Hey folks, guess what? I made hot ginger sauerkraut. It’s not your typical sauerkraut, so I guess I have some explaining to do. So without further ado, here we go.
Taking Care of Our Gut so Our Gut Takes Care of Us
We’ve discussed on this blog many times that eating lacto-fermented stuff is good for our gut microbiota. As science continues to research the matter we’re finding that there’s some serious linkages between our gut flora and our health. I’ve mentioned it in this Indian Lime Pickle recipe, this Preserved Lemon recipe, this Lacto Fermented Dill Pickle recipe, this Kimchi recipe, and this Salvadoran Curtido recipe. It’s like I never shut up about it, and I’m certainly not about to break the trend now that I’m on a roll. Well sauerkraut is also a fermented food, and also good for the gut. But there’s an issue…
Sauerkraut is typically cooked. I have some Germans in my ancestry. I also grew up largely in Wisconsin, which is chock full of people with German and Polish ancestry. That means I grew up eating a goodly amount of sauerkraut. It’s served hot. It has some sort of pork product in it–like maybe pork chops. Sausages are also typical. Bratwurst or some other wurst. The best of the wurst really. Or maybe Kielbasa if you lean more in a Polish direction. It’s often served over potatoes. The trouble with this is that heat kills lactobacillus bacteria.
So you went to the trouble to ferment the sauerkraut, and it’s full of beneficial bacteria, and then you kill it off on the stovetop. Now it’s not as helpful to your gut flora.
Sauerkraut you get at the grocery store is typically canned or otherwise pasteurized. That means there is no live bacterial culture. Same issue.
Keeping our Sauerkraut Alive
The solution is clear. You should eat your sauerkraut “raw”, like a hippie or someone from Portland, Oregon. What I mean is you should eat it fresh out of the crock without cooking it. There is nothing crazy about this whatsoever, by the way. This is, after all, how you eat kimchi, and pickles, and curtido, and for that matter, yogurt.
Now the only time I’ve really eaten raw sauerkraut is on hot dogs. And to be frank (no pun intended), it’s kind of boring. Let’s put it this way: it ain’t kimchi. It ain’t curtido. Don’t get me wrong here. It’s good. It’s just better tasting when it’s cooked in the traditional way and flavored with other stuff.
The kimchee and especially the curtido gave me the idea of spiking my sauerkraut with more flavor so it’s really good raw. Both kimchi and curtido have hot chiles in them. The heat is nice. Carrots? Onion? Also in both. The caraway seed is a traditional sauerkraut addition, so I just decided to add it to the ferment. And finally, if you’ve ever had pickled ginger–say at a sushi restaurant–you know that it’s FAN-TASTIC! So why not throw that in as well? Et voila! Hot ginger sauerkraut.
About this Hot Ginger Sauerkraut Recipe
If you ferment in small batches it’s easy to make sauerkraut at home–even in a tiny apartment. I have a Kilner 3 liter fermentation jar with an airlock (that’s an affiliate link), but a half gallon sized mason jar (or even a few quart jars) work well too. Investing in a cap with an airlock will help. It’ll help inhibit mold forming on the surface of your sauerkraut. Oxygen encourages mold, and with an airlock carbon dioxide produced by the lacto-bacillus bacteria will displace the oxygen if you have an airlock. For Mason jars I use these Zabota Kraut Caps (this is also an affiliate link), and like them a lot. They’re plastic, so the salty fermentation brine doesn’t corrode anything.
I also have a old school cabbage slicer for making sauerkraut, which I bought at a thrift store somewhere along the Oregon coast. But you could easily slice the cabbage by hand or in a food processor.
You can certainly experiment with ingredients and come up with all kinds of interesting configurations, but this turned out to be a really great combination. There’s a decent little backbite of heat (it’s not as hot as most kimchi, but it’s got some warmth). It’s really gingery, and yet the caraway seed makes it read (at least to me) as sauerkraut. Without those (the ginger and caraway) this essentially would have been curtido. But it’s not. It’s super tasty hot ginger sauerkraut. If you’re one of those keto or low-carb types (as I am), this stuff is really low-carb (2.5g net/cup) and pretty high fiber (4g/cup) and loaded with vitamin C. You should try it. You don’t have to, mind you. You don’t have to do anything I say. I’m not your dad. I’m just saying it’s something good for you that you might actually like.
- 1 Large head of Cabbage, sliced into thin strips
- 4 Large Carrots, shredded or julienned into very thin strips
- 1 Medium yellow Onion, peeled and julienned into thin strips
- 1 Large Jalapeno Pepper, sliced into thin rings
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely minced
- 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 Tablespoon Caraway Seeds
- ¼ Cup Kosher Salt (Approximately)
- Reserve several of the outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside. Slice the rest of the cabbage into thin strips. You’ve seen sauerkraut before, so you know what it looks like. I have a large vegetable slicer made just for this.
- Place a layer of cabbage (maybe an inch thick) into a large bowl and sprinkle the top generously with some of the salt. Repeat in layers, adding salt until you’ve used it all. Allow the cabbage to sit. The salt will begin to extract moisture from the cabbage, making the liquid your sauerkraut will ferment in.
- Meanwhile, shred the carrot. I us a food processor for this. Add it to the cabbage mixture, along with the jalapeno, the ginger, the garlic, and the caraway seeds. Mix it all together well. Allow the cabbage mixture to sit for 30 minutes or so. A large amount of liquid should begin pooling in the bottom of the bowl.
- Place the cabbage mixture in a large (two liter) fermentation jar or crock, pressing down to remove any air pockets. There should be enough liquid to completely submerge the cabbage (this is important to keep the sauerkraut from molding as it ferments). If there isn’t quite enough liquid, add a bit of distilled water (make sure it’s not chlorinated tap water!). Place the cabbage leaves you reserved on top, pushing them under the surface of the liquid as well. This will keep tiny bits of cabbage from floating on the surface where they might collect mold. Finally, if your fermentation crock or jar has fermentation weights, place those on top to weigh down the sauerkraut.
- Cover the top of your fermentation vessel with an airlock. Store in a cool place and allow to ferment until sour. Depending on temperature, this should take anywhere between three and six weeks. When it become sour enough for you, store in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will slow fermentation.