Sauerkraut literally translates as “sour cabbage,” due to the vinegary taste of the cabbage after undergoing a process of fermentation. Despite its German name, it is believed the origins of sauerkraut are in China, where cabbage was pickled with rice wine vinegar. Sauerkraut is considered a healthy food packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients; when paired with meat and other vegetables it forms the basis of a healthy, well-balanced meal.
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Traditional sauerkraut is essentially green cabbage that has been fermented with lactic acid, which pickles the vegetable, giving it its distinctive flavor. The lactic acid bacteria already exists in the leaves, therefore no extra additives are needed. The leaves are shredded and salt is added to extract some of the moisture, then it is kept in an airtight container for 4 to 6 weeks to ferment. It can be eaten raw or cooked with onions, cream, meat, and a variety of other ingredients.
The same process can be applied to turnips, as the vinegary taste works well with this vegetable. The turnips are cut into spirals, and placed in airtight jars with vinegar, sugar and pickling salt. The turnips ferment for six weeks, after which time the turnip kraut can be cooked and eaten in much the same way as sauerkraut.
In the Pfalz region of Germany, it is common to add apples, onions and a little sugar to sauerkraut while cooking, to impart a sweet flavor to the cabbage’s tartness. This type of sauerkraut is often paired with bratwurst, salty bacon or pork. Much like chutney, it also goes well with a mature cheddar cheese.
Sauerkraut is often used as a topping for hotdogs, and it can be given spice by adding Dijon mustard and/or Tabasco sauce. Let the sauerkraut simmer for a couple of minutes with the condiments, so it absorbs the flavor. It works well with hot dogs, and can be paired with pork, chicken and turkey too. On the other hand, when combined with spices such as nutmeg and cloves, sauerkraut can be the base of a moist, spicy sponge cake.