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Sauerkraut at a Glance
China, East Asia
Type of Charcuterie
Green cabbage, sea salt
Choucroute, kiszona kapusta, sour cabbage, spicy sauerkraut, apple sauerkraut, turnip kraut, wine sauerkraut, weinsauerkraut, zuurkool
Sauerkraut is considered to be a charcuterie garni, or sausage garnish. It is perhaps one of the most popular European foods around the globe today. This sausage garnish is most commonly associated with Germany, where it became widely popular.
However, its origin can be traced back to China around 221 BC. Back then, the Chinese were in need of nutritious food that would sustain the builders of the Great Wall of China. They discovered that preserving green cabbage in rice wine was a good option.
During the 13th Century the Mongols invaded China and brought with them the Chinese sour vegetable known as "suan cai". This became popular throughout both Eastern and Western Europe, most especially in Germany where it was given the name sauerkraut.
It was in Germany that the rice wine was substituted with salt, although some areas in Europe still used white wine. Aside from being popular with locals it was also a staple for seafaring men due to the long shelf life and high contents of vitamin C and B which kept them scurvy free.
Sauerkraut has a tart vinegary taste due to the fermentation process it undergoes. Preparation of this garnish is very straightforward. The sliced green cabbage is simply mixed with sea salt and mashed until there is enough juice to cover the cabbage.
This is then covered, making sure it is air tight, and left to ferment for 4 to 6 weeks or until the desired sourness is reached. The lactic acid from the bacteria is what gives the cabbage its distinct smell and taste. Sauerkraut can keep for several months without refrigeration.
This limp and pale yellow shredded cabbage can be eaten both raw and cooked. Those who prefer less lactic acid may opt to cook this by simply simmering it in some white wine until dry. An addition of bacon, onions, cream, caraway or even juniper berries may be included, depending on taste.
When eaten raw, sauerkraut should be rinsed to reduce some of the sourness and saltiness. Raw sauerkraut is a popular addition to sandwiches and a topping for sausages. It also goes well with apples, beer, brown sugar, dill, mushrooms, pineapples, tomatoes, pork, white wine, potatoes and many other things.
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