Hot dogs are one of those junk foods that almost always appeal to me. Gross, I know. The conventional hot dog can hardly be called a health food by any stretch of the imagination. But there’s just something about cookouts and ketchup and the tang of a kraut dog….
But let’s back up. I used to hate sauerkraut. I mean, really hated it- I wouldn’t touch that stringy, nasty, smelly stuff. My mom would make pork and sauerkraut, and I would kindly turn my nose at the topping each and every time.
Come round 20 years later, and I’m learning to enjoy fermented foods- and it seems like sauerkraut is one of those mandatory probiotic storehouses you simply must try. My husband made up a batch shortly after baby I was born, and guess what? It’s growing on me.
Now, why does fermented sauerkraut make a hot dog any healthier, you ask? Lacto-fermented sauerkraut (not the kind you buy in a can at the store) is full of good bacteria that help your gut health- which in turn, helps your immune system and other functions. 🙂 It’s also full of fiber, vitamins C & K, and iron (source). According to this article, sauerkraut can even help to fight cancer and ulcers. So, even though the hot dog itself isn’t great, at least its topped with a super food.
If you want to make your own Sauerkraut, there are several good tutorials out there (we used this one), but all you really need is cabbage, filtered water, and sea salt. (The recipe we used recommended a brine of 1.5 Tbsp salt to 4 cups of water.)
First, make your salt and water brine. Slice your cabbage thinly, massage it to release some of the moisture, pack it tightly into wide-mouth mason jars, and cover it with the salt brine. At this point, weigh the cabbage down under the brine, and install airlocks on the lids if you have them. Otherwise, use a regular mason jar lid and be sure to “burp” the lids daily to release the gasses that build up during fermentation.
You can definitely make sauerkraut (or any other fermented food) without an airlock, but having one makes the process a lot more foolproof. We love using our glass weights and airlock from Fermentools– and they’ve saved me from a lot of mold. (You can read my full review of Fermentools products here.)
Want other ways to make your hot dog healthier? Try to look for nitrate-free hot dogs without gross fillers. I used to be able to get these at a small butcher’s shop, but you can often find name brand “natural” hot dogs (such as Applegate) in the health food section of your grocery store.
You can also transform the rest of your dog’s companions- try to get condiments with better ingredients (i.e., organic, no corn syrup, etc.), or try fermenting your store-bought condiments. Also, consider making your own buns at home (I use this recipe– make a double batch and freeze half of them to save time), or get adventurous by buying or making sprouted grain buns. You have to be a bit more intentional about it, but you really can have a guilt-free hot dog.
Mmm, mmm. Nothing like making a tasty hot dog tastier- and WAY better for you. Enjoy your kraut!