Sauerkraut: nourishing your inner-health

In addition to being an Alfalfa House volunteer, Clara Bitcon is a women’s health naturopath and natural fertility educator. Her natural medicine practice, Medi.atrix Women’s Wellness, provides insightful and empowering guidance for women who want to take back their health naturally (

In this blog, Clara tells us about the wonders of sauerkraut, and treats us to a simple and tasty recipe.


Sauerkraut is ultimate gut supporting food.  It’s a member of what I like to call ‘elemental basics’: ancestral foods that have been largely lost to modern living yet offer so much to our health. It’s brimming with beneficial bacterial and the cabbage itself is rich in a gut supporting protein called glutamine. You can add healing herbs and spices to support your body in whatever way it is needing. It is food that nourishes our internal soil; our microbiome.

The recipe below will create enough for about two large jars of sauerkraut. You can make it in larger batches too. Making your own is easy and makes eating it daily so much more affordable.


Jar of sauerkraut


  • 1 large bowl or food grade bucket
  • 1 plate that snuggly fits the bowl/bucket
  • knife
  • pounding device (meat hammer, rolling pin, pestle etc.)


  • 1 head of cabbage, red or green, shredded
  • good quality salt, such as Celtic or river salt

Optional extras

  • For calming the digestion: caraway seeds or fennel seeds and grated ginger, dill or fennel tops
  • For firing up the appetite: umeboshi plum paste
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients: grated ginger and turmeric


Part 1: Prep the Cabbage

Boil some water and fill the bowl you are going to use to ferment the sauerkraut. After a few minutes, pour out water.

Place a couple of handfuls of shredded cabbage into the bowl. For every cup of cabbage, add two teaspoons of salt.

Pound well with a wooden pounder/meat hammer/rolling pin (anything that will serve the purpose of pounding!). You want to pound enough so that you bruise all their cell membranes and release their juices.

Add the next round of shredded cabbage and salt and repeat pounding. Continue these steps until you have used all your cabbage. African drumming music recommended for this part!

Part 2: Tuck it Away to Ferment

With a spatula, wipe down all the sides of the bowl. Find a plate that fits over the top of the sauerkraut – this is important because you want to create a completely oxygen free environment. If there are gaps around the side, the sauerkraut will rot rather than ferment.

Push the plate down with force, so that the fluid released from the cabbage rises above the plate. This will create a perfect seal.

If not enough juices are rising, either pound a bit more and try again. Or pour some boiled water over the plate to create the seal.

Place a heavy weight on top of the plate. As it ferments, more juices release, and you’ll notice the fluid level rise. This is very good. Wrap in a tea towel and set aside.

Part 3: Patience

Check on your kraut every few days. Don’t be alarmed if mould is forming in the liquid; because the vegetables are sealed off, it won’t affect them. Pour off the liquid, wipe down the sides and refill with freshly boiled water.

After 8 – 10 days your kraut should be ready. If you live in a cold climate, it may take longer. If you’re in the tropics, it may be shorter.

Holding plate down, pour off the liquid and have a taste, if it is not sour enough for you give it a couple more days.

Part 4: Bottle Up

When ready, spoon the sauerkraut into sterilised jars and cap. You can store these in the pantry for up to a year, but once you have opened them store in the fridge.

How to eat sauerkraut?

Traditionally sauerkraut was added as a side to most meals, especially if it contains meat. I like it on toasted sourdough, avocado and cracked pepper, in buddah bowls, on jacket baked potatoes or as a garnish to any Asian inspired dish. It’s versatile, so sneak it in in unexpected places.



Vegan mayonnaise

Vegan mayonnaise and me

Steve Sobolewski is a data analyst by day, and a writer and food fanatic by night. He’s also a regular contributor to our blog where he’s chronicling for us his journey into the world of sustainable food. In his second blog post, Steve talks about his food philosophy.

This week I’m going to be talking about an obsession of mine – food. Of course food is an obsession for a lot of us, just look at the variety of restaurants in Newtown and you will see we are a community that loves to eat. The exciting thing about Newtown is how many places cater to vegetarians, vegans, conscientious meat-eaters and everything in between.

