Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The Benefits of Sauerkraut
My dear Grandma Delphia Ridnour used to say that if you drank sauerkraut juice every day, you would always be healthy. (Picture of us taken December 1984 just before I took her home after our Christmas dinner at Mom's. She was 88, I was 41.) Sauerkraut is German for 'sour cabbage' and while Grandma's married name, Ridnour, was German, her maiden name, Means, was not. However, her maternal grandmother's maiden name was Deardorff, which must be German, and family food traits pass through the female lineage - therefore, apparently she knew of which she spoke - sauerkraut is good for you. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is easy to make requiring only chopped cabbage, salt and water. The health benefits are Vitamins C, A, K and most of the B's as well as significant minerals. The solid and juices of sauerkraut strengthen and boost the immune system. The process that makes sauerkraut is called lacto-fermentation. Cabbage contains the bacterium Lactobacilli plantarum. This bacteria helps keep the digestive tract healthy. It is also said to be helpful as a cure for a hangover. Barrels of sauerkraut were carried on early sea voyages as a preventative to scurvy. Eventually the English sailors switched to using limes while the Germans continued using sauerkraut - thus the nicknames of "Limey" and "Kraut". One of the benefits of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day was leftover corned beef which was perfect for one of my favourite sandwiches - a Reuben - which I enjoyed last month. And that is why there is a partial jar of sauerkraut in my refrigerator. So for lunch today, I had a hot dog smothered in sauerkraut. (Kansas City style except I forgot the swiss cheese.) Yummy! Bud's surname may be German, but he doesn't like sauerkraut at all. (My theory of food traits and female lineage is in play here.) I have long been a believer that if we listen to our bodies, they will tell us what to eat. Sauerkraut is one of those foods I absolutely crave from time to time. I'm not eating it often - certainly not drinking its juice every day - but I know it is good for me. I haven't made sauerkraut for many years. And though I had one of these 'kraut kutters', it was more for 'country' decoration than actual use. The best kraut I ever made was when the kids and I lived on the acreage northwest of Urbandale. It must have been the same summer as when I planted 75 tomato plants, because I had a lot of cabbage, too. When it came time to turn it into sauerkraut, I set the jars to ferment on the shelves of an old refrigerator. The appliance was out in the garage where I put it after taking the door off for safety. I don't know why that batch of kraut was so good. Maybe it was the temperatures of the warm autumn days and cool nights or maybe the lactic acid bacteria floating in the air at the time was exceptionally good. (Like 'capturing' whatever is in the air for sourdough starter.) Or, maybe I was just hungry for sauerkraut.