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German sauerkraut

Sauerkraut (; German pronunciation: ), directly translated: "sour cabbage", is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus.[1][2] 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.[3][4]


  • History and geographic distribution 1
  • Production 2
  • Regional varieties 3
  • Health effects 4
    • Benefits 4.1
    • Disadvantages 4.2
  • Similar foods 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9

History and geographic distribution

Polish kwaszona kapusta

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.[5] The Roman writers Cato (in his De Agri Cultura) and Columella (in his De re Rustica) mentioned preserving cabbages and turnips with salt. It is believed to have been introduced to Europe in its present form 1,000 years later by Genghis Khan after he invaded China.[6][7] The Tatars took it in their saddlebags to Europe. According to other sources, sauerkraut has been known as far back as the 9th century in eastern Europe, the time of the import of cabbage from Byzantium.

Sauerkraut took root mostly in Eastern European and Germanic cuisines, but also in other countries including the Netherlands, where it is known as zuurkool, and France, where the name became choucroute.[8] The names in Slavic languages are not cognate with German sauerkraut, but have similar meanings: "fermented cabbage" (Belarusian: квашаная капуста, Polish: kwaszona kapusta, Russian: квашеная капуста, tr. kvashenaya kapusta, Ukrainian: квашена капуста) or "sour cabbage" (Czech: kysané zelí, Polish: kiszona kapusta, Russian: кислая капуста, tr. kislaya kapusta, Slovak: kyslá kapusta, Ukrainian: кисла капуста).[7]

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.[9][10]

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.[11]

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.


Homemade sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made by a process of pickling called lactic acid fermentation that is analogous to how traditional (not heat-treated) pickled cucumbers and kimchi are made. The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt and left to ferment. Fully cured sauerkraut keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at 15 °C (60 °F) or below. Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required, although these treatments prolong storage life.

Fermentation by anaerobic bacteria such as Klebsiella and Enterobacter lead the fermentation, and begin producing an acidic environment that favors later bacteria. The second phase starts as the acid levels become too high for many bacteria, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides and other Leuconostoc spp. take dominance. In the third phase, various Lactobacillus species, including L. brevis and L. plantarum, ferment any remaining sugars, further lowering the pH.[12] Properly cured sauerkraut is sufficiently acidic to prevent a favorable environment for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the toxins of which cause botulism.[1][2]

A 2004 Lactobacillus brevis and Pediococcus pentosaceus had smaller population numbers in the first 14 days than previous studies had reported.[13]

The Dutch sauerkraut industry found that inoculating a new batch of sauerkraut with an old batch resulted in an excessively sour product. This sourdough process is known as "backslopping" or "inoculum enrichment"; when used in making sauerkraut, first- and second-stage population dynamics, important to developing flavor, are bypassed. This is due primarily to the greater initial activity of species L. plantarum.[14]

Regional varieties

Eastern European style sauerkraut pickled with carrots and served as a salad

In Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian cuisine, chopped cabbage is usually pickled together with shredded carrots. Other ingredients may include apples or cranberry. The resulting sauerkraut salad is typically served cold, as a zakuski or a side dish.

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, sauerkraut is often flavored with juniper berries.[15] 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).[16] 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.

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.[17] Sauerkraut is also used in American cuisine as a condiment upon various foods, such as sandwiches and hot dogs.[3][4][18]

Health effects


Sauerkraut (including liquid)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 78 kJ (19 kcal)
4.3 g
Sugars 1.8 g
Dietary fiber 2.9 g
0.14 g
0.9 g
Vitamin B6
0.13 mg
Vitamin C
15 mg
1.5 mg
661 mg
Other constituents
Water 92 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Many health benefits have been claimed for sauerkraut.

  • 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.[20][21]
  • 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.[22]
  • 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.[23]
  • During the American Civil War, the physician John Jay Terrell (1829–1922)[24][25] was able to successfully reduce the death rate from disease among prisoners of war; he attributed this to the practice of feeding his patients raw sauerkraut.[26]
  • Sauerkraut is a time-honored folk remedy for canker sores. It is used by rinsing the mouth with sauerkraut juice for about 30 seconds several times a day, or by placing a wad of sauerkraut against the affected area for a minute or so before chewing and swallowing the kraut.[27]
  • The October 23, 2002 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reported that Finnish researchers found the isothiocyanates produced in sauerkraut fermentation inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test tube and animal studies.[28] A Polish study in 2010 concluded that "... induction of the key detoxifying enzymes by cabbage juices, particularly sauerkraut, may be responsible for their chemopreventive activity demonstrated by epidemiological studies and in animal models".[29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]
  • Sauerkraut is high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both associated with preserving ocular health.[37]


Excessive consumption of sauerkraut may lead to bloating and flatulence due to the trisaccharide raffinose, which the human small intestine cannot break down.[38]

Similar foods

Many other vegetables are preserved by a similar process:

