Frequently Asked Questions about Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut

Find out more about health benefits, customs, fermentation and just fun stuff associated with sauerkraut.

What is lacto-fermented sauerkraut? Does eating sauerkraut give you gas? What probiotic strains are found in sauerkraut? Why is vinegar not used when making sauerkraut? And more.


What is lacto-fermented sauerkraut

Lacto-fermented sauerkraut is cabbage that has been preserved by the lactic-acid bacteria naturally present on the surface of all fruits and vegetables, especially those growing close to the ground, like cabbage.

Through fermentation, we capture these bacteria and trap them is the brine of our sauerkraut, where they get right to work, eating the sugars in the cabbage, multiplying furiously and releasing copious amounts of lactic acid that acts as a preservative and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. The lactic-acid bacteria – lactobacillus – convert the sugars and starches in the cabbage into lactic acid.

This natural lacto-fermentation process allows vegetables to retain more vitamins and minerals than other types of canning or preserving. It is an anaerobic process, occurring without air.

Why should I eat sauerkraut and other fermented foods?

Sauerkraut is ANCIENT.
Sauerkraut has ancient origins extending back more than 2,000 years. Legend tells us that fermented cabbage was a staple food for the workers constructing the Great Wall of China.

Sauerkraut is HEALTHY.
Sauerkraut will improve your digestion, boost your immune system and increase your energy levels.

Sauerkraut is a LIVING FOOD.
Sauerkraut is filled with probiotics, a variety of tiny microbes that enhance your digestion, immune system and energy level.

Sauerkraut is POWERFUL.
The natural fermentation process used to create sauerkraut has been shown to enhance and create nutrients in food and break food down to a more digestible form.

Sauerkraut CONTAINS:
Various strains of probiotics, vitamin C, B-vitamins, beneficial enzymes, Omerga-3 fatty acids and lactic acid that fights off harmful bacteria.

Sauerkraut is BUDGET FRIENDLY.
Many artisanal brands of naturally fermented sauerkraut can now be found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. They’re pricey! You can make your own and save money.

How long will my jar of sauerkraut keep?

You can expect your sauerkraut to last up to a year – or longer – if stored in the refrigerated once the fermentation process is complete. Once opened, keep it covered in brine by pushing it down with a fork.

What is the difference between my naturally-fermented sauerkraut and sauerkrauts found on store shelves?

Your naturally-fermented sauerkraut has been preserved by lactic acid, bacteria naturally created during the fermentation process, and is full of enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Just the goodness your gut will love.

Many types of sauerkraut you find at the store are pasteurized or contain vinegar, MSG, soy protein isolate or preservatives. Foods made in this way have had all their natural occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria killed. They have a long shelf life and do not need to be refrigerated, but do not offer the health benefits of naturally-fermented sauerkraut.

What do I need to look for when buying sauerkraut?

Ten years ago, when I first started eating sauerkraut, 99% of what was available on store shelves was pasteurized. Luckily for you and your gut, and due to the rising interest in fermented foods, choices for the good stuff – naturally-fermented sauerkraut – are increasing daily. Just know what to look for.

You may have to shop at health food stores or farmer’s markets to find naturally-fermented sauerkraut. Since it is a live product, it will be found in the refrigerator section. The label should list only cabbage and other vegetables and seasonings, salt and maybe a starter culture. But, no vinegar. The label should also indicate that the sauerkraut has not been heated or pasteurized.

How much sauerkraut should I eat?

While you may find sauerkraut flavorful and want to consume a lot, it is recommended to eat 1-2 tablespoons with each meal. Many have found that upon introducing fermented foods in their diet they notice a cleansing reaction, so start slowly.

Does eating sauerkraut give you gas?

Consuming large amounts of sauerkraut can cause bloating, gas and intestinal cramping. Your digestive system may need time to develop the ability to digest the probiotic bacteria in sauerkraut.

So, if you are introducing fermented foods to you diet for the first, take it slowly, especially if you are dealing with digestive issues. Start with just a teaspoon with a meal and increase it as your tolerance builds up and your gut health improves. Many people find they tolerate the juice better than the sauerkraut.

What foods should I eat sauerkraut with?

With anything! However, to take advantage of their digestive benefits, lacto-fermented foods are especially helpful when combined with high protein and high fat foods. Eggs, cheese, meats and fish all go well with krauts. Sauerkraut is also a very flavorful way to spruce up a salad or sandwich!

Is it a good idea to can my sauerkraut?

No. First off, the heat from the processing will kill the beneficial bacteria, and those bacteria are the reason why I eat fermented foods. Secondly, the heat from processing makes the texture softer and changes the taste dramatically, quite a disappointment after all the time you put into creating it. Lastly, why go to all that work?

Why is vinegar not used when making sauerkraut?

It is not necessary. The natural fermentation process generates its own healthy lactic and other organic acids that preserve the sauerkraut.

Why do you not recommend using whey?

It is not necessary and it introduces bacteria that grow and thrive on lactose found in dairy products. Sauerkraut is made with vegetables fermented by the bacteria naturally present on the cabbage leaves.

I used to ferment using whey and many batches turned out soft and moldy.

What has more beneficial bacteria, pill or sauerkraut?

According to testing done by Dr. Mercola anywhere from 1.5 billion to 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria in one serving of fermented vegetables. Pills average from 50 million to 10 billion per pill.

Who invented sauerkraut?

Although the word sauerkraut comes from the German word sauer (meaning sour) and kraut (meaning vegetables, sauerkraut is not of German origin.

Credit the Chinese for the creation of sauerkraut more than 2,300 years ago. Originally it consisted of shredded cabbage that was pickled in wine. Legend tells us workers building the Great Wall of China were among the first to enjoy it.

Around the end of the 16th century, salt was used in place of wine in the fermentation process. It produced a better product, and it’s a recipe that’s still followed today.

Is a starter culture necessary for making sauerkraut?

No, you can successfully make sauerkraut without a starter culture. Starter cultures contain sugar or glucose, as a carrier agent, and various forms of active lactic bacteria. The starter cultures get good reviews but add an unnecessary step and cost to making sauerkraut.

To be completely honest, I have never used a starter culture to make sauerkraut. Once I got my vegetable to salt ratios correct, fermentation has been successful.

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