Pickled Cabbage May Be the Cure for Bird Flu

It’s being reported at telegraph.co.uk, as well as many other sites, that when scientists fed an extract of kimchi (a spicy Korean lacto-fermented cabbage dish similar to sauerkraut) to 13 chickens infected with avian flu, 11 of the birds showed signs of recovery at the end of 1 week.

Lead researcher, Professor Kang Sa-ouk from Seoul National University in South Korea, and his team believe that the lactobacillus (lactic acid producing bacteria) strain cultivated in the kimchi fermentation process combats the virus.

The university research team plans to distribute this extract to poultry farms in South Korea, after further research.

At first, I was impressed that the Telegraph article even linked to a recipe for homemade sauerkraut. It’s even an honest-to-goodness fermented sauerkraut, pickled in brine the old fashioned way, instead of using vinegar. Ironically however, the directions say to boil the entire mix before bottling, which will kill the lactobacilli! I wonder if anybody in the popular media actually understands how this stuff works?!

As ever, the old ways are frequently the best ways. That’s why people kept doing them for thousands of years!

Here are my personal recipes for pickled cabbage, chock full of probiotic lactobacilli, and if it can cure the bird flu, it may just work on the common cold. And the great thing about these traditional condiments is how easy they are to make. If you haven’t made lacto-fermented condiments before, this is a great place to start.

As usual, these recipes are variations on the principles and ideas found in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, my absolute all-time favorite cookbook. If you’re interested at all, get started today, since it will take about a month before it will really be ready. (You can eat it before that, it just won’t taste as good.)

If you want your stuff to look great, and to really take all of the work out of slicing and shredding, get a mandolin slicer. Personally, I use the Zyliss, and it works great for me. (Although if I leave it for my wife to wash, I get into trouble.) I can shred a whole head of cabbage in a couple of minutes. But what I really like, is that I can cut carrots and radishes into cool little matchsticks, which makes them look like what I get in a restaurant! (Yeah, I know, I’m a complete food gadget geek.)



  • 1 carton plain yogurt (with no fillers)


Make sure you get a yogurt that isn’t full of emulsifiers and such, and try to get one that isn’t low fat or (heaven forbid) non-fat. There are several brands on the market that contain nothing but whole milk and culture (Dannon is one of them). This is one of the few cases where it really doesn’t matter that it’s made with pasteurized milk; all yogurt is (even homemade).

Place the yogurt on a double layer of cheese cloth. (I use a thicker cloth, something like this, that I can wash and use again for this step now, since I do this a lot. These should be available in gourmet and kitchen stores.) Now bring the corners of the cloth together and tie, then suspend the yogurt over something (like a bowl) to catch the liquid that drips off. One of the easiest ways to do this is to tie the cloth holding the yogurt over a wooden spoon lying across the top of a glass pitcher. Let this sit for a couple of hours, and then pour the liquid into a sealable jar. This is whey, and that’s what I use for the starter culture for all of my fermented vegetables.

The yogurt in the cloth is now much thicker, almost like cream cheese. You can flavor it and put it on crackers, or maybe throw it in a smoothie, but do use it. It’s good for you! Be creative.



  • 1 head Napa cabbage (or 2 bunches bok choy), shredded
  • onions (1-2 bunches green onions, 1 large leek, or 1 medium yellow, white, or red onion), sliced or chopped
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks or grated (optional)
  • 1 small daikon radish, cut into matchsticks or grated (optional)
  • 2 in. piece peeled ginger, grated
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼-½ tsp. dried chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. course gray sea salt
  • ¼ cup whey (above)


Place all vegetables, ginger, garlic, chili, salt, and whey in a crock (or large glass or earthenware bowl), then pound the daylights out of it with a wooden pounder or a wooden meat mallet, until the vegetables all look wilted and you have a lot of juice sloshing around in the bottom. I’ve actually done this step sitting in front of the TV with a 3 gallon crock in my lap, since it usually takes me 10 or 15 minutes to get as much juice as I want.

When you’re done pounding, pour off the juice into a small bowl, then poke the mutilated vegetables into canning jars (preferably wide-mouth quarts). Don’t worry, we’re not going to boil these bottles, since that would kill off all the beneficial bacteria! Pack the vegetables tight into the jars with whatever bludgeon you used last time, leaving a couple of inches for expansion open at the top. Now pour the juice into the jars, proportionate to the other contents. If the juice doesn’t cover the vegetables, add enough purified water until it does (and pound it more next time). Loosely put the lids and rings on the jars, and leave it somewhere warm for 2 or 3 days. I put mine on the top of the fridge. Later, put the jars in the refrigerator to keep. I’m sure it would also keep well in a cool root cellar. It will take about a month for the flavor to develop, though you can eat it right away if you really want.