One day this week I opened my office door and walked straight into a very potent, very office inappropriate cloud of smell. First thought : Whoa, there! Second thought: Cabbage. Third thought: Some slow cooked shredded cabbage over polenta would be so nice and warm right now. Worry not, I plan to enjoy this particular warming ritual at home, and only offend those noses near and dear. The question that remains: was that day’s olfactory infraction mere accident or intentional passive aggressiveness? For me it proved inspirational I guess.
Sauerkraut, that somewhat smelly pickled cabbage, may not be on everyone’s list of commonly consumed foods. According to various recent sources, maybe it should be (you can read all about it here and here). Apparently, the good bacteria present in fermented foods like pickles, miso, and yes, sauerkraut, can help you maintain optimum stomach environment and boost your immune system. As good as that may be, what got my attention were the more visible benefits being claimed - weight loss and clear skin.
Lucky for me, I was already on board the pickle/ kraut mobile due to plenty of winters spent east of the Iron Curtain. Back there, those were winter eating staples, along with sausages of every kind, and, I kid you not, boiled plum brandy (that last one for the adults, of course).
Some of the eating habits I was raised with were abandoned along the way, many for better, some for worse. I don’t partake of sausage anymore, even though sometimes, like with this stew, it is really, really hard.
I also don’t have to make my own pickles or sauerkraut, like my parents did, which, especially for the kraut, is a great convenience. If you are dedicated enough to make your own, I’m impressed. If not, my best suggestion is to buy a whole head of sauerkraut from a German or Eastern European food store, or from a farmers’ market. The pre-shredded pouches found at most supermarkets tend to be more soggy and have less flavor. They also lack the punchy oomph of opening that plastic bag containing an entire head of pickled cabbage. Be warned - if prepared or shared with company, this dish will lead to endless jokes, you know exactly of what kind.