I'm brand new to this forum, and not sure if I'm posting in the right place, but here goes...
I rely on large quantities of sauerkraut daily to maintain my delicate gut, because I suffer from ulcerative colitis. (That's an autoimmune disease of the colon.) I'm currently learning to ferment my own s-k at home--excited about the crock I just bought, which is bubbling away. Right now, I eat maybe 1-2 cups a day. I used to love backpacking and international travel, but my food needs make those harder--I haven't quite figured out how to carry my large amounts of s-k into the wilderness yet. One idea is dehydrating it...but that will only work if it doesn't kill the beneficial bacteria. I have read one post somewhere (can't find it now) about how, if you dehydrate at <106 degrees F, the bacteria will survive and will be reactivated with water. This seems at least POSSIBLE to me, since probiotic pills are also dry and not always refrigerated. So:
Has anyone else tried dehydrating sauerkraut or anything similar? Do you happen to know if the bacteria can survive this process? Do you have any recommendations for rehydrating--should I just add water, or eat it dry and expect it to reactivate in my gut? If it's hopeless, any suggestions for other ways to travel with ferments?
(I know what you're thinking--why not just take probiotics? They unfortunately don't contain nearly the amount of bacteria, or the diversity of bacteria, that I can get from live ferments. Also, just in case anyone's interested, I'm blogging my story at www.katiescolitisjournal.com! )
I am not an expert on dehydrating bacteria, but I do know that all the vegetables I have fermented, and cheese I have made with bacteria have had to either continually have a food source or has needed to be kept in the refrigerator or for longer times in the freezer. In my experience the longer the bugs go without food and are warm, the quicker they die. Even probiotics should be refrigerated and like you said they have nowhere near as many bacteria in the probiotics as what you can create in making your own fermented veggies. There are folks claiming they have probiotics for sale that do not need to be refrigerated. Perhaps you should see if they are for real and what they are doing. I have never been real trusting of them.
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I think it's worth a try. You might want to dehydrate "young" sauerkraut, by which I mean sauerkraut that hasn't been fermenting quite as long. Then, when you are traveling, you rehydrate it a day's worth at a time and give it some time to "wake up" and start fermenting again. Does that make sense? Like maybe you rehydrate it, then let it hang out, hopefully fermenting, overnight and then eat it in the morning.
I would try this while still at home, so that if you feel things are going off the rails, you can immediately consume some of your good lively ferments.
There's a lot of information out there on dehydrating sour dough starter and then how to rehydrate and get it going again...back before refrigeration this is how folks traveled with it. Might be similar to kraut for temperatures,etc to keep things alive. Here's a link to a page of 'how to' suggestions that might help with doing the same with sauerkraut. https://www.bing.com/search?q=dehydrated+sourdough+starter&pc=MOZI&form=MOZTSB
It seems like it should work depending on the dehydrating process...too hot would kill the good stuff and too prolonged might cause it to go off?
Applying heat to fermented foods will have a negative impact on the probiotic count. That being said, using a low heat in the dehydrator (115-118°F) will be less bad than say 200°F. I do cook with fermented food and am not so concerned by losing probiotics because I consume fermented foods on a daily basis and am not worried about potentially not getting maximum benefits from one particular preparation. Dehydrating and powdering sauerkraut is a great addition to salt with the addition of herbs for a nice seasoning. I say try it out!
Wow, thank you SO much for all of these helpful responses!
Well, it's a couple weeks later and I've done my first experiment with this. My goal is to develop a way to travel or backpack for 4 to 7 days without refrigeration, without negatively affecting my health. In a few months, my husband and I will try our first backpacking trip in several years (since my diagnosis), aiming for just 4 days, 3 nights. So, I dehydrated all the sauerkraut I would normally eat in that span of time, plus a bit more--two large jars' worth. (I like Julia's idea of trying "young" sauerkraut--as I get better at fermenting my own, I'll be able to start doing that. For now, I'm dependent on store-bought...currently awaiting my first homemade crock batch.) I dehydrated at 105 degrees F, which took around 8 hours. I stored the dried kraut in a mason jar in a cool place, but not the fridge, reasoning that I wouldn't be able to store it in the fridge on the way to our backpacking trip. Then, after a few days, I substituted the dried sauerkraut for all the ferments I usually eat, discontinuing non-dry sauerkraut as well as goat milk kefir and chickpea miso.
Well... I would say the results weren't perfect, but they were hopeful. My gut didn't do as well as it usually does on my normal ferments, but it also didn't do as poorly as it does without any ferments at all. The first day was actually the worst, possibly because my body was adjusting--I had some gut symptoms and felt a general malaise all day. By the third full day, though, I was feeling normal energy, although my gut still wasn't normal. (I'm not getting too graphic here, out of politeness! :) ) It would have been rough going, if I had been backpacking that first day, since I was feeling off and tired. But the second and third days would have been fine.
I'll repeat this and see if I can tweak it, perhaps looking for younger kraut, and more carefully reading the links Judith sent. I love imagining those old-time settlers traveling with their sourdough starters!!
I also need to do an experiment to verify that the dried kraut was doing something and had at least some probiotics--so I will try going completely off all ferments for four days, sometime, to make sure it's true that my gut did better on the dried kraut than it would have on nothing at all. (Whenever I do these experiments, I end them early if I feel my body being derailed into a disease flare-up--I'm pretty good at sensing when discomfort becomes dangerous.)
Have you considered seal a meal bags with wet kraut portions? I watched "It's Alive with Brad" on Bon Appetit doing ferments in seal a meal bags. The kraut might ferment more but if your outside temps aren't too high it might be a way to keep the bacteria thriving. Maybe a spring and fall backpacking solution. Also they have portion size bags of like a pint or a quart on Amazon for a decent price. You could easily pack individual portions.
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