Sour cabbage is a typical winter vegetable. In Polish cuisine there are at least three types of dishes featuring it as a main ingredient: sour cabbage soup, sour cabbage salad, and many versions of sour cabbage cooked or, rather sautéed, with dried mushrooms, including our famous "bigos".
But I have just realized that, so far, I have not posted any sour cabbage recipes. One reason for that is that my favorite sour cabbage-based dish (sour cabbage sautéed with dried porcini mushrooms), which we serve for Christmas Eve, requires a lot of dried porcinis, which may not be affordable here in the US, unless you have picked up your porcinis yourself (like my friend from Bethesda, who finds porcinis in his backyard).
So, if someone asked me about a sour cabbage dish I would probably recommend this simple modern dish based on sour cabbage and white mushrooms, which in Poland we often pair with cabbage. It is an easy dish and requires only widely available ingredients.
There is a long-standing tradition of eating sour cabbage in France, especially in Alzace (choucroute) and Germany (sauerkraut) and also among Jewish people. However, I noticed recently an increased interest in sour cabbage beyond this traditional circle. I suppose this is as much for its rather exotic sour taste (at least for those who did not grow up eating it) as for its great health value.
The lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli) play a key role in the transformation of cabbage into sour cabbage and are also important anti-cancer agents. The importance of lactobacilli has been acknowledged by modern nutrition science, and many food items are now enriched with them. They can sometimes cause a strong digestive reaction in some people, but they are also responsible for the very low rate of digestive tract cancer, especially colon cancer, among the Polish population.
Those who are curious how cooked sour cabbage tastes, may wish to begin with this sample dish.
Sauerkraut saute with mushrooms
2 cups sour cabbage (look for it under "sauerkraut" in your local supermarket),
2 cups chopped onion,
2 cups finally sliced white cap mushrooms,
salt and freshly ground pepper,
1 tsp caraway seeds,
4-6 tbsp vegetable oil.
1. In a frying pan heat the oil and fry the onions for about 5 minutes, until transparent.
2. Add mushrooms and fry together until the mushrooms become slightly gold.
3. Add to the pan cabbage, caraway seeds, freshly ground pepper, and mix everything thoroughly.
4. Turn down the heat to "low" and sautée cabbage for 20-30 minutes, until it is soft.
This cabbage tastes best served with water boiled or roasted potatoes. It can also be used to stuff savory pastry and pierogi.