I’ve been loving sauerkraut made with bitter greens and turmeric this fall and winter. Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory compounds, increases the anti-oxidant capacity of the body, and helps prevent heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. With all its benefits, turmeric is such a powerful medicine that I try to get a healthy dose of it, especially during sick season. The bioavailability of its nutrients is increased during fermentation, so I choose to simply add it into my bi-monthly sauerkraut routine.
Bitter or winter greens, such as dandelion, kale, arugula, beet greens, and spinach, act as gentle diuretics, purifying blood and cleansing the system, and are also great for digestion. Integrate bitter greens into sauerkraut to get the health benefits without getting slammed by the bitterness. Dandelion greens are my favorite.
Yields 1 gallon, 1–4 weeks
7 lbs cabbage (2 medium-size heads)
6 to 8 dandelion leaves
3 inches turmeric root
1 tsp Szechuan pepper
2 scotch bonnet peppers (or other hot pepper available to you)
2–3 tbsp salt
1-gallon glass jar or crock
Weight and cover
1) Cut cabbage into quarters and finely chop. Place chopped cabbage into a large bowl. If you have outer leaves of cabbage, rather than compost them, place them aside for later.
2) Finely chop dandelion greens and add them to the bowl with the cabbage.
3) Add 2 tbsp of salt and massage the cabbage for 5 to 10 minutes. Your cabbage will release water, which will serve as the sauerkraut’s brine. Taste the cabbage—you may want to add more salt to your liking.
4) Check for a puddle at the bottom of your bowl and squeeze a handful of cabbage above the bowl to check whether it has produced enough brine. Once gently squeezed, brine should drip with ease from the cabbage.
5) Finely chop the turmeric and scotch bonnet peppers and add them with the Szechuan pepper to your bowl of salty cabbage and dandelion greens. Distribute with caution — the heat of the pepper might irritate your hands and the turmeric will stain your hands (temporarily). I recommend tossing with salad servers.
6) Once the ingredients are distributed, pack the cabbage into your gallon jar until it’s submerged below brine. Take the cabbage leaves you set aside from earlier and layer them on top of your kraut, pressing down.
7) Add a weight, such as scrubbed and boiled river rocks or a small jar filled with water, on top of the layer of cabbage leaves. Secure a tea towel to the mouth of your jar with a rubber band to keep dust and bugs out.
8) Wait a week and taste—you may want to keep it going another week, but it’s good practice to try your ferments along their journey. Vegetables will ferment at different speeds depending on their environment—the warmer it is, the faster it will ferment, while the colder it is, the slower it will ferment. Most vegetable ferments thrive best between 68° to 76° F.
9) When the sauerkraut is to your liking, cover it with a lid and store in the fridge. You may also pack it into smaller jars if that’s easier. Keeping your new kraut cool slows fermentation, so you can enjoy the fermented flavor from when you sealed the jar.