How to Make Sauerkraut – The Fast and Easy Way

by Jordan Reasoner

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The beneficial effects of SCD probiotics are well documented.  Typically, the 24-hour fermented yogurt can help restore healthy gut flora and improve your digestion…

Unless you can’t tolerate dairy products.

Dairy reactions seem to be a problem for our “Tough Case” readers.  In that case, they try making 24-hour goat’s milk yogurt, but it usually triggers the same reaction.  The casein protein is a common intolerance for people with Leaky Gut Syndrome.

But there’s still hope for getting probiotics in your life…

You can either take them in pill form, which is OK – but the best place to get good bugs is straight from a food source, like raw unpasteurized sauerkraut.  Remember: store bought sauerkraut is usually pasteurized, meaning they heat it up to kill the germs… which also kills the good bugs we’re trying to eat.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to easily ferment raw sauerkraut without using any special contraptions…

Simple Sauerkraut Step 1:

You’ll need one head of cabbage, a heavy knife, sea salt, a glass bowl, a ziplock baggy, and another bowl small enough to fit inside the opening of the glass bowl.

Simple Sauerkraut Step 2:

Cut the stem off the cabbage.  Then take the head and slice it in half so that you can see the area of the stem that’s left inside the head.  Make a V cut into each half to remove the stem on each side.

Simple Sauerkraut Step 3:

Cut each side of the head in half so you’re left with four quarters.  Then take the 1st quarter and chop it into tiny slivers.  Some people have really cool choppers to get the job done, but I just use my heavy knife and some elbow grease…

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 4:

Take the 1st quarter of the cabbage you finely chopped up and drop it into your glass container… but here’s the trick… add the shredded cabbage in a handful at a time, sprinkling sea salt on each handful after you drop it in.

Next, go through the other 3 quarters and do the same process until the entire head is chopped and in the glass container with salt gently applied to each handful.

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 5:

Once you’re all finished with step 4, your glass container should look something like this picture. Sprinkle a little more salt on top.  FYI – the reason we’re adding salt is that it will help draw the moisture out of the cabbage (to help us later when we need the juice)…

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 6:

Take a few minutes to use your fist (or a meat hammer – but be careful not to break stuff) to pound on the shredded cabbage in the glass container to begin the process of compacting it.  Once it’s packed down a bit, sprinkle a little more salt on it and let it sit for 2-3 hours.

Over the next 2-3 hours the salt will keep drawing the moisture out, so stop by every so often and pack it down more, forcing more of the moisture out.  Come back in about 2-3 hours for the next steps :-)

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 7:

Hopefully your shredded cabbage is filled with juice by now.   It’s called the “brine.”  If not, sometimes I have to actually use both hands and “kneed” the shredded cabbage depending on how ripe it was when I started making it.

Here’s how to tell when it’s ready… if you push down on the cabbage with your hand, the brine water should rise past the level of the cabbage, as in this picture:

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 8:

This is where you build the “Super Sophisticated Sauerkraut Contraption 5000 (TM).”

Take the smaller bowl, which is small enough to fit inside the glass bowl, and set it on top of the sauerkraut.  Then take the ziploc baggy and fill it with room temperature water.  Set the bag on top of the small bowl… and wallah – it’s done!

The point of this whole thing is to keep weight on the bowl so the shredded cabbage stays submerged in the brine water.  If it’s not enough weight to keep the shredded cabbage below the brine water yet – just stop by every couple hours and push down on the smaller bowl to keep compacting the shredded cabbage even more :-)

NOTE: Don’t ever just add regular water to this.  If you absolutely have to add water to it to fill it up, then get some filtered water and mix sea salt in it first, then add it.  If you still have an old batch in the fridge, add a bit of that brine as a “starter culture” and it will kick it off with some good bugs right off the bat.

 

Simple Sauerkraut Step 9:

This is the final step, and this picture is a visual aid for you to see what the brine water level should look like before you “set it and forget it.”

If it’s ready to go just set it aside somewhere away from too much heat or too much cold. Room temperature is the best. I’ve heard mixed reports about covering it from light and I’m not sure what the difference is, so I still throw and towel over it to keep it in the dark anyways.

How long it will take to ferment depends on the temperature of the room it’s in. I usually start tasting mine around day 5 to see where it’s at, but 7 days is typically the best length of time for me when my house stays around 72 degrees F.

Simple Sauerkraut Step 10:

When you come back to it 5-7 days later, you might find a few pieces of shredded cabbage on top that were exposed to the air and appear moldy.  Don’t panic :-)  It looks like this:

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Just use a spoon and skim that part off into the trash.  Anything that was below the brine is healthy and chocked full of good gut bugs.

