Have you ever tried sauerkraut? If you have only ever tried store-bought (canned) sauerkraut, then you definitely owe it to yourself to try some homemade sauerkraut. Most all of the ‘older’ people in Germany, Holland and many other countries including Switzerland will be very familiar with sauerkraut, it is a food that Europeans have consumed for many generations.
Have you ever tried sauerkraut? If you have only ever tried store-bought (canned) sauerkraut, then you definitely owe it to yourself to try some homemade sauerkraut. Most all of the ‘older’ people in Germany, Holland and many other countries including Switzerland will be very familiar with sauerkraut, it is a food that Europeans have consumed for many generations. After World War 2 when many young migrants sought a better future in far away countries like America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they brought their recipes and rather ‘strange’ foods with them, including sauerkraut.
Having lived in Holland when I was young, I was literally brought up on sauerkraut. My grandmother used to make sauerkraut and store it is small oak barrels (I think they were fortified wine barrels) under the staircase, with the smoked ham hanging above it. She kept the pumpkins, potatoes and even home made liqueur in that cupboard too which tasted great.
I can remember grandmother cutting the cabbage finely and then tossing it in the barrel along with salt, cumin seeds and a few juniper berries. She would literally pound the cabbage down with her fist and you could hear the squelching sound as the cabbage was crushed and the juices enveloped it. Then she placed a round piece of wood on top of the crushed cabbage and weight the lot down with a stone that was wrapped in a cloth. She would go to the cupboard regularly and wash the piece of wood as well as the cloth and stone, inspect the sauerkraut and then place everything back and wait a few more days, tasting it until it was ready. Then she would bottle the sauerkraut in sterilised preserving jars and give plenty away to family and friends. It’s as simple as that, there is no rocket science when it comes to making sauerkraut, it is easy but takes a bit of time, and once you have made it a few times you soon become an expert.
Commercially produced sauerkraut just doesn’t taste as crunchy or as tangy as the homemade variety. When immigrants from Europe came to America they brought their sauerkraut making techniques with them, along with many rather unusual ingredients including juniper berries, garlic, various fresh and dried herbs, apples, turnips and even wine. Traditionally made sauerkraut is very much the same as Korean dish called Kimchi, a similar dish that is made using fermented cabbage but also additional vegetables like cucumber and radishes, garlic, ginger and various other spices like chilli. One of the biggest differences between sauerkraut and Kimchi is that sauerkraut is generally made with the commonly available round variety of cabbage, whereas Kimchi is made with Chinese cabbage, otherwise known as Wong bok.
Sauerkraut tastes great served hot or cold, and it tastes good either way in my opinion. It can be eaten as a side dish and is very tasty with a pork chop, hot dog or a meaty sausage and some mashed potato and gravy. But if you want to make sauerkraut a much healthier dish, then be sure to make it like Kimchi, with additional herbs, vegetables and even spices.
All too many people still see sauerkraut as an unhealthy and in some cases even a ‘junk food’, mainly because it is often served with a hot dog. But this unsavoury reputation has been changing in America and also in many other countries these past past several years. So what changed many people’s perception about sauerkraut, why has it become known as a very healthy food recently? Simple, it’s all about bacteria, beneficial bacteria to be more precise. Sauerkraut contains plenty of the lactobacillus bacteria, beneficial bacteria that improve the health and vitality of the small intestine in particular. Probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, Kimchi and kefir are often recommended for people taking antibiotics, which indiscriminately destroy both the good as well as bad bacteria in the body, and the live-culture foods in particular can help restore healthy levels of the beneficial bacteria.
Did you know that sauerkraut isn’t just loaded with beneficial bacteria, it is also a really good source of fibre, and it contains a wealth of vitamins like C as well as K, minerals like iron, as well as potassium as well as trace elements like zinc. Sauerkraut was once made in quantity and stored in large wooden barrels on those tall old sailing ships in the 18th century. On long ocean voyages, sailors consumed sauerkraut to help prevent a disease known as scurvy, caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.
The other interesting feature worth knowing about sauerkraut is that because it is made using cabbage, it may help prevent breast and ovarian cancer by assisting in the proper metabolism of estradiol (E2), the strongest oestrogen. I’ve found that the store-bought variety of sauerkraut can contain too much salt, another reason to make your own.
There are as many ways to make sauerkraut as there are sauerkraut recipes, but here’s how I do it. Try to get a ceramic crock or you can even use a small wooden barrel like I do. I use a round wooden lid (covered with a clean damp cloth) which sits inside the pot and rests on top of the cabbage. This lid is weighed down by a heavy (clean) stone wrapped in a cotton dish towel. Sauerkraut can have many uses when it comes to food; you can pile it on a sandwich, burger, hotdog or kebab, to covering bratwurst, you will have no trouble finding uses for your delicious homemade sauerkraut.
Here are the simple steps to take: