Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
Contributed by Christie Pies
8 servings, to be eaten by yourself or with family and friends.
5 links kielbasa sausage, cubed
2 (16 ounce) packages of sauerkraut, drained
8 ounces pork fatback
2 heads cabbage, cored and sliced into thin shreds
Cook pork in a large pot or pan on low heat until the drippings thin out, which takes about 45 minutes.
Stir cabbage and sauerkraut into the pork drippings and bring to a simmer.
Cook until cabbage is tender, which can take up to 3 hours. Stir occasionally.
Mix the kielbasa into the cabbage sauerkraut mixture. Cook about 45-60 minutes until the kielbasa is cooked all the way through.
Contributor: Jing Liu, MS, RDN
It is a comfort dish with a few simple ingredients that would satisfy the postpartum woman and the family she cares for, physically and emotionally!
Kielbasa sausage - is easily accessible year round, can keep for a long time; a good source for protein, B Vitamins, iron and calories from a variety of meat choices. It helps the postpartum body to recover energy and regain strength after losing blood during child birth. (1,2)
Sauerkraut – is rich in sodium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber and many other nutrients. It helps with digestive functions with probiotics and increases gut’s ability to absorb nutrients. (3)
Pork fatback - is very high in calories, can add taste to the dish to help regain energy fast. (4)
Cabbage – is a great source for fiber, antioxidants and many vitamins. It is low in calories and carbohydrate which is very helpful to one’s overall health. (5).
For concerns with sodium, you may consider to reduce the amount of sauerkraut and/or increase the amount of cabbage in this recipe.
For preferences to reduce calories in this dish, you may consider to decrease the usage of the pork fatback or replace it with olive oil.
Mrs. Christie Cheri Pies
Contributor: Brienna Pies and Christie Pies
San Diego, California
Christie Pies is a 48-year-old woman who was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and currently lives in San Diego, California. She is mother to four children, her third being Brienna Pies. Christie’s ancestry is largely Polish- her great grandmother came to New York from Poland in 1908 along with some of her brothers and father. The family sent money back to Poland to gradually bring the rest of the members back to America in the early 1900’s.
One of the easiest and most commonly eaten dishes during Christie’s postpartum recovery period is kielbasa and sauerkraut. She was introduced to this dish by her Grandmother, affectionally known as Babcie (the Polish word for grandmother) because it was a favorite of her Grandfather’s. She didn’t like it as a kid but grew to love it as an adult and especially during her post pregnancy period because of the easy preparation. According to Christie, you buy Polska Kielbasa at a store and simmer it in a pan for 10 minutes on either side. (For reference, Kielbasa is a sausage that can be found in most grocery stores.) Then you add a jar of your preferred Sauerkraut to let it soak in the meat flavoring. (Sauerkraut is a pickled cabbage with a sharp taste.) Add salt and pepper, and when the Kielbasa is done cooking, you cut it into quarter sized pieces and consume the dish. It is a traditionally standalone dish cooked for dinner when it is hot outside.
Christie Pies has four children- two older boys (Michael and Christopher), a daughter (Brienna), and a younger son (Tanner). The elder two were born in a hospital (1980’s-1990’s) while the younger two were born in a birth center close to a hospital (late 1990’s). Christie recalls the hospital setting being more clinical with heavy medicine use, in particular the use of epidurals, Pitocin, and episiotomies. When she was laboring with her elder two kids, she was given epidurals which slowed her labor, forcing the doctors to give her Pitocin to get the labor jumpstarted again, which put the babies into distress. She was told to try to have future children without epidurals. Christie’s younger children were born in a birth center without these medicines; she fondly remembers having her younger son in the jacuzzi tub of the center with her husband’s support (he got to catch the baby). Her daughter was a planned jacuzzi tub experience, but she came quickly as many of her relatives watched. Unlike her hospital experience, Christie was able to walk around and eat in the birth center; she also did not receive an episiotomy or epidural. She was able to have whatever birth coaches and family she wanted, and she feels it was a “very natural way to have children.” In comparing the hospital and birth center, she felt much calmer and positive despite feeling more of the pain because of the lack of medicines. In regard to recovery and discharge, Christie was given two days before she had to leave, but the birth center discharged her the same day for both births, which was scary due to rush.
