Will and Isla carefully chop through mountains of cabbage.
“In the old days,” Vinny says, “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, at the grocery store. I like the Polish kind best myself. It’s good to keep the old ways alive. Keep chopping!”
“Val deree, val derah, val deree, val der-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” sing Will and Vinny at the top of their lungs. Isla just hums, too busy chopping to get involved with words.
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 by keeping inflammation in check, reducing allergies, preventing constipation, and boosting our brain power. The science is still young. But to be safe many 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.
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 suggests a Polish chicken dish, starring a heap of sauerkraut.
Vinny’s Polish chicken
- 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
- Sauté the onions, ginger, and garlic in a large soup pot, using a bit of oil.
- Add the rest of the veggies, spices and other ingredients and over medium heat, 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 say they 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 Polish meal is all I need
To make my day complete.
It’s hard to keep account of all
The cabbage that I eat.