Probiotic foods are important to include in your diet. There is a long list of health benefits to eating foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso. Read more about the benefits of probiotic foods in my post Probiotic Foods for Optimum Health. You will find most of these foods in a grocery store but the quality is not nearly as good as homemade. Many brands you see in grocery stores have been processed and pasturized so a lot of the probiotic bacertia has been killed off. You may find these products at your local farmer's market which are usually homemade and unpasturized. Other then making it yourself, this is the best way to get quality cultured foods.
If you are new to cultures and fermentation Sauerkraut is a great choice to start out with. There are only a few ingredients needed and the end result is an awesome healing super food with tons of anti-oxidants and probiotics. I have written before about How to Make Sauerkraut using a large glass mason jar. The first few times I make it this was all I had on hand to start but I have recently been supplied with a fermentation crock from Lehman's. The people over at Lehman's have asked me to use their crock and post my honest review of the product. (I have not been paid to write this review, other than supplying me with a free crock).
It was very exciting to receive this crock in the mail. It very sturdy and great quality,you can tell it is something that will last a very long time. The process of making sauerkraut in a crock is similar to the process in a jar but I found it to be an easier method.
The first step is to shred you cabbage. In a large crock, it is possible to fit a lot of cabbage. My crock has a 5 gallon capacity and 3 heads of cabbage filled it only 1/3 of the way. Other vegetables can be added as well, carrots are a nice addition. In my example batch I used 3 heads of cabbage and 6 carrots.
After all vegetables are shredded and cut, add 1 tbsp of sea salt per head of cabbage. In my example, I used 3 heads of cabbage and 3 tbsp of sea salt. Stir to coat the vegetables with salt and kneed with your hands to squeeze out the water in the cabbage.
After kneading for a few minutes and it gets more juicy, let the mixture sit for one hour to let the salt pull more liquid out of the cabbage. After the hour passes knead for a few more minutes and then transfer it into your crock.
Use a wooden paddle or spoon to press down on the cabbage in the crock. Place a plate or wooden disc on top of the cabbage and press down firmly to make the liquid rise above the cabbage. Place a jar or two filled with water on top of the plate to act as a weight to keep the plate pressed down and the liquid above the vegetables. If you find the liquid is not rising above the vegetables add a little water to make sure it is covered. If it is not covered it may result in mold growth on the cabbage.
Then place a kitchen towel over the top of the crock and let sit for 30 days. You may take some out sooner to test for taste and crunch. The longer you let it culture, the more probiotics you will have.
Comparing the two methods of making homemade sauerkraut, I prefer using the fermentation crock over the glass jar method. The crock is easier to fill and empty and the sauerkraut gets better pressure using the plate as opposed to the bag of water in the glass jar method. Most importantly the sauerkraut made in the crock came out better. The flavor was more sour and the cabbage was still pretty crunchy, it is not like the mushy store bought type of sauerkraut. I really love this crock from Lehman's. It is easy to use, easy to clean, very sturdy, and top quality. I highly recommend getting this crock if you are interested in making large batches of sauerkraut on a regular basis.