My personal philosophy on food has changed quite significantly in the past 5 or 6 years. I grew up in a family that loves eating, whether it was my mother’s home cooked meals, a Friday night takeaway or going out to a restaurant. My sister and I were unusual children, quite happy to sit quietly and calmly in a restaurant, presumably because we wanted to keep being taken out!

But we never spoke about where our food came from and how it was produced. I saw my mother purchasing prepackaged items from the supermarket: meat came in little polystyrene trays covered in cling film, salad came in sealed bags, vegetables were pre-prepared and packaged, cereal boxes covered with the beaming faces of the Rice Bubbles’ elves and Tony the Tiger. All of it went in the trolley. This was normal. This was how we fed ourselves with meat and two vegetables on a daily basis. The supermarket was a filter, separating what I was eating from the reality of where it came from. I didn’t care because it didn’t register. Our primary concern in what we chose was taste and enjoyment.

As I got older things didn’t change much. I was a huge fan of the doner kebab (and as a student in London this was a standard dinner out after a few beers). I loved McDonalds and Hungry Jack’s, I’d pop into KFC whilst out and about to get a box of popcorn chicken without a second thought. Not once would it register about how this food was being produced and at what cost. Into adulthood my tastes changed but my attitudes didn’t. I was eating at better quality places but where my food came from was simply beyond my concern.

When I met my partner I was still eating like this. I wasn’t as unhealthy as I sound, I ate a lot of restaurant food and take-away but I also ate a lot of vegetables and home cooked meals. I was omnivorous but most of all thoughtless.

My partner explained to me that she had been thinking more and more about her environmental impact. She wanted become a more conscientious consumer and had decided to take her first step towards this. It was a simple thing; from that point on she was only going to eat free range chicken. She didn’t try to make me do the same thing, she simply explained her reasons (animal welfare and the effect of meat farming on the environment) and that slowly set off a chain reaction in my own thinking. How had the animal been killed, how had it lived? Had it suffered? My partner opened the door for me to begin seriously looking at where my food came from. In terms of energy consumption, water and land use, greenhouse gas emissions and wildlife, meat farming is proven to be much more damaging than the equivalent in non-meat agriculture.

My partner led the way and I followed. We followed eating free range chicken to only eating meat if we could guarantee it was responsibly and ethically produced. We cut down the amount of meat we ate by 95%. As a result over the last few years we have essentially become what I like to call “mostly vegetarian”. Our primary sources of protein are vegetable based, I learned to love tofu and, more recently, by discovering the range of things available at Alfalfa House we’ve replaced other items with vegan and vegetarian alternatives. Vegan mayonnaise, made from chickpeas, is better than I ever could have imagined.

As I’ve changed my approach to what I eat, I’ve realised that I don’t have to compromise on enjoyment – smoked tofu salad with roasted broccoli, beetroot, pepitas, and tahini and honey dressing is one of my all-time favourite dinners. (Shameless plug: season dependent, all of the ingredients are available at Alfalfa).

Everything we get from Alfalfa House is delicious. A weekly veg box encourages us to experiment and try new things with what’s in season. They have a huge selection for such a small shop and you can be sure that everything you buy has been produced with reducing waste, maximizing health and helping the community in mind.

I am still a meat-eater but it’s a rare occasion, and I only buy from places where I know that the animal has been treated with respect and with care. Perhaps that will change in the future; I know there is more that I can do. I worry about dairy and what milk cattle are put through to produce milk but I haven’t stopped eating cheese yet. Some might say that I’m not doing enough, and they would probably be right, but this is a journey that I’m still taking.  One thing I have learned is that places like Alfalfa House offer people food options they can enjoy knowing that they have taken a small step.

And if my own experience is anything to go by, a small step can be the first of many.

