Sauerkraut is the German word for "sour cabbage" and is most notably known for it's use in German-inspired dishes. However, it actually originated in China and has now become one of the most well known fermented products on the market.
Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that has been fermented to impart a tangy-tart flavor while preserving the cabbage for longer storage time. Sauerkraut specifically goes through lacto-fermentation. When the cabbage bathes in a salt-water brine, lactobacillus, a strain of bacteria found on plants, will convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, which is a preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
Other than having a large amount of sodium, sauerkraut, along with other fermented vegetables, are quite nutritious, as they are packed with probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that are naturally present in fermented foods and can make foods more digestible, boost immunity and improve gastrointestinal health. However, most of the sauerkraut available at the store has been heat-treated, which kills the gut healthy probiotics. If you're not making your own, look for sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of health food stores for your best gamble at finding kraut with probiotics.
In the same way, cooking sauerkraut will likely kill the probiotics you've worked so hard to get. Use raw sauerkraut as a condiment on top of burgers, or sausage, or in a Reuben sandwich. Use it as a last minute addition to scrambled eggs and potatoes or on top of pizza. Of course, a healthier way to get kraut in your diet is to make a vegetable salad with it, such as in the recipe below.
German Sauerkraut Salad (Printable PDF)
2 cups sauerkraut
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup shredded carrots
⅓ cup chopped sweet onion
1 apple, cored and diced
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Drain sauerkraut in a sieve over a bowl. Measure about ½ cup of liquid and reserve. Discard the rest of the liquid. In a large bowl, stir together drained sauerkraut, celery, red pepper, carrots, onion and apple. In a separate bowl, whisk reserved sauerkraut liquid, olive oil, sugar and pepper. Pour over sauerkraut mixture and stir. Let salad sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 190 calories, 12 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram protein