In his 1913 treatise Health and Longevity Through Rational Diet Arnold Lorand praises sauerkraut for the “disinfecting process in the intestine” it sets in motion, as well as for its “stimulating effect upon the appetite.” Lorand himself reports having had “good results” with the “one or two tablespoons of sauerkraut” he would eat at the beginning of a meal.
Under no circumstances should folks forsake sauerkraut juice for the flesh, “as is unfortunately frequently the case in restaurants and even in private houses,” Lorand writes, because its nutritional properties — abundant lactic acid and vitamins — make it powerfully tonic in its own right.
Lorand was not alone in his adulation of sauerkraut. French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, best known as the inventor of pasteurization, proclaimed the tangy foodstuff the most useful and healthful vegetable dish on earth. And a 1922 article in the Payroll Builder, the “Official Organ of the Utah State Federation of Women’s Clubs,” went so far as to assert that before “the first bean was born sauerkraut was the source of family happiness and bodily comfort. Before bran biscuits and dog biscuits had dawned upon the food horizon, centuries in advance of horse pudding, rhinoceros cake, sauerkraut was the great great grandfather of the wholesome diet.” High praise indeed for something which began life as a humble cabbage!
These early observations on the healing powers of sauerkraut have stood the test of time. Nutrition-minded consumers now know that fermented vegetables impart numerous health-promoting properties to the eater. Containing ample amounts of vitamin C and lactobacilli, fermented vegetables aid not only digestion (once you become used to their acidity) but also are said to ward off illness. And you need not fear going broke for pickled vegetables, either. They can easily be made at home for pennies.
If you too want to experience the health-giving properties of fermented vegetables, try this simple recipe for sauerkraut from Sally Fallon’s wonderful cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. If you don’t have whey, or are strict vegetarian, use unpasturized apple cider vinegar instead. Ingredients and seasonings can be changed according to taste; recipes for fermented vegetables are adaptable — and forgiving! Carrots, onions, garlic and a bit of hot pepper all make nice additions to sauerkraut.
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)
In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.
Makes 1 quart.