Cleveland Kraut: Crafted Fermentation

          Fall always reminds me of sauerkraut because that’s when my Romanian grandmother would bring home the large heads of cabbage. Some she would parboil, then peel the leaves off the core and fill with meat for stuffed cabbage. Others she would grate into large piles which she would then place in containers to ferment into sauerkraut. When it had fermented, weeks and weeks later, she would serve it with stuffed cabbage or a Romanian sausage similar in taste to Polish sausage. Of course, adding sauerkraut as a topping for a brat in a bun is common at football games, but my grandmother never served that.

          For all of my enthusiasm for sauerkraut, I never realized it was considered a super healthy food until recently. Reading a WebMD article, I learned sauerkraut contains much more lactobacillus than yogurt, making it a superior source of this important probiotic. A few bites of sauerkraut everyday are said to help those with ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. The healthy aspects of sauerkraut are due to the fermentation process which is thought to create certain plant compounds that might destroy precancerous cells. It’s also low on calories though when you use it in a Rueben or grilled cheese sandwich, it isn’t exactly a low calorie meal.

          There are caveats to buying sauerkraut and one is to make sure that it isn’t pasteurized because that destroys the benefits of fermentation.

.          Discovering all this positive sauerkraut information was surprising. And so was finding out that it no longer is just an old fashioned Eastern European or German dish.  Cleveland Kraut from Cleveland Kitchen, a relatively new company named by USA Today as one of their top ten best new health foods, sells a variety of sauerkraut in flavors such as Whiskey Dill, Roasted Garlic, Classic Caraway, Curry and Beet Red. Their Gnar Gnar--a spicy mixture of green cabbage, green bell peppers, jalapenos, kosher salt, leeks, Sriracha, garlic and red chili, is similar to kimchi, the fermented Korean condiments which can range in heat from mild to fiery hot. If you want to mix it up, there’s their Variety Pack.

Cleveland Kraut, which comes in pouches, is best eaten raw. It’s crunchy and tasty. Once cooked, the heat destroys the probiotic value though it still retains its other healthy benefits. That’s one reason why canned sauerkraut doesn’t have as many health sauerkraut benefits.

          The following recipes are from

Classic Reuben

2 slices rye or sourdough bread

4-6 ounces corned beef

2 slices of Swiss cheese

1/4 cup Whiskey Dill kraut

Thousand Island Dressing (to use either in the sandwich or as a dip)

Assemble the first three ingredients (bread, beef, cheese) and toast open faced in a 350 degree oven to melt the cheese. Top with kraut and other slice of bread (and Thousand Island if you are using it in your sandwich).

Chili con Carne with Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion diced

2 cups Roasted Garlic Kraut

1 pound 90% lean ground beef

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cup beef broth

1 15 ounces can petite diced tomatoes

1 16 ounces can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 8 ounces can tomato sauce

Optional toppings:

Diced parsley or cilantro

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Add the olive oil into a large pot and place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and the Roasted Garlic Kraut. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground beef to the pot. Cook for another 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chili powder, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed.

Add the broth, diced tomatoes, drained kidney beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.

Bring the mixture to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low / medium-low and gently simmer the chili uncovered for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm and garnish with desired toppings.