The Evolution of My Sauer Kraut
How I Learned About Plastic
CAROLYN ROGERS / Mindfully.org 18may2005
I was reading in my book "Nourishing Traditions," by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD, about chemical changes that take place during fermentation of certain vegetables when preserved the way it was done in earlier times. The book states:
"The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was alchemy. Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotics and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide and small amounts of benzoic acid."
I decided to make sauerkraut to include some of this healthy lactobacilli in the diet of my family. I ordered a case of organic green cabbage on my Mountain Peopleís Warehouse order. I also had to order a ten gallon crock from Lehmanís. Making the sauerkraut was a project in itself! My recipe is as follows:
5 pounds shredded cabbage
3 tablespoons sea salt
Shred the cabbage (I used my food processor and a kitchen scales) put this amount into a bowl and mix in the salt and pound it into the bottom of your crock. Continue this way with five more pounds of cabbage and three more tablespoons of salt until your crock is about two thirds full. Pack it in by covering it and standing on it. Then you can take a large crockery plate and sit it on top of the cabbage because you donít want it to come in contact with the plastic garbage bag that you are going to double bag and set on top. Fill the inner bag with about 10" of water and tie off the top of the bags.
Keep it in a place that stays about 65 degrees and let it happily perk along, do not peek or touch it for eight weeks (this protects it from developing toxic molds, which could ruin your work). Now you are ready to put it up.
Now I had one more week until I could can it or bag it. I began to think about ways to do it. My issues are: I donít want to kill the good bacteria, I donít want to pasteurize it by canning it or have the juice touch the metal seals because the acidic sauerkraut could eat the metals from the sealer and cause my family to have heavy metal poisoning. So, I thought of seal-a-meal bags and bought the whole outfit at our local hardware store. The idea of it being in plastic did not make me happy. I began worrying about dioxin. I emailed www.mindfully.org to ask about this. I got a very thoughtful response as follows:
Thank you for writing to Mindfully.org and me. I cannot say for certain that the bags do not contain dioxin because they have not been tested.
But dioxin is only one of millions of chemicals that are out on the market. Follow my logic here and you will be able to think for yourself. at least on the issue of plastics:
1. Plastic contains many toxic chemicals that are supposedly bound together in a way that makes them nontoxic.
2. But the process they use -- polymerization -- is never perfect.
3. Which means that toxic chemicals are always able to leach into your food or drink
This is not disputed by the plastics manufacturers. But where we part ways is when they say that plastic is safe because it meets or exceeds the regulatory standards for that leaching into your food. I believe that the regulations are not protective enough. In fact, I know that the regulations protect nothing but the plastics manufacturer's profits.
ALL plastics migrate/leach ALL the time. It's a sure thing that ALL plastics leach into your food and that all or most of those chemicals are toxic. And most should not be in your body.
If this is not clear please ask more. I really want to know if you understand these basic principals.
I thanked him for his help and told him my concern about keeping it alive. He took the time to answer me again and to offer a suggestion as follows:
As far as keeping your beautiful kraut alive and healthy, yes, I would definitely bottle in glass. I get gallon glass jars at Lhasa Karnak Herb Company, a great herb shop that's been in Berkeley since about 1970. The glass jars are not very expensive. And they would seal quite well if you really crank down the lid tight.
The sauerkraut is a success, but more than that is the fact that I am learning to survive in a plastic enraptured environment. There are alternatives and it is important to know how to protect yourself and your family.
Here are pictures of my sauerkraut in the crock and in the glass jars on my shelf, a guarantee of good health for a while to come.
I would encourage you to seek alternatives to plastic when it comes to food, this includes lunch containers.