Sarah and Steve at a volunteer induction

A fresh start: volunteer inductions at Alfalfa House

Steve Sobolewski is a data analyst by day, and a writer and food fanatic by night. We’re lucky to now have him as a regular contributor to our blog where he’ll chronicle for us his journey into the world of sustainable food. In his first blog post, Steve talks about his experience on a recent volunteer induction at Alfalfa House.

In the above image, Steve is pictured on his volunteer induction with Sarah.

On a sunny but brisk Saturday morning I walk into Newtown’s food co-op, Alfalfa House, and announce with my best new-boy-at-school smile that I’m here for the volunteer induction.

“Hooray!” responds the excited woman behind the counter. I’ll later be introduced to her as Yue. If you go into the store you’ll recognize her as the cheerful lady looking busy, although that description would suit a lot of the people working here. My first impression on entering is how friendly everybody is. Sarah, who runs the induction sessions welcomes us with a beaming smile, and invites us to look around while she finishes up. She has a warm and friendly manner, it’s clear to see why she does all the inductions. I wander between the loaded shelves, surprising myself by learning how many different types of rice exist. And I had no idea that quinoa was so numerous in varieties.  

Another volunteer steps through the door. “Yay! Another tall one!” Yue calls. (Apparently they’ve had a shortage of volunteers able to reach some of the higher shelves.)  

Sarah invites us to walk through the office, into the storeroom and out into the garden. We take a seat in a small corner of the garden that has a table and some chairs set out in the sunshine. The garden is controlled chaos. A stack of boxes in one corner, bins along one wall, a large metal awning camped out in the middle of what could have been or will be a vegetable patch. It is busy, but there is an order to everything. Stacks of boxes, containers of compost, laundry hangers, wormeries. Everything has its purpose. Sarah explains to us what Alfalfa House is all about and gives us a bit of history.

Sarah tells us that a while ago  Alfalfa House came close to closing. A lot of time was spent looking at what Alfalfa House was doing, could it continue and if so how? Its members overwhelmingly agreed that it was a necessary part of the community. 

It surprises me to hear that its doors almost closed. Right now the shop feels alive, people are constantly coming and going. While we are being shown around the store room, a mother with her children comes through the back door to deliver some beeswax cloths. Maurice, the manager (and one of the many driving forces behind Alfalfa House’s success), stops by to collect a trolley of things to take to a local waste reduction festival. Alfalfa buzzes with the effort of the people inside it. It feels like a community. Sarah explains to us that Alfalfa House relies on its volunteers to keep going and it was only through increasing that reliance and utilizing them more, that it stayed open.

We are shown around the rest of the shop and have a lot of information given to us. Health and safety tips, where things are, what things are, what might happen, emergency exits are here, here and here. I’m feeling energized in a way I hadn’t expected, ready to get involved and so I sign up for a shift. Saturday morning, a time usually devoted to not getting up. I had originally come to the induction because my wife asked me if I’d like to write a blog for a place she had been devoting a lot of time to. Now I was ready to devote a few hours of my own, in addition to writing about it.

Since then I have worked my first volunteer shift at Alfalfa House and I loved every minute of it. The sense of committing and contributing to something that in the small scale benefits the neighborhood and the community, supports ethical producers and does its part to keep the world going is worth it.

Before I continue with my blog posts I should make a few admissions. I am not a vegan, or a vegetarian. I don’t know a huge amount about what the requirements are for something to be considered organic. I don’t know what vegetables are in season, I can make an educated guess on what foods are gluten free and only within the last few years have I found out what tofu is actually made of. I am someone who loves food. I’m also someone who has, over the last few years, started to learn about my impact on the world and the environment and what I can do to minimize it. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert but I’m learning. I volunteer on Saturday mornings so if you come to an induction I’ll probably meet you. Everyone is welcome!

Bulk orders receive extra 5% discount

Bulk orders now available

Alfalfa House members can reap the benefits of an extra discount if they choose to place bulk orders!

Members of Alfalfa House can order food in bulk (in the minimum weight or quantity the co-op buys the product in) and receive an extra 5% discount on top of any other discount to which they are entitled. If it’s not a regular co-op product, we may still be able to get it in. Chat to our Stock Coordinators or one of the Shop Coordinators (on the till) to find out more.

