Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The famous British naval captain James Cook lived from 1728-1779. He was in command of the HMS Endeavor sailing in 1768 to Tahiti to investigate the Venus transit and explore. On board he stocked 7,860 pounds of sauerkraut for the voyage. He devised a system to keep the crew healthy that promoted new practices on board ship for the British Navy. The crew was required to exercise on deck in the fresh air daily, and wash themselves and their property. In addition to the hygiene regulations Captain Cook fed the entire crew sauerkraut and lime juice regularly. Those serving in The Royal Navy are still known today by the nickname Limeys because of the Cook cure for scurvy. He stopped at any port where he could purchase fruits and vegetables to include in the crew’s diet. Since his voyages were much longer than any that had been attempted he brought sauerkraut to fill the long gaps without fresh produce. At first the sailors were refusing to eat the kraut, so he used an old trick. He served the sauerkraut only to officers until the sailors saw it as a desirable addition to the diet. The ship’s medical doctor used cabbage as a poultice on wounds to avoid gangrene. Cabbage truly saved the day.
Although the discovery and isolation of vitamin C as a nutrient was not made until 1932 sea captains had been experimenting with dietary changes to avoid the dreaded problem of scurvy at sea for many years. Cabbage contains vitamin C but the fermentation process releases extra C, creating a true superfood. Sauerkraut made long voyages at sea possible without risking the lives of the crew and passengers. This regimen changed the world and man’s ability to explore it. Today there is a renewed interest in raw fermented foods. The health benefits of eating probiotic foods are becoming more widely known. There are many people interested in reviving this valuable art of food preservation. In the 1700’s sauerkraut made the world smaller. Today the same fermented cabbage has the potential to make the world much healthier.
The first rule of cooking with kraut is like Fight Club, never cook the kraut. The living probiotic culture that gives your homemade sauerkraut all the extra health benefits would be killed if heated above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The zesty flavors as well as the cool temperature are used to create contrast in dishes. Most people think of the Reuben sandwich when they think of this very useful condiment. Indeed, the use of cool crunchy fermented vegetables as part of a well stacked sandwich takes the creation to a new level. I encountered red cabbage kraut in use at my favorite food truck in East Austin a couple of years ago. The Juice Well hooked me on their vegetarian Kraftwork sandwich at first bite because the condiments were spectacular and made in house (or in Airstream to be precise). I never forgot how much bang for the buck one gets out of specialty first rate condiments.
Another obvious use we all know is the hot dog on a bun served with kraut. This time honored combination works well by itself, or with a fermented beverage like beer. I will soon be entertaining real live Europeans in my home. Real live krauts will be eating krauts at my house, so I am gearing up to treat them to some special culinary delights. My friend Steffi will visit with her friend from Zurich for a way-out-west vacation. I have some local places in mind to dine with the visitors, but it will be gem show time in Tucson, not the best season to go to restaurants here. We like eating at home the best anyhow. This is a vegetarian home, with no meat, but I am not adverse to fake wurst. In fact, fake meat is one of the only processed foods I still consume…my biggest guilty pleasure.
Today’s experimental dish, which I just devoured for my breakfast, is a baked potato with Tofurkey Italian Sausage chopped into pieces on top of the spud. I topped it with spicy and cool Cowboy Kraut from Garden Goddess. I am very full and happy with the way this tasted. I added some cheese between the potato and the slaw, which is cool for all of us lacto-ovo vegetarians. Vegans might add something else. The flavors worked well, and the contrast of warm and cool made it all the more satisfying. I know not everyone wants sauerkraut for breakfast, but my craving for the stuff has reached an advanced stage. I have become officially crazy for kraut. Do you have any ideas or recipes to share with me on my new favorite food?
My latest craze is making sauerkraut. I discovered Garden Goddess Ferments products at a farmer’s market in Scottsdale a couple of weeks ago. We returned to Phoenix the following weekend to buy more sauerkraut and attend a workshop about making fermented foods. Suzette Smith of Garden Goddess Ferments organized an expo with break out learning sessions at the Office Pile. The space was perfect for the event, and many interested patrons turned out to learn more about eating healthy food. Healthy snacks, bone broth, personal chef services, and health coaching tables greeted guests, and classes were held both upstairs and in a conference room.
The fermented food class Suzette taught was so basic, simple, and informative that anyone could leave and go make kraut after attending. She told us about the benefits of the natural probiotic cultures and how she created her own delicious line of small batch artisanal krauts which she sells to the public. She also has for sale hand made crocks and cabbage shredders for the home fermenter. She forgot to bring the tool with which she had planned to mash the cabbage, so while she gave her informative lecture she pounded the cabbage with her fist until it yielded enough liquid to submerge itself. It really drove home the primitive, and as Suzette stressed in the class, forgiving nature of this process. If you have a glass or stainless steel vessel, a cabbage, a small amount of salt and a fist you can preserve food like our ancient ancestors. The mixture was rubbing up immediately, demonstrating the basic chemistry involved. This is the most natural way to preserve food and keep it alive.
It is so simple I can’t believe we are not all doing it all the time. I am hooked. I had both succeeded and failed in the past with large batch kraut in a ceramic crock. After seeing the class I understood that I had used too much salt and left it in the crock too long. Other students reported the same thing. This is what we got for following directions. This is one of those hands on experiences, like bread baking, that can be best learned by personal observation. Suzette is enthusiastic about the healthy possibilities and has developed a range of zesty flavorful krauts containing very healthy ingredients such as ginger, garlic and turmeric. The difference between her products and commercial krauts is the living probiotic culture present in the home made version. Bubbbie’s is the only live sauerkraut I know on the market, but she does not have anything like the range of flavors Garden Goddess offers. Suzette also creates seasonal varietals. Right now at home I have Kowboy Kraut, finished with cumin, Kristmas Kraut with some apple and my favorite, Power Kraut, made with red cabbage, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. She is constantly creating new and exciting combinations. If you live in the Phoenix area I urge you to run right out and buy some Garden Goddess kraut. Your digestion will thank you for it.