Sauerkraut is German food that has made its way to the United States. Sauerkraut is fermented, finely-cut cabbage. The fermentation caused by lactic acid bacteria makes the cabbage taste sour.
A regular diet that includes sauerkraut is good for you because sauerkraut is a good source of vitamins C and K, calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. Eating sauerkraut can help people with digestive problems.
Foods like atsara (Philippines), kimchi (Korea), tsukemono (Japan), brovada (Northern Italy), and suan cai (northeastern China) are foods similar to sauerkraut.
- Sauerkraut is considered a national dish in Germany.
- The practice of fermenting cabbage dates back to ancient times; Cato, in his De Agri Cultura, and Columella, in his De re Rustica, both mentioned preserving cabbages. This could be similar to what we know today as sauerkraut.
- The German word “sauerkraut” literally translates as “sour cabbage” in English.
- Captain James Cook – British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the British Royal Navy – always brought with him something similar to sauerkraut in his sea voyages, to have food that can last for a long time and have something to eat that prevented sailors from getting scurvy.
- The term “kraut” took a negative meaning during the war, to refer to Germans who were the enemy of American soldiers during World War I. Fearing the American people will stop buying sauerkraut because it is related to Germany and the Germans, the product was rebranded and was called Liberty Cabbage.
- Folk healing makes good use of sauerkraut too. The juice is used to help heal canker sores. A medical study also suggests that eating sauerkraut can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Sauerkraut Buying Guide
When buying sauerkraut, consider the following:
Opt for homemade sauerkraut or those made by small businesses operating in your community. They usually sell on farmers markets and online. By doing this, you are not only supporting small, local businesses, but you also get the chance to sample local cooking, which is usually influenced by old family recipes.
If you are buying commercial brands sold in groceries and supermarkets, take some time to read reviews and other information available online. This will help you narrow down your list of choices and lead you to brands that have the flavor profile that best matches your sauerkraut preferences.
Read the label and check the ingredients to make sure you know what you are getting from the jar or bottle, especially if you have allergies or food restrictions.
If you are planning on stocking up your pantry with jars of sauerkraut, check the label for the expiration date to make sure that the product will last the duration you expect them to keep in the pantry. Or at the very least, you are aware of when you should eat them before it goes bad.
Do not forget your due diligence when out for a grocery run. This means inspecting the quality of the product i.e. looking for damage on the container, broken seals, torn labels, etc that suggest that the item has been compromised and should not be sold.
Sauerkraut Production & Farming in Texas
Different sauerkraut brands are sold in Texas supermarkets and grocery stores, including sauerkrauts made in Texas. For example, Texas Best Smokehouse, located in Longview, Texas, sells German Sauerkraut, while Scotty’s Stout Sauerkraut (Houston, Texas) is an example of sauerkraut made by small local businesses selling in farmers markets and online.
If you are in Texas, you can also buy sauerkraut brands available outside of Texas or the US by ordering online. The ingredients used to make sauerkraut are easily available in Texas, making it easy for locals to make their own homemade sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is made in Texas because of the availability of cabbage all year long. Cabbage is a winter crop in South Texas. Most Texas cabbage is seeded from July through November and harvested from October through April, while in other areas of Texas, the harvest of cabbage happens from April to September.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Commercial pickling uses preservatives. Below are some of the preservatives that could have been used in making commercially-produced sauerkraut.
- Sodium benzoate is added to improve the shelf life of the sauerkraut.
- Alum is used to make the texture of the pickled vegetables crispy. This food additive is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
- Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are used to help preserve the pickled vegetables inside the glass bottle.
- Sodium chloride is used for preservation and to improve the taste of the sauerkraut.
- Citric acid is used to boost the acidity or the sour flavor of the sauerkraut.
Even before the German sauerkraut was made, food historians believe that the Chinese were already preserving cabbages the same way as sauerkraut is made.
In the Netherlands, the local counterpart of sauerkraut is known locally as zuurkool. Sauerkraut has a French counterpart, known locally as choucroute, which is used to make the Alsatian meal known as “choucroute garnie” which means “dressed sauerkraut”.
