What is Sauerkraut?
Basically, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage fermented in its own juice with or without a culture starter or a salt water brine.
Many other vegetables and spices can be added for extra flavor and variety. But cabbage is usually the main ingredient because the leaves contain high amounts of naturally occurring cultures that help it to ferment.
The process is accomplished in a glass or ceramic fermentation jar or “crock” of some kind. The chopped or shredded veggies are pressed down tight, creating an oxygen free space. Typically some sort of heavy weight is placed on top, but it is not always needed.
Over the fermentation time, between 4-10 days (or much longer depending on how you like them), the veggies become soft, slightly pickled, tangy and very tasty.
In some countries, the jars are traditionally buried in the ground for many months or up to a year or more.
When stored to ferment in a cool, dark environment, cultured vegetables are known to improve in quality the longer they age.
Sauerkraut Health Benefits
The high levels of iron found in cabbage (sauerkraut) can be very beneficial to the body in a number of ways.
First of all, iron contributes to energy production.
As it increases the body’s metabolism and also manages the blood circulation, which increases oxygenation of organs and cells.
This increased blood flow is a result of more RBC, of which iron is a key component.
High iron levels help prevent anemia (iron deficiency) and the side effects associated with that condition (headaches, fatigue, and cognitive impairment).
Fibre may be commonly consumed for digestive health, but it is also very important for the health of your heart.
Fibre is able to scrape off dangerous cholesterol from the walls of arteries and blood vessels by binding with the fats and cholesterol and removing them from the body.
Therefore, less cholesterol enters the bloodstream and your overall cholesterol level is balanced.
This can prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of other cardiovascular issues.
Eye and Skin Health
Sauerkraut also contains quite a few carotenes and a significant amount of vitamin A.
This essential vitamin acts as an antioxidant.
As do the carotenes, and eliminate free radicals from the body’s systems. Which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate.
Sauerkraut has been linked to improved eye health, as vitamin A reduces the chances of macular degeneration and cataract formation.
Furthermore, in terms of the skin, vitamin A helps to maintain the integrity of your skin, slowing down the appearance of wrinkles, eliminate blemishes.
And generally keeping your skin looking young and healthy, thanks to the free-radical neutralising powers of sauerkraut!
If the vitamins and minerals present in sauerkraut weren’t enough. There are also certain organic compounds found in this cabbage variant that work as anti-inflammatory agents.
Phytonutrient antioxidants in sauerkraut can double as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the pain and discomfort of joints, muscles, or other inflamed areas.
Immune System Booster
As most people know, when you’re feeling under the weather, have some orange juice. As it’s such a rich source of vitamin C.
Well, a single serving of sauerkraut has 35% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Which is one of the most important elements of our immune system.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and increases cellular regeneration and repair. While also playing a key role in the formation of collagen.
A foundational component for almost every part of our body, including organs, blood vessels, skin, hair, muscles, and bones.
The wide range of minerals found in sauerkraut make it ideal for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
The high level of vitamin K (23% of daily recommended intake in a single serving). Which is a somewhat uncommon mineral.
Is particularly important for maintaining the integrity and strength of your bones. As vitamin K produces the proteins that regulate bone mineralisation!
The History of Cultured Vegetables
The original version of sauerkraut, or types of cultured cabbage, are thought to have originated North of China as far back as 200 B.C. and were later introduced in European countries by migrating tribes and Tartars of Genghis Khan and his armies.
The fermented cabbage, which was used as a side dish with meals, was the perfect food for traveling soldiers because it never spoiled.
It was also a well-known food of Chinese laborers building the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago.
Eventually, it made its way to Europe where it was discovered by the German and Austrian people.
The word sauerkraut (sow-uhr-krowt) originated here, with the word “sauer” meaning sour, and “kraut” meaning green leafy vegetables or plant material.
In the old days, usually in the fall seasons. Eastern European families prepared for winter by making several barrels of cultured cabbage, enough for the entire family to eat for many months.
Different from the Asian version, which was fermented in rice wine. Germanic peoples cured cabbage with salt, caraway seeds, spices and other vegetables.
Raw cultured sauerkraut is a well-documented food of Dutch seamen because of its high vitamin C content, which helps prevent scurvy.
It was popularized by Captain James Cook who began taking many barrels of it along on long sea journeys to provide this hard to find vitamin for his crew.
Today, it is popular all across Europe. As well as in Asian cuisine with the popular Korean version known as “kimchi.”
Learn How to Make Sauerkraut
There is nothing quite like learning how to make sauerkraut from scratch with the vegetables, spices and seasonings you select for your own unique tastes and health goals.
Homemade raw cultured vegetables are very affordable to make with minimal kitchen tools.
Once you get down the kraut making process you can start making it by the gallon. Which will help you to save money and time.
Sauerkraut is one of our top favorite food condiments that we enjoy on a daily basis. So we need plenty of it around in the fridge and cellar.
At first, the idea of making it homemade might seem a bit intimidating. Like you are performing some kind of laboratory experiment.
But, rest assured, as you familiarize yourself with this age old way of preparing food you will become more confident with each batch you make.
Long Shelf Life
Cultured vegetables store well for long periods of time in the refrigerator. But can also be kept in a cool cellar or basement where they will continue to age like fine wine.
When they are kept below about 40 degrees F, they tend to stop fermenting.