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Simple Sauerkraut Step 11:

Once it’s ready, move it to some kind of glass container and set it in the fridge.  Enjoy a few tablespoons 15-mins before a meal to increase stomach acid production :-)

It has wonderful probiotic effects, especially if you can’t tolerate dairy and don’t eat the 24-hour yogurt.  If you’re sensitive to good bugs it might be a good idea to start with 1/2  tablespoon each day and work your way up slowly.

Simple-Sauerkraut-Step-12

NOTE: The point of this post was to show you how to make sauerkraut using stuff you may already have in your kitchen.  Patrick on Facebook told me about this Picklemeister, which is a cool contraption that makes it easier to ferment sauerkraut by letting gas out of the jar, but not allowing fresh oxygen in.

Enjoy!

P.S. – Leave any cool modifications you try in the comments below.  Experiment away!

 

About the author

Jordan Reasoner Jordan Reasoner is a health engineer and author. He was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and almost gave up hope when a gluten-free diet didn’t work. Since then, he transformed his health using the SCD Diet and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Keri B. February 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

You can use the glass jar to start with insead of the bowl. Then insead of using the bowl with baggie on top, just use the ziplock with salt water in it. Use salt water in the baggie, just in case it springs a leak. Every day or two you will want to remove the ziplock bag and rinse off any scum or residue that may develop. When replacing the bag, make sure that it forms a seal over the cabbage brine with no air bubbles. This should eliminate any mold from forming and wasted cabbage, also no need to transfer the cabbage to a storage container when it is done, just put in the fridge!

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Jordan Reasoner February 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

Thanks @Keri – great tips :-)

Jordan

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Kate March 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

Hi Keri, I tried making it straight into a jar and it didn’t work so I am going to try and follow your tips next time :) So you’re saying you have a jar, leave the lid off and put the ziploc bag with water in on to of the cabbage…so no jar lid?

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Amy Mow February 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

My family has been making a similar sauerkraut (although with kosher salt and sugar) for generations! We use a full size stone crock (1 bushel of white cabbage yields 18 quarts finished product) and add small cheesecloth bags of caraway seed for flavoring. Traditionally, the top is weighted down with a large, flat stone from Lake Superior set on a clean glass plate, then covered with a clean linen cloth. Starting on the second day, and every day thereafter, we poke holes in the mixture all the way to the bottom to aerate the mixture for 10-30 minutes, then press down again and recover. It’s done in about a week, and keeps well in glass jars in the fridge. I haven’t made this in years, but will now try it without the sugar.

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Jordan Reasoner February 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Very cool ideas @Amy – I look forward to hearing how it goes without the sugar :-)

I’d love to have a large flat stone from Lake Superior to weigh down my shredded cabbage, that’s awesome.

Jordan

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Tina September 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I would love to have your recipe for the sauerkraut….I am from Michigan too! I have to stone crock, I like the idea of cheesecloth bags the flavoring, & the weighting it down with a flat stone.

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Max February 22, 2012 at 5:33 am

Hi, Jordan! Great recipe. I have a sea salt that includes fluorine and iodine. Is it Ok to use it?

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Amanda H. April 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Just tried this out last week and it worked really well! I used organic cabbage the second time and it seemed to juice up better. Thanks for the post!

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Jane S June 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm

How far into the diet should I wait to add this sauerkraut? Can I add it right away as a way of adding probiotics? Or wait until more healing has taken place?

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blackbass June 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

how long should i wait to try sauerkraut? im on stage 3 and doing pretty well….tired of paying so much for pills…need to save some cash

would this suffice for digestive enzymes also since its not cooked?

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Steven Wright June 22, 2012 at 9:01 am

@blackbass You can try sauerkraut whenever your ready for a change. It’s usually a good idea to be in your “feel good zone” where you will know exactly how you react to it, but sometimes that isn’t possible.

No – it won’t take the place of enzymes, only possibly probiotics.

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blackbass June 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm

can you use too much salt in making it?

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Jordan Reasoner June 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I don’t think so. It’s a “salt to taste” thing – so using too much would probably just make it taste bad.

I haven’t seen anything to suggest it would mess with the fermentation process.

Jordan

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Carolyn June 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I made some sauerkraut last week and day 7 of fermenting would have been yesterday. I tasted it to see how it was and it’s really salty. Is that normal? Does it need to ferment longer or is this how it’s supposed to taste? I”ve never had sauerkraut before so I have no idea what it should taste like. I let it ferment in a downstairs bedroom and maybe it wasn’t warm enough? Not sure what I should do–any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Jordan Reasoner June 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Hi Carolyn,

It does taste salty – but you can use less next time if you don’t like the taste. It does take longer to ferment in lower temperatures. If your basement is say 60 degrees F, you may need to let it ferment for 10-days and try it then.

