|Sauerkraut (including liquid)</tr>
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy 20 kcal 80 kJ|
|Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database</td></tr></table>
Sauerkraut is finely sliced cabbage fermented by various lactic acid bacteria including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has good keeping qualities and a distinctive sour flavour, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when bacteria ferment the sugars in the fresh cabbage.
The word comes directly from the German , which literally translates to sour cabbage. Sauerkraut is a typical dish of traditional Dutch (Zuurkool), and Central Europe cuisine. It is also a prominent feature of cuisines from most of the cold regions of Europe, and it is eaten in many parts of Northeast China, the USA and Canada as well.
Fermentation of cabbages in salt and acid liquids dates back to prehistoric times and was probably first described by Pliny the Elder during the first century AD. Modern preparation techniques are thought to have been developed between 1550 and 1750 AD.
In his 1772 "Treatise on Scurvy", James Lind discussed the ability of Dutch seamen to withstand long sea voyages without succumbing to scurvy, compared to seamen from other countries, and pointed to their consumption of fermented cabbage as a defining difference. In 1776, Captain James Cook was awarded the Copley Medal for demonstrating that sauerkraut could be used to allay scurvy in British crews on long sea voyages.
The correct choice of container is critical to successful preparation of sauerkraut.
Traditionally the container is a stoneware crock and the seal is created with a piece of wet linen cloth, a board, and a heavy stone. This arrangement is not fully airtight and will lead to spoiled sauerkraut unless the surface of the brine is skimmed daily to remove molds and other aerobic contaminants that grow on the surface where there is contact with air.
An alternative that avoids this problem is a type of ceramic jar that has a trough around its lid. When this trough is filled with water the result is an airtight seal. One such product is the Harsch crock, which is sold by natural-health retailers especially for home sauerkraut production. Glass canning jars with clamped threadless lids can also be used.
Commercial-scale sauerkraut production typically employs large airtight plastic barrels fitted with one-way valves for gas escape.
Whatever kind of vessel is used, it must allow the escape of fermentation gases.
Sauerkraut is made by a process of pickling called lacto-fermentation that is analogous to how traditional (not heat-treated) pickled cucumbers are made. Fully cured sauerkraut keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at or below 15°C. Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required, though these treatments can prolong storage life. In the United States during the Great Depression years (1930s), some nearly-starving farm families lived through winters by eating sauerkraut exclusively because it was easy to grow and preserve and, being both pickled and canned, was not susceptible to invasion by mice or to rot or mildew.
No special culture of lactic acid bacteria is needed because these bacteria are already present on raw cabbage. Yeasts are also present, and can cause soft sauerkraut of poor flavor when the fermentation temperature is too high. The fermentation process has three phases. In the first phase, anaerobic bacteria such as Klebsiella and Enterobacter lead the fermentation, and begin producing an acid environment that favours later bacteria. The second phase starts as the acid levels become too high for many bacteria, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides and other Leuconostoc spp. take dominance. In the third phase, various Lactobacillus species including L. brevis and L. plantarum ferment any remaining sugars, further lowering the pH.
Salt (sodium chloride) is a major component in both the fermentation process and the flavour profile of sauerkraut, and is typically added in proportions between 0.6% and 2% relative to the amount of cabbage. For preparation at home, the USDA recommends a greater amount of salt than is traditional, making the sauerkraut unpalatably salty unless rinsed before eating. Such rinsing removes much of the nutrient content and flavor. When traditional amounts of salt are used, temperature control is critical, because spoilage leading to food poisoning can occur if the fermentation temperature is too high. However, once made, sauerkraut is a very safe food, because its high acidity prevents spoilage. USDA also recommends pasteurizing sauerkraut for storage, though this is not necessary if the raw sauerkraut has been properly made and stored. To be safe, do not eat any sauerkraut that has a slimy or excessively soft texture, or a discoloration or off-flavor, any of which can indicate spoilage....
Variations include sauerkraut prepared from whole cabbages or leaves instead of shredded strips. Sometimes other vegetables are added, such as carrots. Spices may be added; caraway and juniper berries are traditional. Sometimes wine is added. Red cabbage can be used to make a red sauerkraut. When sauerkraut is made from turnips or rutabagas, the product is called Sauerrüben. In Russia, sour berries such as cranberry, or bits of finely chopped vegetables or fruit, such as carrots or apples, may be added prior to fermenting to enhance flavour. Beets may also be added to give the cabbage a red colour.
