Thursday, June 9, 2016

Condiment of the Week - Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut (/ˈsaʊərkraʊt/; German pronunciation: [ˈzaʊ.ɐˌkʁaʊt] ( listen)) is finely cut cabbage that
German sauerkraut
has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage.

Fermented foods have a long history in many cultures, with sauerkraut being one of the most well-known instances of traditional fermented moist cabbage side dishes. The Roman writers Cato (in his De Agri Cultura) and Columella (in his De re Rustica) mentioned preserving cabbages and turnips with salt.

Sauerkraut took root mostly in Eastern European and Germanic cuisines, but also in other countries
Homemade sauerkraut
including the Netherlands, where it is known as zuurkool, and France, where the name became choucroute. The English name is borrowed from German where it means literally "sour herb" or "sour cabbage". The names in Slavic and other East European languages are not cognate with German sauerkraut, but have similar meanings: "fermented cabbage" (Belarusian: квашаная капуста, Czech: kysané zelí, Polish: kiszona kapusta, Lithuanian: rauginti kopūstai, Russian: квашеная капуста, tr. kvashenaya kapusta, Ukrainian: квашена капуста) or "sour cabbage" (Bulgarian: кисело зеле, Czech: kyselé zelí, Hungarian: savanyúkáposzta, Russian: кислая капуста, tr. kislaya kapusta, Serbian: kiseli kupus, Slovak: kyslá kapusta, Ukrainian: кисла капуста, Romania: varză murată). In Poland name kwaszona kapusta ("soured cabbage") is also used, but it indicates that cabbage might have been fermented in less traditional way.

Before frozen foods, refrigeration, and cheap transport from warmer areas became readily available in northern, central and eastern Europe, sauerkraut, like other preserved foods, provided a source of nutrients during the winter. James Cook always took a store of sauerkraut on his sea voyages, since experience had taught him it prevented scurvy.

During World War I, due to concerns the American public would reject a product with a German name, American sauerkraut makers relabeled their product as "Liberty cabbage" for the duration of the war.

During World War I, British and Commonwealth forces used the word Kraut, derived from the dish, as a derogatory term for the German people. During World War II, the term was picked up by American Forces.

In Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine, chopped cabbage is usually pickled together with
Eastern European style sauerkraut 
shredded carrots. Other ingredients may include whole or quartered apples for additional flavor or cranberry for flavor and better keeping (the benzoic acid in cranberries is a common preservative). Bell peppers also known to be added as they improve the looks of the completed dish. The resulting sauerkraut salad is typically served cold, as a zakuski or a side dish. There is also a home made type of very mild sauerkraut where white cabbage is pickled with salt in a refrigerator for only between three and seven days. This results in very little lactic acid being produced. Typically wider strips of 1 to 2 centimeters (1") are used rather than the shredded cabbage used for traditional sauerkraut. This type is popular when eaten with zakuski.

Sauerkraut is used as a filling for Polish pierogi, Ukrainian varenyky, Russian pirogi and pirozhki. Sauerkraut is also the most important ingredient in traditional soups, such as shchi (a national dish of Russia), kapusniak (Poland and Ukraine), kwaśnica (Poland), kapustnica (Slovakia), and zelňačka (Czech Republic). It is a common ingredient of Polish bigos (a hunter's stew).

In Germany, cooked sauerkraut is often flavored with juniper berries or cumin seeds, apples and white wine are popular variations. Traditionally it is served warm, with pork (e.g. eisbein, schweinshaxe, Kassler) or sausages (smoked or fried sausages, Frankfurter Würstchen, Vienna sausages, black pudding), accompanied typically by roasted or steamed potatoes or dumplings (knödel or schupfnudel). Similar recipes are common in other Central European cuisines. The Czech national dish vepřo knedlo zelo consists of roast pork with knedliky and sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut is the main ingredient of the Alsatian meal choucroute garnie (French for "dressed sauerkraut"), sauerkraut with sausages (Strasbourg sausages, smoked Morteau or Montbéliard sausages), charcuterie (bacon, ham, etc.), and often potatoes. Usually it is cooked with Alsatian white wines.

Sauerkraut, along with pork, is eaten traditionally in Pennsylvania on New Years Day. The tradition, started by the Pennsylvania Dutch, is thought to bring good luck for the upcoming year. Sauerkraut is also used in American cuisine as a condiment upon various foods, such as sandwiches and hot dogs.

Many health benefits have been claimed for sauerkraut.

* It is a source of vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. It is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.
* If unpasteurized and uncooked, sauerkraut also contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes and is rich in enzymes. The fiber and supply of probiotics improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy bowel flora, protecting against many diseases of the digestive tract.
* Sauerkraut has been used in Europe for centuries to treat stomach ulcers, and its effectiveness for soothing the digestive tract has been well established by numerous studies.
* Raw sauerkraut is distinctly different from store-bought, canned sauerkraut. While many food manufacturers can or jar their kraut using heat in order to extend shelf life, raw sauerkraut is lacto-fermented and is alive with good bacteria and probiotics. Raw sauerkraut is fermented over days or weeks at room temperature, packaged into jars with its own brine solution, then refrigerated to preserve the vitamins, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria without any heat. The lactic acid creates beneficial intestinal flora, balances stomach pH both directions, and helps break down proteins.

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