Probiotics: Sour cabbage is sweet!

Bavarian chicken

Will and Isla carefully chop through mountains of cabbage.

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

“Sing along,” says Vinny, waving his arms furiously in time to the music.

“In the old days,” he went on, “people made their own sauerkraut so they would have veggies to eat during the long winters.Your great grandpappy was a sauerkraut-maker extraordinaire. People came from all over to buy his home-made kraut. Now, we just go to the deli. It comes in jars or cans, too. I like the Polish kind best myself. But it’s good to keep the old ways alive. Keep chopping!”

“Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” sings Will at the top of his lungs. Isla just hums, too busy to get involved in the lyrics.

Today we know that the old ways were healthy ways. Sauerkraut is what you get after cabbage is well salted and allowed to rest for a few weeks in a crock, closed off  from air. Salt pulls water from the cabbage to make a brine.  The little bugs that thrive in this environment are good bacteria. They make the brine acidic, in a process called fermentation. These healthy bugs go by the name probiotics. They work against the bad bacteria in our stomachs to improve  digestion.

Many people think the healthy bacteria protect us in many ways… like keeping inflammation in check, reducing allergies, preventing constipation… But the science is still young. Just to be on the safe side, many doctors and nutritionists recommend two servings of probiotic foods a day.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods… like pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and, of course, sauerkraut. You can also get probiotics in supplements. But unless you’re taking antibiotics, which wipe out the good bugs along with the bad ones, it’s best to rely on real food for your probiotics.

Meal suggestions

Sauerkraut processed in cans or jars doesn’t have any live probiotics, because heat kills all those cute little helpful bacteria. Instead, buy it raw at farmer’s markets or delis for the real stuff. Or make it yourself! But processed or cooked sauerkraut still has all the nutrients from cabbage. Enjoy it both ways. It’s packed with vitamin C!

Pair well-rinsed raw sauerkraut with soft poached eggs in the morning. The meal has a nice tang and makes a satisfying start to the day.

At lunch, sauerkraut makes a tasty addition to salad. But what I like best is putting a big scoop into the bottom of my bowl before pouring hot soup over it. Yummy!

For dinner, Vinny has modified Dr. Mike Morano’s recipe for Bavarian chicken, starring a heap of sauerkraut.

Bavarian chicken

Vinny’s Bavarian chicken
serves three

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 large apple, cored and chopped
  • 8 ounces sauerkraut, well rinsed to remove salt (if you have raw sauerkraut, reserve some to add to the plate at serving time)
  • 12 medium Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/2  teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 chicken breasts or legs,  or a small roasting chicken

How to put it together

I like sautéing the onions, ginger, and garlic in my large soup pot to get started, using a bit of oil. But if you don’t want any oil,  just skip this step.

Put all the veggies and spices into the pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.


Before you start cooking the veggies, put a  small chicken in the oven to roast or prepare three boneless chicken breasts for  the barbecue. If the meat is ready first, keep it warm, then serve the chicken on top of the veggies.

Alternatively, poach the chicken breasts in the soup pot, submerged in the liquid. Add the chicken after the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the meat to cook through, about 20-30 minutes. This method is easier, but I like roasted or grilled chicken better :).


  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill weed, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons paprika

Paprika boosts metabolism and fresh dill contains vitamins.

This dish is one of my favorites. The stove-top veggies are good with lots of  lean meats… tasty even for folks who don’t like cabbage (or Brussels sprouts).


The veggies (per serving): Calories (kcal)100.1, Fat (g) 3.6, Sodium (mg) 377.0, Potassium (mg) 433.1, Fibre (g) 5.1, Vitamin A (RAE) 27.4, Vitamin C (mg) 48.7, Calcium (mg) 60.9, Folate (DFE) 51.4.  The chicken: a 6-oz breast has 252 calories and 46 grams of protein.


A German meal is all I need
To make my day complete.
It’s hard to keep account of all
The cabbage that I eat.

Related link

17-day diet – An intro to this balanced way of eating, with a list of all the related links on Vinny’s blog.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 16:52:00

    Never really cared for sauerkraut much, until I tried the homemade kind. After one taste I became obsessed. They should not be allowed to called the canned stuff “sauerkraut”!


  2. Lil' Bebe Academy
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 18:20:56

    oh this looks so yummy!! Jamaican’s cook alot of cabbage also:)


  3. minus11kg
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 16:54:16

    I always loved it … but we grew up with it :). Sauerkraut with mashed potatoes and sausages … mmmm :).
    Or, even better …wrap a mixture of minced meet, rice, onion, garlic and parsley in a sauerkraut leaf and cook … Gosh, how I love such dishes… :).


    • Vinny Grette
      Apr 17, 2013 @ 17:00:46

      Hi Minus 1 – Yes, it’s amazingly good. Can you buy sauerkraut leaves? Mine has come shredded…


      • minus11kg
        Apr 17, 2013 @ 17:19:58

        I find it only in Eastern Europe, but it is possible to do it yourself. Keep in mind that it’s a bit ‘stinkish’ process :). You need, cabbage, salt, water, a cask/barrel, several days and a good will to control the process, to remove foam that develops … I have personally never got into it, just watched people who did, but now feeling inspired that I might give it a go :).


  4. thingsmybellylikes
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 16:31:42

    thank you for the link (and also for reminding me to eat more fermented foods! I’m good with kefir but there’s a jar of sauerkraut in the fridge that’s been looking at me plaintively for weeks!)


    • Vinny Grette
      Apr 17, 2013 @ 16:52:02

      My pleasure! This is such a delicious-looking recipe, and it helped me fill in a blank for people wanting to try my stove-top veggies. Hey, I’ll make your chicken and you can make my sauerkraut veggie dish and we’ll have a fab meal :) :)
      PS – I like kefir too but I don’t see it a lot in the store…


  5. mycookinglifebypatty
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 11:36:03

    Love, love, love sauerkraut Vinnie!


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