In Pennsylvania, it is a tradition to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for good luck, while in Baltimore, locals eat sauerkraut and turkey during Thanksgiving.
How do you say fermented cabbage in different languages? Here are some words that usually pertain to sauerkraut or fermented cabbage:
- Lakër turshi (Albania)
- Kələm turşusu (Azerbaijan)
- Lahana turşusu (Turkey)
- Kвашаная капуста (Belarus)
- Kysané zelí (Czech)
- Rauginti kopūstai (Lithuania)
- Kвашеная капуста (Russia)
- Kвашена капуста, кисла капуста, or kisla kapusta (Ukraine)
- Kисело зеле (Bulgaria)
- Hapukapsas (Estonia)
- Hapankaali (Finland)
- Savanyúkáposzta (Hungary)
- Skābēti kāposti (Latvia)
- Kapusta kiszona (Poland)
- Varză murată (Romania)
- Rасол / кисела зелка (Macedonia)
- Kyslá kapusta (Slovakia)
- Kislo zelje (Slovenia)
- Chuchrut (Chile)
Sauerkraut usually comes in glass jars with sealable lids. Their label indicates the name of the brand/manufacturer, ingredients, nutritional information, best before or expiration date, and storage instructions. Size varies, as well as the bottle designs, from one source/maker to another.
Sauerkraut is served as a side dish or used as an ingredient in making salads. Sauerkraut is a great side dish if you are eating meat like roast pork or sausages. The Chilean hotdog sandwich called completos uses sauerkraut as one of the ingredients. Sauerkraut is also excellent alongside steamed potatoes.
Pierogi, a kind of dumpling originating from Poland, is made with sauerkraut as a filling. Sauerkraut is also used in making soup, like the Russian soup called shchi, the polish kwasnica, and the Slovakian kapustnica. Another Polish food (bigos) also uses sauerkraut as an ingredient. Bigos is a hunter’s stew.
Sauerkraut is flavorful and appetizing, which is why those who eat sauerkraut always reach out for the jar whenever they are eating. However, it is advisable to keep consumption of sauerkraut at a minimum because this food causes flatulence. Another problem is the oftentimes high sodium content of sauerkraut, which poses health problems if you eat in excess.
Store sauerkraut in an airtight container at a temperature not higher than 15 °C (60 °F), and it will last for several months depending on how well the sauerkraut was cured during the process. There is no need to refrigerate this although keeping this in the refrigerator will help keep sauerkraut good for a longer period.
Make your own homemade sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is usually fermented cabbage and since many of us are first-time sauerkraut makers, we will start with making sauerkraut in its most basic form. It is just interesting to know that in different places around the world, you will encounter different varieties based on what other vegetables or fruits are added, like carrots, caraway seeds, apples, cranberry, juniper berries, white wine, bell peppers, beets, or watermelons.
Yield: This makes 8 servings
- 1 medium-sized cabbage
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
Step 1. Before slicing the cabbages, make sure to discard the outer leaves especially those which are wilted and limp. The inner leaves are the freshest. Make sure to remove the core as well. What remains, cut into very thin ribbons.
Step 2. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle salt all over it.
Step 3. For the cabbage to absorb the salt, make sure to massage and squeeze the cabbages.
Step 4. Transfer the cabbages inside a jar and weigh them down, usually by using a smaller jar that can fit into the mouth of the bigger jar.
Step 5. Cover the jar with a cloth secured with rubber bands.
Step 6. Every two or three hours, press down on the cabbages to release the liquid.
Step 7. Ferment the cabbage. It will take anywhere from 3 days to 10 days. The temperature should be 65°F to 75°F. Do not place it in direct sunlight.
Step 8. Before refrigerating, make sure to remove the white scum or mold you see anywhere in the jar.
A small batch of sauerkraut is ready to eat in three days. Bigger batches may require longer fermentation. Taste the sauerkraut and if you are satisfied with how it tastes, you can start eating it.