Sauerkraut is the German word for fermented, salted, shredded cabbage. In many German households a child had to eat sauerkraut on a weekly basis as it “was good for him.” Only recently we have discovered that traditionally made sauerkraut is a probiotic. Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be healthy for the host organism. Lactic acid bacteria are present in our intestines and are responsible for digesting food. They break down food by fermentation. Homemade sauerkraut is loaded with lactic acid bacteria, so is yogurt, which is another probiotic. Whenever we ingest sauerkraut we supply an additional army of bacteria which lends a helping hand to bacteria which are already present in our stomach. Now our body gets a little break and is working less hard.
It shall be noted that only fermented and uncooked sauerkraut exhibits those beneficial characteristics. Once when sauerkraut is submitted to high temperatures, for example during canning, the heat kills beneficial lactic acid bacteria and the power of sauerkraut is gone. What is left is just a can of fermented cabbage.
Cabbage in all of its forms was and still is very popular in Europe and we find cabbage soup, stuffed cabbage with meat and rice or sauerkraut with meat and potatoes. It tastes great when served with a grilled sausage and you can find street carts that serve hotdogs with sauerkraut in the USA as well. It was the most important vegetable in the Roman Empire and was thought to have medicinal values. Originally it was made by soaking cabbage leaves in vinegar or sour wine. In medieval times in Germany and Poland cabbage was fermented with salt, seasonings and berries. Sauerkraut made with quartered apples or sliced apples turns out particularly nice. Today most sauerkraut is made with salt only and the manufacturing process is very simple.
|Shredded cabbage is either packed in layers and sprinkled with salt or it is mixed with salt in a mixing bowl. The caggabe is packed with a pusher tool, hands or potato masher.||Shredded cabbage is covered with whole cabbage leaves or cloth and is weighted. The cabbage releases juice and it should be soon submerged in its own brine. The cabbage starts to ferment.|
Process of making sauerkraut and pickled cucumbers is very similar. Both products are made with the same equipment. To fully grasp the subject it is advisable to read both sections.