It took me about 3 tries before I really got it figured out. Keep having fun and experimenting :-)

Jordan

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bobby jay August 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Hey guys….I have def. leaky gut…cant do any of the four horsement without inflammation kickin in….so I tried sauerkraut…and its just too fiberous…as are other harsh veggies…so I was wondering…have you heard of just drinking the brine and not eating the cabbage? Would you get a lot of good bugs from that?

Thanks

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Jordan Reasoner August 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Hi Bobby Jay, yes I have heard of just drinking the brine. It will have all the beneficial probiotics in it as well, so it will help. Some people have to drink it for months before they can tolerate the actual veggie.

Try it and see how you feel.

In good health,

Jordan

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bobby jay August 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm

cool…thanks for the tip!

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Steven August 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

The first time I tried this it came out perfectly, smelling and tasting exactly like some of the raw organic kimchi/sauerkraut I’ve bought in stores. This time I let it ferment until after the bubbling stopped (about a week) and it just looks like cole slaw, and doesn’t smell exactly right either. Any clue what happened?

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Jordan Reasoner August 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hi Steven, not sure. Could be one day it got too hot? It’s tough man, it took me about 5 tries before I got it right everytime. I had to find a different place to put it in my kitchen that was a little cooler, away from the stove.

Keep trying and you’ll get it.

Jordan

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Steven September 30, 2013 at 1:26 am

SOLUTION: For those of us with cold homes, use your yogurt maker to ferment anything! Keep it at “room temp” with a light dimmer switch.

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Marlene Mose September 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hey
Forgot about this sauerkraut, it’s been sitting for a week and a day, it might have been a bit on the cold side where it was sitting. Am wondering what it is suppose to taste like. This just tastes like salty cabbage. Also do I destroy the probiotics if I heat it up?
Thanks
Marlene

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Jordan Reasoner September 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Hi Marlene, it will destroy the bacteria if you head it up. Keep testing it, you might see what it tastes like at 10 days and see if that’s better for you.

It really depends on temperature. I’ve had some taste better at 10 days and 14 days in the winter.

In good health,

Jordan

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Steven Wright September 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

@Marlene – You will destroy the probiotics if you heat it up. It should taste sour, a bit crunchy and slightly bubbly.

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Judy Haskins October 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Once the sauerkraught is ready to eat, how long does it keep on the refrigerator?

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Steven Wright October 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

@Judy – I’ve read that it can keep for months… so I wouldn’t too much about it.

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LeLo October 16, 2012 at 8:35 am

I am interested in making this sauerkraut for the health benefits. I was wondering, though, does it lose the probiotics benefit if you warm it up a little to eat it? I don’t know if I would like cold sauerkraut!!

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Jordan Reasoner October 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

In theory, yes warming it up will kill the beneficial bacteria.

In good health,

Jordan

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Diane November 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

After fermenting, do you eat the juice or the vegetable or both. Which has the good bacteria.

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Jordan Reasoner November 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Yes, I try and mix the brine in with the veggie. It’s very powerful, so some people have to ramp up slowly.

Jordan

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solomani December 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm

One thing I like about this website is that stuff which is left unanswered or vague in BTVC (and I understand why Elaine did that) is clearly stated and outlined in a step-by-step fashion by you guys. It tickles my analytical heart no end. Thank you for the effort.

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Steven Wright December 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm

@Solomani – :)

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Susan January 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I can’t eat cabbage (because of thyroid) . Have you tried carrots or beets ?

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Jordan Reasoner January 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Sure, you can lactoferment any veggie. Check out this book:

http://amzn.to/10OMJw5

Jordan

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Jackie January 2, 2013 at 12:57 am

We’ve been making it like you’ve shown but recently heard of the difference between pickling and fermenting where pickling can irritate the gut lining. I was wondering if a starter (such as 24 hour yogurt or kefir) needs to be used to ensure it is truly fermented and not just pickled. Little bit confused about the difference and hesitant to keep giving it to our sensitive kids if it may be irritating. Thanks for any clarification.

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Jordan Reasoner January 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

That’s a great question Jackie. Lactofermenting is very different. I highly recommend you check out this book on it:

http://amzn.to/10OMJw5

Jordan

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Kate March 24, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hi there Jordan :)

Am interested in which book you recommend as the link lists a lot of different ones :)

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Kate March 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

That’s a useful point Jackie thanks, I think my first attempt is more of a pickle than a fermented sauerkraut!

