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Recipe: Easy, healthy sauerkraut

Hint—this version of the fermented classic is way better than the pasteurized stuff in your grocery aisle.
red cabbage sauerkraut

With their funky flavors and healthy dose of probiotics, fermented foods have exploded onto the wellness scene, and sauerkraut is one of the stars.

Like all ferments, it helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. (You can call it “flora,” if you must.) Plus, it’s made from cabbage, a cruciferous veggie that’s been linked to cancer prevention and blood pressure control, explains Michael Schwartz of BAO Food and Drink, a fermentation fanatic, who shared this recipe.

Why make your own? The non-refrigerated ‘kraut in your grocery aisle is pasteurized and can contain chemical preservatives and sugar, so it’s “definitely not worth eating,” says Schwartz. Starting from scratch also saves money and lets you to control the flavor depending on how long you let everything sit. Here’s how to make it. —Jennifer Kass

DIY Sauerkraut

You’ll need a scale for this recipe or excellent guesstimation skills. You’ll also need a wide-mouth glass jar or pottery bowl and a piece of muslin.

Head of cabbage (red, green or Napa or a combo)
A few carrots
Chilis (any kind will do)
A clove of garlic (or more, if that’s your thing)

Chop, grate, or cut your favorite type of cabbage into strips. Chop the carrots, chilis, and garlic. Using a scale, weigh out .4 ounces of salt per every pound of vegetables (1 lb vegetables = .4 oz salt). With very clean hands, mix the cabbage, veggies, and salt together in a big glass bowl.

Let it sit. Massage the mixture over several hours, allowing the water to release from the vegetables, so it becomes a little soupy. After 5 or 6 hours, put the water and cabbage in a wide-mouth glass jar—or a nifty vegetable fermenter—and pack it down as much as you can to press out the air.

Cover the top of the jar loosely with muslin, and refrigerate for approximately four days. Make sure you can see water on top—if you can’t, add more. Open and eat! (Keep stored in the refrigerator.)