Going Fermental – Benefits of Fermented Food, Part 1
"Here's my lowdown on the many benefits of fermented food and a simple recipe to make your own delicious ruby sauerkraut…"

Spolier alert – this is one of those ‘benefits of fermented food’ articles. Hold your nerve, though – there’s a recipe at the end…

It’s fair to say we might have all spent a bit more time in the kitchen lately. I love cooking, but am ambivalent about mass catering for people with different ideas of what delicious is. In my house, we are eating (or leaving/crying at) what the chef thinks is delicious.

This chef loves a bit of experimentation, and this extends to preserving and fermenting at home. To be fair, my jam making veers from OK to disastrous, so fermentation feels like safer ground to me.

I love the savoury tang of fermented vegetables and I have them at least twice a day in various guises. My first love was homemade sauerkraut. Not the finely shredded white kind, but a chunky magenta vision of loveliness.
As well as being tasty and keeping me occupied during lockdown, the benefits of fermented food are increasingly being recognised.

  • 1) Gut Health – There has been a lot of research recently into gut health and it’s impact on us, both physically and mentally. Fermented foods are full of friendly bacteria, pre-and probiotics which are essential to good gut health.
  • 2) Can boost immune system – the probiotics in fermented food can also fuel your immune system, as well as being high in vitamins A, C, K and B.
  • 3) Healthy food on a budget – as with any hobby, you can buy an array of accessories to help you in your fermenting journey, but for starters all you need is a cabbage, salt, water and a few empty jars.
  • 4) Food Waste Friendly – as the chemical process of fermentation preserves food, it keeps longer, meaning that you can have nutritious food with a longer shelf life.
  • 5) It’s bloody delicious – it perks up lots of meals and other food. Curry, pasta, meat, other veggies, on its own with your bare hands…

Have I convinced you yet? If so, here’s my simple sauerkraut recipe…

Grace’s Ruby Sauerkraut

1 red cabbage
Sea salt
Spring water (if your tap water is chemically treated)
3 large jars with lids/whatever jars you can lay your hands on

Slice your cabbage thinly either by hand, in a food processor or if you are a daredevil not worried about your fingers, a mandolin. Place in a large bowl with 2-3 teaspons of salt (add a little more if it’s a big lad). Massage, pound, scrunch and crunch the cabbage and the salt together, until the salt starts to draw out the liquid in the cabbage.

Cover and leave for bit whilst you sort out your jars and lids. Wash them in hot soapy water and then pop in the oven at about 140˚C for 10 minutes. Let them cool. This process sterilises them.

Once the jars are cool, start to pack the cabbage into the jars. Push it down really well. Leave a couple of centimetres gap at the top. Make some brine with 1 teaspoon of salt and 600 ml of spring water. Carefully pour the brine over the cabbage in the jars until it’s covered with the liquid. If you need more, make it in the proportions above. Place the lids on loosely.

Leave the jars at room temperature, on a baking tray. After a day or two the jars should start to bubble and some of the liquid might escape (hence the baking tray). Occasionally loosen the lids to let some of the gases out. The cabbbagey smell might be quite strong, but hold your nerve – it’ll be worth it.

Keep an eye on the colour – it’ll start as a dark blue/indigo colour, but as the friendly bacteria work their magic it’ll turn a bright magenta pink. When the colour has changed it’s ready to start eating! Put it in the fridge now to slow the fermentation.

Next week in part 2, we’ll be looking at kimchi…