...as long as you choose the unpasteurised sort, sauerkraut is teeming with beneficial lactobacillus bacteria – more than is in live yoghurt – which increase the healthy flora in the intestinal tract.But where does one get unpasteurised sauerkraut? Surely the stuff in tins or jars doesn't count?
In fact, the article does point out:
Do not confuse sauerkraut with vinegary, pickled cabbage.I am not sure now whether I have had proper sauerkraut or not. The real stuff sounds as if it is easy to make at home:
Sauerkraut is made by lactic fermentation, an age-old technique now in vogue for its health benefits. The necessary bacteria and yeasts are naturally present on cabbage leaves. Apart from salt, which starts the process, no other ingredients are required. So avoid buying brands with added chemical preservatives.This all reminds me; I didn't know until the visit to the replica Endeavour in Sydney a couple of years ago that Captain Cook had sauerkraut on board to help ward off scurvy. According to this detailed BBC history article, it's not clear how successful it was.
Scurvy sure doesn't sound pleasant to see:
Their symptoms were vividly described by Richard Walter, the chaplain who wrote up the official account of the voyage. Here were descriptions of its ghastly traces: skin black as ink, ulcers, difficult respiration, rictus of the limbs, teeth falling out and, perhaps most revolting of all, a strange plethora of gum tissue sprouting out of the mouth, which immediately rotted and lent the victim's breath an abominable odour.But there's more:
There were strange sensory and psychological effects too. Scurvy seems to have disarmed the sensory inhibitors that keep taste, smell and hearing under control and stop us from feeling too much. When sufferers got hold of the fruit they had been craving they swallowed it (said Walter) 'with emotions of the most voluptuous luxury'. The sound of a gunshot was enough to kill a man in the last stages of scurvy, while the smell of blossoms from the shore could cause him to cry out in agony. This susceptibility of the senses was accompanied by a disposition to cry at the slightest disappointment, and to yearn hopelessly and passionately for home.The article points out that, although it had been worked out that citrus juice prevented it, Cook believed it was malt that was keeping his men (relatively) healthy. In fact, it doesn't mention Cook having citrus on board at all. I thought he did?
Now we know that scurvy was a cocktail of vitamin deficiencies, mainly of C and B, sometimes compounded by an overdose of A from eating seals' livers. Altogether these produced a breakdown in the cellular structure of the body, evident in the putrescence of the flesh and bones of sufferers, together with night blindness and personality disorders associated with pellagra. In the 18th century no one knew what caused scurvy, whose symptoms were so various it was sometimes mistaken for asthma, leprosy, syphilis, dysentery and madness.
Ah, here we go. Another article about Cook and scurvy, pointing out that he took "rob":
But, the author tells us, there probably was enough useful vitamin C in the Sour Krout (amusingly, that's apparently the spelling at the time) to be an "anti-scorbutic." Cook used psychology to get the crew to eat it:
Despite this, some on the voyage did have trouble with the scurvy, including Banks himself:
Well, I think we've all learnt something tonight....
Update: It's occurred to me that Australians underappreciate the importance of sauerkraut in the maritime exploration of Australia, so I have changed the title. I suggest making sure some sauerkraut is available at the Australia day bar-b-q this weekend, and if anyone asks why, feel free to quote from this post in your best Robert Hughes imitation voice.