What is Sauerkraut?
Just so easy to make at home – Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish which is often closely associated with Germany, Alsace, and the Netherlands, although China and Korea also make their own versions. When made well, sauerkraut has a characteristically tangy, zesty flavor which some consumers find quite enjoyable. It is often used as a garnish, especially with meats like sausage, and it can also be added to salads, sandwiches, and other foods. Most markets carry sauerkraut, and it can also be made at home relatively easily.
There are only two ingredients in traditional sauerkraut: shredded cabbage and salt. The cabbage is tossed with copious amounts of salt and then tightly packed into a crock or airtight jar. The salty conditions promote beneficial acid forming bacteria, which convert the natural sugars in the cabbage into lactic and acetic acid, which will preserve the cabbage and give it a tang. If using a traditional crock, the sauerkraut must periodically be skimmed to remove natural scum; once cured, the dish can be canned and kept for up to several years.
The history of Sauerkraut
Versions of sauerkraut appeared in China as far back as 2,000 years ago, and the Roman writers, mentioned preserving cabbages and turnips with salt. It is believed to have been introduced to Europe in its present form 1,000 years later by Genghis Khan after plundering China. The Tartars took it in their saddlebags to Europe. There it took root mostly in Eastern European and Germanic cuisines, but also in countries such as France.
Contrary to popular belief, sauerkraut is not a national German dish, and is actually eaten mostly in Russia, United States, and France. Some authorities say that it originated in Alsace, a traditionally German speaking region that today belongs to France.
The gastronomic symbol of the région is Choucroute, a local variety of sauerkraut. The word sauerkraut in Alsatian has the form sûrkrût, same as in other southwestern German dialects, and means “sour cabbage” as its Standard German equivalent. This word was included into the French language as choucroute.