ve written up a .pdf you can download here.

In Olympia, though, you’d never make such a large amount of kraut at a time, and you’d never, ever can it.  In fact, you don’t even cook it.  You eat it raw so that you can get the maximum benefits from the probiotic cultures that fermented it.  Lots of people do it to improve their gut health, which in turn has carryover benefits to their holistic health.  Others just do it because they love the crispness of raw kraut.  Still others go the Oly way because it lets them play with different flavors without a lot of risk–after all, anyone can choke down 1 quart of a flavor failure, but no one is going to eat 10 quarts of the stuff.

And man, do Olympians love them some flavored kraut.  I like to describe it as being almost a combination of traditional European kraut and Korean kim chi.  We tend to use standard green cabbage instead of Asia’s preferred Napa cabbage, but we heap in all sorts of odds and ends like the Koreans do with their kim chi.  I’ve thrown beets of all sorts into the mix, rose petals, dill, ‘rainbow carrots’, leeks, burdock, berries…basically, the guiding rule of thumb is that if the ingredients taste good together as a raw salad, they’re going to taste good together as a kraut.  So once you build your ‘salad’, just add enough non-iodized salt (iodine kills bacteria!) to make everything as salty as a potato chip, then pack it into a crock or a jar.

As you may have guessed, the ‘potions’ part of my sauerkraut comes with the fun Oly-style additions.  For instance, this past spring I was feeling blue, so I threw in some fresh nettles for protection and healing and a handful or two of new dandelion blooms to help me feel ‘sunny.’  I charged the whole thing up with positive feelings in a circle after I ‘crocked’ it, and then made sure I took a moment to think of at least one positive thing as I was eating it a few weeks later.  Sure enough, I gently came out of my blues and became a more grateful person.

I am going to leave you with my recipe for curry kraut, which is a near clone to OlyKraut’s version, pictured below.  Aside from the cabbage (of which Cunningham aligned with the feminine, Moon, and water) and turmeric (of which Cunningham provides no alignments), all the ingredients in this kraut are aligned with the masculine, with Mars, and with fire.  Therefore, this is a blend that has energies towards protection/exorcism, anti-theft, fidelity, and fertility/lust/love as well as a pinch of healing.  I find it to be delicious, particularly when combined with chopped peanuts as it is very much like Thai food with that combination.  I’ve eaten it with eggs and in omelets, with cottage cheese, with a grain and a protein in a quick supper, with shredded pork in a tortilla, and even with peanut butter in a sandwich (freakishly tasty).  My absolute favorite way to eat this kraut is actually in a homemade sushi roll.  For sushi, I’ll use it alongside a strip of cream cheese and roasted peanuts or substitute the cream cheese for avocado if I need to make it vegan.

OlyKraut's famous curry kraut, now a fall seasonal blend.

OlyKraut’s famous curry kraut, now a fall seasonal blend.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds finely shredded green cabbage
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced as fine as the cabbage shreds
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 inch ginger, frozen and finely grated on a microplane
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (or a combination of turmeric, coriander, and cumin)

Directions

  1. Toss all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, adding the spices a little at a time and tasting as you go to make sure you are comfortable with the spice level.
  2. Massage the cabbage a little to help break it down, then pound it with a potato masher or other implement. Press the kraut into a clean 1 quart canning jar or a Fido jar, pounding it as you go until the jar is full, the juices cover the kraut, and you’ve left about 1/2 inch of headspace in the jar (the liquid will seem to expand greatly during the first few days of fermentation, but will settle back down, so don’t pack the jars completely full).
  3. If using a mason jar, cap the jar with a clean lid fitted with an airlock.  If using a Fido jar, lock the bail. Store at 70-75°F while fermenting. The kraut will be fully fermented in 3-4 weeks; 5-6 weeks between 60-65°F. Below 60°F the kraut may not ferment and above 75°F it may become soft. Fermentation is completed when bubbling stops.
  4. When fermentation is complete, change the jar lid to one without an air lock, and store in the fridge. To benefit from the probiotics, do not heat the kraut before eating.
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