Sauerkraut is a common and traditional ingredient in Bulgarian cuisine, Austrian cuisine, German cuisine, Russian cuisine, Alsatian French cuisine, Dutch cuisine, Romanian cuisine, Polish cuisine and other cuisines of Northern and Eastern Europe, as well as in Manchuria. It is also eaten in the Friuli and Trentino Alto Adige regions of Italy, where it is called capuzi garbi and crauti, respectively.
Sauerkraut can be eaten raw and unadorned; in this form it is often eaten as a relish with meat dishes, for example, as condiment on bratwurst or North American hot dogs. Raw sauerkraut dressed with oil and onions is served as a salad. However, sauerkraut is commonly served hot.
A popular German dish involves serving cooked sauerkraut with Schupfnudeln (potato noodles, the German equivalent of gnocchi).
In Polish cooking, sauerkraut is known as kiszona kapusta. Preparations including sauerkraut include soups and stews, such as bigos and kapusniak (sauerkraut soup) or shchi ; filled dumplings (pierogi); and seasoned kapusta served as a hot vegetable side dish.
In Alsace (a region of France that was part of Germany until 1678 and again from 1870 until 1919), the traditional sauerkraut dish is choucroute garnie (garnished sauerkraut): a one-dish meal of sauerkraut, sausages, pieces of meat such as ham knuckle, and perhaps potatoes, all cooked together in goose fat. Typical accompaniment beverages are beer or white wine (Riesling).
In Bulgaria, it is used in various dishes, especially in chicken and pork stews. Sauerkraut (Bulgarian: кисело зеле, literally "sour cabbage") is sometimes served when cold in salads, usually seasoned with oil and paprika. Kraut juice is believed to help against hangovers and is often said to work even in severe situations.
Sauerkraut is similar to many ancient Northeastern Asian dishes, including Korean kimchi and other fermented vegetables. In Manchuria, people make a similar dish suan cai, which also literally translates to "sour vegetable".
It has long been associated with German cuisine although other Europeans consume a large amount of sauerkraut and it has long been a staple of the diet in, e.g., the Netherlands, Russia, and Poland (raw as kiszona kapusta or in a dish as bigos), France (the popularity of the dish in Alsace has spread sauerkraut (choucroute in French) to other regions of the country), Latvia (popularly known as skābi kāposti), Estonia (known as hapukapsas and often prepared with cumin or cranberries), as well as in Lithuania (rauginti kopūstai).
Immigrants to America from Germany (e.g. the Pennsylvania Dutch) and other European regions brought their traditional preparation methods and appreciation of this food. Pork and Sauerkraut is an extremely popular meal for New Year's Day in Pennsylvania, an example of the culture left from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Sauerkraut's popularity in Europe and America continues today, though in somewhat reduced measure due to the convenience of modern alternative preserving methods. Many people in Argentina also eat sauerkraut, and in Chile, as "chucrut", is part of the popular "completo", a hot dog that (usually, but ingredients may vary) combines it with mayonnaise and tomato.
The area of Europe where Sauerkraut is probably the most typical regional dish is around Leinfelden-Echterdingen. The town, where Stuttgart Airport is located, holds an annual "Krautfest" around the middle of October. The event has taken place since 1978 and attracts up to 40,000 visitors.
Raw sauerkraut is an extremely healthy food. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, lactobacilli (even more than yoghurt), and other nutrients. However, the low pH and over-abundance of lactobacilli can easily upset the stomach of people who are not used to eating raw sauerkraut. Sauerkraut provided a vital source for these nutrients during the winter, especially before frozen foods and importation of foods from southern countries became generally available in northern and central Europe. Captain James Cook always took a store of sauerkraut on his sea voyages, since experience had taught him that it was an effective remedy against scurvy. It is now known that the preservation of sauerkraut in an anaerobic environment (under the brine) keeps the vitamin C in it from being oxidized. There is some evidence  that indicates that kimchi and by extension sauerkraut may be used to treat avian influenza in birds. There is currently no evidence of its effects on human cases.
There are many other vegetables that are preserved by a similar process.
The American soldiers in World War 2 referred to German soldiers as "Krauts", in reference to the sauerkraut which, as German soldiers were seen at that time by the allied forces, was typically bitter and sour. The word is still used as an ethnic slur against people of German descent.
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