During her younger daughter and son’s births, Christie had a birth coach that checked on her and made her feel trusting of because the coach knew what the birthing experience was like and could let Christie lean on her. While she was having contractions, the birthing coach would help her in the bathroom, rub her back during intense pain, hold her hair, make her eat and drink, and focus on her entirely. Christie noted that the birthing coach’s attention “was completely focused on me” rather than on the baby, especially after birth when the placenta still had to be pushed out and she was tired. She felt well cared for due to this attention. The midwives for her youngest son’s birth checked on her and assisted with the birth in the jacuzzi tub, which lasted about 20 minutes. One monitored her and the other took pictures, which she was grateful to have later. But Christie didn’t have birthing coach help during her first two deliveries-she had to figure out the process all on her own, which was terrifying. In the delivery room for her second son’s birth, Christie remembers the ill preparations of the hospital because she could see the baby crowning and there was no doctor to catch him, so she tried to hold him in. But she had a hard time doing so because the epidural made her legs numb, so the occurrence was definitely hard. Having done natural birth in a hospital and at home, she now reflects that the birth center was superior with the aid of midwives and doulas.
In regard to family advice, Christie was told to undress her daughter and put her in the sun because as a baby, she would get sleepy and not eat. These actions were meant to make her uncomfortable and get her to stay awake. Learning the normal breastfeeding and eating patterns for her children was different for each case; she remarked that “not all babies eat every two hours and you have to learn what is normal for your baby.” All four of her kids were different in terms of eating and sleeping patterns. The middle two children were more of a struggle because they had colic, which led to postpartum stress and sleepless nights taking car drives to soothe the babies into slumber. Other family advice for the colic issue included holding the babies and putting them and their carriers on top of a running dryer because the rocking motion calms them.
Christie breastfed with all her kids, though not all for the same period of time. Her youngest child was breastfed for five months because he started growing teeth. She breastfed her daughter four months. Christie fondly remembers the special bond and time she had while breastfeeding her kids, recalling that “they would often fall asleep afterwards and I would just look at their faces until they awoke for feeding time again.” The nurses at the hospital after her second son’s birth taught Christie breastfeeding techniques in regard to latching, switching sides, and burping. She supplemented with formula but recommends exclusive breastfeeding if possible because of the special bond formed between mother and baby and the nutrient provision. Asking for advice with her midwives, doulas, and family members who’ve breastfeed was incredibly helpful for getting tips when babies proved troublesome and she worried.
Healing during the postpartum period was rougher and longer with Christie’s first two kids in comparison to her second two. In the hospital, she had received episiotomies for both boys and took about 3 weeks to heal. Family help was incredibly useful since she was tired- she remembers her husband taking up household chores and cooking. This proved more beneficial when she had multiple children to worry about. As a mother of many, Christie discussed that “toddlers and newborns together are hard. Being able to rely on your spouse, parents, aunts, and friends is a wonderful service.” Though her family advised Christie to rest and not life heavy things during postpartum recovery, she took walks and managed her children on her feet. The movement she claims helped her recover faster and adjust back to normal.
She notes that she was able to get back to regular chores, cooking, and other activities in about a month for all her children. Regarding foods, Christie recalls being told to and consuming peanut butter, milk, carrots, protein, dairy vegetables, and some fruits. But she had to carefully consume foods that induced gas, such as broccoli, because her breastmilk could give the babies gas. She received assistance from WIC for food purchases, which she recommends all new mothers rely on, especially if they are low income, because the organization gave out vouchers as well as nutrition education.
A Polish tradition regarding the postpartum birth include wrapping a red ribbon around the baby’s crib to ward away evil spirits and curses. Another is allowing the external family to purchase and gift you with the baby’s clothes (you don’t buy any yourself). There is the idea that looking at beautiful people or scenery will create beautiful babies, looking at fires leads to birthmarks, and looking at mice result in moles on babies. A Polish concept is that mothers craving sour foods carry boys while craving sweet foods mean they carry girls. When guests come to see the baby for the first time, they are supposed to bring a gift. And christening the baby is considered an important spiritual tradition given the Catholicism that runs strong in Polish families.