See also


  1. ^ a b Farnworth, Edward R. (2003). Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods. CRC.  
  2. ^ a b "Fermented Fruits and Vegetables - A Global SO Perspective". United Nations FAO. 1998. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  3. ^ a b Gil Marks. Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. p. 1052.
  4. ^ a b Joseph Mercola, Brian Vaszily, Kendra Pearsall, Nancy Lee Bentley. Dr. Mercola's Total Health Cookbook & Program. p. 227.
  5. ^ Wendy Brown (2011). Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil. New Society Publishers. p. 60.  
  6. ^ "The History of Sauerkraut". Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  7. ^ a b "Sauerkraut - Sauerkraut Is the Quintessential Eastern European Vegetable - all About Sauerkraut". 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  8. ^ Gazette, The (2007-09-22). "Sauerkraut rises above its humble origins". Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  9. ^ see / What did they eat? which begins "One of Cook's most important discoveries..." and which additionally mentions "...citrus fruit such as lemons and lime. James Cook ...."
  10. ^ Saloheimo P (2005). "[Captain Cook used sauerkraut to prevent scurvy]". Duodecim (in Finnish) 121 (9): 1014–5.  
  11. ^ "'"Sauerkraut may be 'Liberty Cabbage. The New York Times. 1918-04-25. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  12. ^ The pH of completely cured sauerkraut is about 3.6; see Belitz, H.-D.; Grosch, Werner; Schieberle, Peter (2009). Food Chemistry (4th Edition). Springer. p. 803.  
  13. ^ F. BREIDT, JR. (2004). and the Molecular Ecology of Sauerkraut Fermentations"Leuconostoc mesenteroides"A Genomic Study of (PDF). Journal of Food Science 69 (1): 30–33.  
  14. ^ Applications of biotechnology to traditional fermented foods: report of an ad hoc panel of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press. 1992. pp. 15–45.  
  15. ^ Mimi Sheraton. The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking. p. 435.
  16. ^ "Meet the Germans – Typically German - The Germans and ... - Sauerkraut - Goethe-Institut". Retrieved 2013-04-13. 
  17. ^ "Sauerkraut on New Year's a Pennsylvania tradition". 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  18. ^ Allergy Cuisine: Step by Step - Sylvia Ross. p. 94
  19. ^ a b "Nutrition Facts". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  20. ^ a b  
  21. ^ Martina Watts. "Fancy Some Sauerkraut?". TheHealthBank. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  22. ^ "Cabbage". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Haggard, Robert F. 1998. "Samuel Miller and the Founding of the Miller School of Albemarle." The Magazine of Albemarle County History 56: 53–76, p. 62.
  25. ^ "Dr John Jay Terrell (1829 - 1922) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  26. ^ Ward, Jessica B. 2004. Food to Die for: A Book of Funeral Food, Tips and Tales from the Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: Southern Memorial Association, pp. 149–150.
  27. ^ "Sauerkraut as a remedy for canker sores - Los Angeles Times". 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  28. ^ EurekAlert (2002). "Sauerkraut contains anticancer compound". 
  29. ^ "Modulation of rat hepatic and kidney phase II enzy... [Br J Nutr. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI". 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  30. ^ Moret, Sabrina; Smela, Dana; Populin, Tiziana; Conte, Lanfranco S.; et al. (2005). "A survey on free biogenic amine content of fresh and preserved vegetables". Food Chemistry (Elsevier) 89 (3): 355–361.  
  31. ^ Pu, C.; Xia, C; Xie, C; Li, K; et al. (November 2001). "Research on the dynamic variation and elimination of nitrite content in sauerkraut during pickling". Wei Sheng Yan Jiu 30 (6): 352–4.  
  32. ^ Wantke, F.; Götz, M; Jarisch, R; et al. (December 1993). "Histamine-free diet: treatment of choice for histamine-induced food intolerance and supporting treatment for chronic headaches". Clinical & Experimental Allergy ( 
  33. ^ Ward, Mary H.; et al. (June 2000). "Dietary exposure to nitrite and nitrosamines and risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Taiwan". International Journal of Cancer ( 
  34. ^ Chang, Ellen T.; Hans-Olov Adami (October 2006). "The Enigmatic Epidemiology of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma". Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 15 (10): 1765–77.  
  35. ^ Hung, Hsin-chia; Huang, MC; Lee, JM; Wu, DC; Hsu, HK; Wu, MT; et al. (June 2004). "Association between diet and esophageal cancer in Taiwan". Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 19 (6): 632–7.  
  36. ^ Siddiqi, Maqsood; R. Preussmann (1989). "Esophageal cancer in Kashmir — an assessment". Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology (Springer) 115 (2): 111–7.  
  37. ^ "Ten Reasons to Eat Fresh Unpasteurized Sauerkraut". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  38. ^ St. John, Tina (5 June 2011). "Can You Eat Too Much Sauerkraut?". Retrieved 24 June 2013. 


  • USDA Canning guides, Volume 7
  • "rec.foods.preserving FAQ". Retrieved 2006-04-23. 
  • Aubert, Claude (1999). Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques & Recipes. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.  
  • Fallon, Sally, with Enig, Mary G., Ph.D. (2001). Nourishing Traditions...[;]. New Trends Publishing.  
  • Katz, Sandor Ellix (2003). Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.  
  • Kaufmann, Klaus (2001). Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home. Book Publishing Company.  

External links

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