How to place an order

When placing an order you’ll need to provide

  1. Your name
  2. Membership number
  3. Contact phone number
  4. the name and quantity of the product

These details are then entered in the Bulk Orders book and your order placed next time the co-op orders from the supplier stocking your requested product. How long it takes will depend on how often the co-op orders from that supplier. If it is likely to take longer than 2-3 weeks for your bulk order to be received, we will contact you to let you know when we next expect to place an order with the supplier.

Bulk order suppliers

Here’s a list of suppliers and roughly how often Alfalfa House places orders:

  • Austral Herbs (herbs and spices) – once every 4-6 weeks. Order placed Tuesday, delivered a week or so later.
  • Demeter (flours) – fortnightly. Order placed Wednesday morning in week A, delivered Thursday in week B (ie, ordered one week, delivered the next).
  • Eco-farms (various produce) – weekly. Order placed Wednesday, delivered Friday.
  • Green Clover (various produce) – weekly. Order placed Tuesday morning, delivered Thursday.
  • Honest to Goodness (nuts and dried fruit) – weekly. Order placed Tuesday morning, delivered Thursday afternoon.
  • Hunter Valley Organics (various produce) – every two or three weeks. Ordered Tuesday morning, typically delivered on Thursday

The plastic free challenge

We challenge you to refuse single-use plastic for a whole month. Go on – give it a go! You won’t be alone as thousands of other people from over 70 countries are also giving a plastic free lifestyle a go. The planet will thank you…and so will we.

The Age Of Plastic

Since its invention in the early 1900s, plastic has become such an integral part of the way we live that we hardly realise it’s there – in our phones, cars, clothes, books, kitchen appliances… the list goes on. Its durability and potential to be moulded into any shape imaginable has truly made it the material of our time.

In many cases we are unable to avoid buying it even if we try. However, there is one blindingly obvious way in which we can avoid buying it, and that is to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.

Why should we avoid using Plastic?

It is estimated that more than 297 million tonnes of plastic was consumed worldwide in 2015 – that’s more than the weight of all people on earth combined!

If we break that down we find that 500 billion single-use plastic bags are made each year (that’s roughly 150 bags for every person on the planet), and more than 100 million plastic bottles are used worldwide every single day. Considering that a plastic bottle can take anywhere between 450 and 1000 years to decompose, this presents a monumental problem.

As you read this blog there are 269,000 tonnes of plastic floating on the surface of our oceans killing our beautiful birds and marine life, and almost the same amount in undetectable microfibres suffocating our sea floors. More locally you can see the garbage floating in our rivers and harbours, and the litter on our streets. Not to mention the offgassing we breathe in or eat through our plastic covered food.

So what can we do when plastic is everywhere?

As consumers we are the most powerful force in making change a reality. There are many ways in which we can reduce our plastic consumption and help fight plastic pollution that are simple, easy and often more affordable.

Here are a few easy tips for saying no to plastic:

  • say no to drinking straws and disposable cutlery. It’s amazing how often we accept these thing without noticing, then just throw them in the bin!
  • if you see plastic on the street, pick it up and put it in the nearest bin – you will look much cooler than the person who dropped it there.
  • Say no to single-use plastic bags as often as you can. If each Australian family used 1 plastic bag less each week that would be 253 million bags less each year!
  • avoid buying pre-bottled water by changing your mental list when you leave the house to: “Keys, wallet, phone, water bottle…”

Take a selfie!

Why not have a little fun while you’re at it by joining us at Alfalfa House in taking a Plastic Free Challenge Water Bottle Selfie!

Simply take a fun photo of you with your reusable water bottle and post it to facebook or instagram with a caption saying: “I’m taking @thePlasticFreeChallenge [be sure it’s a link], how about you?”

Keep your eye out for your friends here at Alfalfa House, we will have our silly selfies proudly up there too!

More information

You can find out more about the Plastic Free Challenge at

For more information about issues surrounding plastic consumption and pollution, try these links: