I spend a fair amount of my time in suburban Chicago, just a 60-minute ride away from my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I therefore often shop there, too.
I recently stumbled into some interesting foods in a Polish delicatessen, this one in Round Lake in the northwest suburbs, shopping with a Polish friend. To my surprise, they stocked a number of naturally fermented foods. (My Polish friend translated the labels for me.) But what really took me by surprise was how inexpensive they were.
With the recent and growing recognition at just how important lactate-fermented foods are for health due to their rich content of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, Leuconostoc and other bacterial species with wonderful probiotic effects, fermented foods are growing in popularity. But they are also quite expensive, often selling at multiples of the costs of their non-fermented counterparts. Non-fermented cucumbers, i.e., pickles, typically retail at $2-4 per jar, while fermented choices sell at twice this price. You can, of course, ferment foods yourself easily and inexpensively, but we sometimes need products for convenience. I’ve had multiple jars lining my kitchen counters and refrigerator at any one time, but it’s sometimes nice to just buy a jar of, say, fermented beets or onions.
Among the fermented products this Polish deli carried:
- Pickles—Unlike the fermented pickles I buy at specialty grocery stores or Whole Foods Market for $7.99 to $8.99, sometimes more, I paid $2.49.
- Sauerkraut—Likewise, this fermented sauerkraut (left) was a bargain at $2.89, half or less of what is typically charged in specialty stores.
Both were delicious, as well. I also bought some of their non-fermented deli items such as a vegetable salad, pickled beets with horseradish, and liver paté—all were likewise delicious and astoundingly low-cost. A pound of their delicious vegetable salad, for example, was $2.29, a 3/4 pound package of paté was $2.93, something you’d easily pay $8-10 for in conventional groceries.
Now, I’ve got it easy because Chicago has around two million Polish people living there, meaning there are many Polish delis scattered around the city and suburbs with wide selections of products. But if you have occasion to visit a Polish deli or grocery in your city, give it a try. I’ve found this to be true for a number of other ethnic groceries and delis: interesting foods being sold at a fraction of the price of mainstream retailers. It’s therefore fun and interesting to explore such stores. Not only may you discover some interesting and delicious foods, but you may also save a substantial amount of money by doing so.