Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is one of the earliest cultivated vegetables, first grown over 4,000 years ago. This member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) Family is a relative to cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, turnip, radish, and rutabaga. The English word cabbage is derived from the French term caboche, meaning “head,” (as in head of cabbage). Ancient Egyptians considered cabbage a sacred plant and it has been long associated with the Roman god, Jupiter; cabbages were said to have sprouted from his perspiration.
Cabbage was an important staple in Europe prior to New World introductions such as corn, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, squashes and peppers. Cabbage is a good source of fiber, protein beta carotene, folic acid, vitamins B1, B6, C, K, U, bioflavonoids, calcium, iron, potassium, and sulfur.
Cabbage is an inexpensive vegetable and stores well over the winter. Fermenting cabbage, often with the addition of salt, makes sauerkraut (not to be confused with cole slaw which derives its flavor from vinegar). In ancient times, seafarers ate sauerkraut to prevent scurvy. Sauerkraut contains lactic acid, which naturally supports healthy intestinal flora.
Cabbage is sweet and pungent in flavor, and alkaline. Most commercial sauerkrauts have been pasteurized, which heats the kraut to a temperature that inactivates the friendly bacteria. It can be rinsed before serving to lower the sodium content.
Here is a way to make sauerkraut at home that preserves the friendly cultures! Other items that mix well with saurkraut include apples, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, onion, radish, or 1 tablespoon per batch of chopped basil, caraway seed, chili peppers, dill seed, garlic, ginger or kelp.
1/2 head white cabbage
1/2 head purple cabbage
4 teaspoons Celtic salt
1 teaspoon caraway seed or dill seed (optional)
Grate the cabbage (a food processor makes this easy). Toss with the remaining ingredients. Place in a pickle press (see below). Apply pressure with the press. Leave undisturbed 2 weeks. When you open the press, you may find mold on top of the sauerkraut; scrape it off and discard it. Rinse the sauerkraut well in a colander to rinse off the salt. Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep 3 to 4 weeks. Makes 8 servings.
Gold Mine Natural Food Company sells pickle presses for making sauerkraut.