Sauerkraut, Germany’s Superfood

SauerkrautSauerkraut, Germany’s alleged “superfood”, has been a staple in the German diet since the early 1600s, earning Germans the unflattering ‘Kraut’ moniker, one they have come to accept with humor. Yet, contrary to common perception, sauerkraut did not originate in the country. Sauerkraut, a term which is made up of the German words sauer (sour) and kraut (cabbage), is a Mongolian nomad invention and as much a French/Alsatian specialty as it is truly Irish. In recent years, pickled and fermented sauerkraut experiences a culinary revival all over the world, as a tried and true side dish and snack.

It was, in fact, Mongolian nomads who first fermented cabbage in rice wine or vinegar over 2,000 years ago. Not until the 13th century did Eastern and Central Europeans adopt this method and created what we know today as sauerkraut. With the migration of large groups of Germans to American shores in the 18th century, sauerkraut became an American transplant, favored first among the German immigrants, then becoming part of the American cuisine. After all, what would the Reuben sandwich or hot dog be with a generous serving of sauerkraut?

Aside from its versatility and great taste, sauerkraut is a well-known ‘superfood,’ recommended atop the list of foods to include in a healthy diet. At 27 calories per cup, it is a low-calorie food and it’s loaded with folate, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin K. It provides one-third of the recommended intake of vitamin C and is also rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium. Fermenting the cabbage actually INCREASES its nutritional benefits, making it more digestible and creating a probiotic effect in the gastrointestinal system.

While still, a staple in homes and restaurants, the consumption of sauerkraut in Germany has been declining. Today the average per capita consumption of sauerkraut is approximately 2.6 pounds, down from 4.4 pounds 40 years ago. Compare that to the 3.75 pounds of sauerkraut per person consumed by the French and the whopping 49 pounds per person of kimchi consumed in Korea, and Germany is no longer King of the Kraut! (Although, arguably, the best tasting sauerkraut in jars and cans is produced in Germany.)

These days, Germans are apt to poke fun at themselves and the stereotypical “Kraut-Eating Kraut.” A reporter for Deutsche Welle set off on a quest to find out ‘How much Kraut is there really in the Krauts?’ Watch the video to learn what he found out in this “Truth about Germany” clip:

How much Kraut is there really in the Krauts? (video)


Recipes Featuring Sauerkraut
The Humble “Superfood” for St. Patrick’s Day meals
How much Kraut is there really in the Krauts? (video)