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Kimberly January 15, 2013 at 2:51 am

Hi guys! Thank you so much for all the info you are constantly helping us with. I thought I might chip in with what I’ve learned in making sauerkraut. The first time I made sauerkraut I used Mercola’s recipe from one of his books, but it was way too salty and I didn’t even understand what went wrong. It tasted kind of like metal. Then after reading other people’s recipes & experiences online I figured out that others were using only half the amount of salt. So I now use about 1 Tbsp. per head of cabbage (instead of 2). I also use the Body Ecology Veggie Culture starter – 1 packet for 2 large heads of cabbage and I pack it into three 32-oz Wide mouth Mason jars. My local heath food store sells organic cabbage for $2 a head, so it’s cheap to experiment. I tried adding carrots to one batch and didn’t really like the fermented carrot taste (until it had been in the fridge for 6 months – then it was better). It’s really true that it tastes better with age, so if you have room to store it, make a few to try at different ages.
Happy kraut-ing!!! :-)

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Michael April 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Hi, this looks really good – just started SCD yoghurt with cow’s milk and it seems to go down *ok*, but wouldn’t mind giving sauerkraut a go.

One question I do have is regarding hygeine. Like with the SCD yoghurt – heating the milk kills any bad bacteria before fermenting. Is there the need for any similar process with sauerkraut? Is there a chance of bad bacteria getting into the fermentation process and creating a potentially dangerous food?

Many thanks for the great site,

Michael

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Michael May 1, 2013 at 6:25 pm
LauraA June 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Hi Jordan and Steven,
Here’s a question. Since I have thyroid issues and cabbage is out and leaky gut, so yoghurt is out and since Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar is double fermented, can one use this instead of the SCD Yoghurt or Saurkraut?

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JoAnne June 30, 2013 at 9:47 am

I use a Pickl-it to make fermented veggies. It is faster (my kraut ferments on the counter in 2-3 days), and more consistent (it has an airlock, so oxygen stays out and prevents spoilage). Kerry Ann at the cookingtf blog is convinced that if you have gut issues, it is recommended that you not eat ferments with mold. Something like a Pickl-it or Harsh crock are effective at preventing mold.

I have also heard that the amount of salt used in fermenting does matter, as too little will not be effective at inhibiting bad bacteria, and too much will inhibit the good guys. I have not experimented with it much myself to test that, as I usually just use a 2% brine in most of the ferments I do, but thought I’d share what I read from experienced fermenters.

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beryl July 12, 2013 at 3:50 am

Dear Jordan
I have just discovered i have leaky gut. Never had saurkraut but your recipe looks real easy so will try it.
Will saurkraut probiotics be sufficient or will I need more please? If so what other foods can I eat?

Many thanks for making it easy and doable.

Beryl

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Michael July 29, 2013 at 3:23 am

Wow, just started on the Sauerkraut and… next BM was liquid. I was doing so well up until this point. I was on only half a TBSP per day for two days too. I could feel the benefits, but it just didn’t agree with my gut – and that was just the brine. Is there any hope of me using this probiotic? Is this even a normal reaction for such a tiny amount of brine?

Worried I’ll never be able to use probiotics!

Thanks, Mike.

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Steven Wright July 29, 2013 at 10:25 am

For the minority they are this sensitive, Jordan had to start with like one or 2 strands a day. Try a very small amt for the next 3 days. If BM’s don’t firm up then move on to pills for now.

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Michael July 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Thanks – will give it a go… I’m guessing while there might be extra fibre to deal with, the overall amount of bacteria in a strand would be less than say half a teaspoon of brine.

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David A September 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hi,
After the 5-7 days of fermentation you put it into a glass container…do you keep the brine with it or just keep the cabbage? And how many time can I conserve it in the fridge?
Thanks a lot!

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Jeanie S September 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I like to chop up my sauerkraut into a green salad ..it adds a nice zing….also I mix in at the end of cooking to my scrambled eggs/vegis in the morning. Yummy

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Rob Ashford October 9, 2013 at 11:56 am

What Phase do you recommend adding Sauerkraut? Cabbage is Phase 3 In ‘Surviving to Thriving’ book; is this when you’d add Sauerkraut or could it be earlier if you think you can’t tolerate SCD yogurt?

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Steven Wright October 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I think it could be very early maybe in the first month. So give it shot!

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VibeRadiant December 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Bought a red cabbage today. I shredded it in the food processor, layered it with real salt and mashed it down. I`m using my slow cooker as that was the only big container I had that wasn`t plastic.
I`m looking forward to tasting in about a week.

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DINA PAYEUR February 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

WHATDO YOU THINK ABOUT BRAGGS ORGANIC APPLE CIDAR VINEGAR , DOES ITHAVE PROBIOTICS AND COULD THAT BE HELPFUL ?

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