Fermented foods, like kimchi or sauerkraut, are a good way to follow a Thanksgiving feast.
WHEN FACED WITH a table laden with my favorite dishes at Thanksgiving, I eat. It’s the time of year my favorites appear — stuffing, three kinds of pie and turkey, a big ladleful of gravy — and I enjoy every bite.
The next day, rather than bemoan how much I ate, I eat leftovers, and top my turkey with sauerkraut. Turkey with sauerkraut is not only delicious; it’s also my way of resetting after a rich meal.
Probiotics can help keep harmful bacteria in check, aid digestion and help your body absorb nutrients, a Harvard University study says. Studies show probiotics tend to be more helpful to people with digestive issues than healthy folk, and some debate the benefits. Regardless, whenever I have a rich meal, I am a fan of eating crunchy, sour vegetables the next day. I’ll take any help I can get for nutrition and digestion.
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I enlisted Seattle Times food editor Paige Collins and food writer Tan Vinh to do a taste test of sauerkraut and kimchi, two widely available fermented foods that also taste good with Thanksgiving leftovers.
Disclaimer: This is not a scientific test; we don’t know the probiotic benefits of these brands. We ranked them from 1 to 5, with 1 the lowest and 5 the highest, based on taste, texture and visual appeal.
Ba-Tampte New Kraut, $8.49
This is a traditional sauerkraut, in looks and taste, and we liked this brand a lot. Tan relished the crunchy texture and subtle sweetness, though he felt it might not be sour enough to stand up to a bratwurst. Paige also liked the subtlety, and we all agreed it was a tasty version. Then we took a look at the ingredients, which include vinegar and sugar rather than a traditional salt-only ferment, so the probiotic benefits are questionable. For pure taste, however, it was our sauerkraut winner.
Average rating: 4.0
Firefly Classic Kraut, $7.99
Firefly prepares its sauerkraut in the traditional way, fermenting organic green cabbage with sea salt, and touts probiotic benefits on its jars. The simple recipe and probiotic boost didn’t necessarily win over Tan and Paige’s palates. Tan felt the sourness was unpleasant, unlike our winning sauerkraut. “You can be sure the one we didn’t like as much is better for you,” Paige commented. I buy this brand, and I personally like the tangy flavor, which reminds me of homemade sauerkraut, but hey, I’m not the food expert.
Average rating: 3.6
Young’s Napa Kimchi, $3.99
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This traditional kimchi immediately was dubbed ho-hum. After some contemplative chewing, Paige said there wasn’t enough flavor to make it stand out. Tan liked the texture, saying it wasn’t mushy like some other kimchi, though it didn’t have the perfect sour-spicy balance. We all felt it was inconsistent, with some bites spicy and some bites not at all. It also has MSG and sugar in its ingredients.
Average rating: 3.0
Firefly Kimchi, $7.99
This local brand couldn’t catch a break with our panel. Paige and Tan instantly disliked the kimchi, which subs green cabbage for traditional napa cabbage, and again uses salt to ferment. They felt it was overly reminiscent of sauerkraut in look and taste. Tan was convinced it was sauerkraut “doused with hot sauce and labeled kimchi,” although he felt the snappy texture was redeeming. I concurred with the experts.
Average rating: 2.2
Woori Sliced Kimchi, $4.49
Just as we were despairing over the kimchi, Woori’s spicy variety came through. We all loved the balance of spicy and sour, along with the mix of crunchy pieces and wilted greens. Paige felt the flavors were fully melded, with a great texture. Tan liked the balance of spicy and sour, although neither of them considered it truly spicy. The ingredients include sugar, but otherwise, we were pretty much sold on our kimchi winner.
Average rating: 4.7