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. Captain James Cook always took sauerkraut on his sea voyages, since experience had taught him it prevented scurvy and enabled him to sail for years without getting sick. The supplement of sauerkraut with the sailors’ meals provided them with food and medicine at the same time, so that he could carry on with his explorations and discoveries.
Sauerkraut means sour cabbage in German and that is literally what it is. The cabbage is finely chopped and fermented using bacteria, which gives it its distinct sour taste. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process creates beneficial bacteria, helping to stop the growth of other, harmful bacteria in your body.
Just about everybody knows what a cabbage looks like as it is one of the most widely grown of all vegetables, and is by far one of the most important table vegetables in most countries with a temperate climate.
Much is written about the cabbage in cook books, but I wonder how many people realise that cabbage not only has nutritional value, but has many medicinal uses as well?
There is an old German saying that “Sauerkraut every day keeps the doctor away” and it is very true as it contains many nutrients important for optimal health, e.g. sauerkraut:
- Improves digestion
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps reduce stress
- Maintains brain health
- Promotes heart health
If your gums or skin bleed easily or you constantly have small ulcers/sores on your gums; if you notice swellings near the joints or you suffer from a general feeling of weakness and weariness; then you must add raw sauerkraut to your daily diet.
Sauerkraut contains far more lactobacillus than yoghurt, making it a superior source of this probiotic. Most tinned sauerkraut has been pasteurised, which kills off the good bacteria. Beware of the highly salty, factory-made sauerkraut—purchase fresh sauerkraut to reap all the health benefits.
Making sauerkraut yourself:
Basic sauerkraut is made by cutting fresh cabbage into fine strips and packing it into an airtight container while mixing in a certain amount of salt (approx 1.5%). Traditionally, a stoneware crock is used and the fermentation vessel is kept at 23°C for three days, then left in a cooler temperature for eight weeks.