Improving Your Child's Health with Fermented Food

Last Updated by Kate Spears on
Teach your kids healthy eating habits by making it fun!
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How can food, especially fermented foods improve the gut health of your family? 

On Saturday’s episode of WCTE’s Get Ready To Learn radio show, host Cindy Putman and co-host Sarah Nelson of Naturally Nelson Farm, along with Dr. Marti Merritt talk about fermented foods of many varieties including kefir (pronounced: KEE-fir) and sauerkraut which is German for sour cabbage. They also share the importance of having fun with your food! Here are more ways to have fun with food in this article from PBS Parents.

Keep reading for facts and simple instructions to make your own fermented treasures with your kids in this great guest post from our friend, Sarah Nelson.


Fermentation is just one of several ways to preserve food using a few things nearly all of us have on hand, in this case: salt, water, air and time. When it comes to sauerkraut, fermentation also transforms an ordinary cabbage into a super food. Not only will the fermentation process produce all those beneficial microbes that we want and need in our gut, but it also results in higher levels of Vitamins B and C than you will find in just a plain cabbage.

(For more info, read Dr. Jonathan Lamb’s book: “Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery”. Dr. Lamb is a professor at Vanderbilt University.)

Sauerkraut is also said to help prevent acne (read this article from the Weston A Price Foundation).

Sauerkraut is a great way to introduce yourself to fermentation at home. Here’s how:

1) Always start with a head of organic cabbage.

Commercial farming uses pesticides and herbicides that can greatly reduce the amount of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are found in average grocery store produce. Organic is better. How much better?

According to the Journal of Applied Nutrition, a LOT better: 63% higher in calcium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in magnesium, 91% higher in phosphorus, 125% higher in potassium and 60% higher in zinc (Click here for more info).

2) Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage. Slice the cabbage into quarters and remove/discard the core. Slice each quarter into thin ribbons.

3) Place the ribboned cabbage into a bowl with about 1 1/2 tbs. of salt. (I use Redmond Real Salt). 

Here’s where you start getting friendly with your food and introducing your microbes to the cabbage’s.

4) Massage the cabbage and salt with your hands in the bowl for about 5 minutes. The cabbage will begin to break down and become more watery and limp. 

5) I like to add about a tablespoon of caraway seeds at this point for some extra flavor, but it is totally up to you if you want to add it or not. 

6) Pack the cabbage and all of the liquid from the bowl into a large mason jar. Really press it down in the jar. 

7) The cabbage needs to be fully submersed in the liquid to ferment properly and not just grow mold so if the cabbage hasn't released enough of its own liquid, add water until it is completely covered. 

8) Use a jelly jar to weigh the cabbage down below the level of the liquid. 

9) Place an unused coffee filter over the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band. 

10) Wait. 

Fermentation takes between 3 and 10 days depending on room temperature, the amount of cabbage you are fermenting and how it tastes. You may see bubbles, foam or even something that looks like white scum on top of the liquid. Never fear! This is a sign that the fermentation process is working.  

Every day or so, reacquaint yourself with your food. Reach in with a finger and stir it around. Grab a piece and taste test. Remember, get friendly with your food!

Keep your sauerkraut at room temperature until you like the flavor and then move it to the refrigerator. The cooler temperature halts the fermentation process.

This is a great recipe to try with kids. It is hard to mess up, and you may need more than one volunteer to keep up 5 minutes of cabbage massage!

Very happy fermenting!

Sarah Nelson

Naturally Nelson’s Farm

Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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