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The basics: Sauerkraut, which means "sour cabbage," in German, is essentially shredded cabbage, salt and some spices that have been allowed to ferment for five to six weeks. Although closely tied to German cuisine, sour cabbage was first prepared and fermented in rice wine by the Chinese several thousand years ago.
Seafaring explorers found that the fermented cabbage dish did much to reduce scurvy and kept well on long voyages. Sauerkraut made its way through Europe, where it became a staple of many cuisines. German immigrants brought sauerkraut to America, where it quickly became attached to ballpark hot dogs.
Today, sauerkraut is seen as a healthy ingredient that is a good source of vitamin C and B vitamins. Because the fermentation process breaks down the cabbage, sauerkraut is also easily digestible.
Selecting: Sauerkraut is available bottled and canned. As with pickles, some say sauerkraut sold refrigerated is better.
Storing: Sauerkraut should be refrigerated after opening and will last for quite some time if stored in its liquid brine solution.
Use: Some brine solution may be rinsed off before eating, but it is not necessary. The most popular way of enjoying sauerkraut is on hot dogs and with Reuben sandwiches, which consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Sauerkraut can also be found in a number of recipes, including potato salads, soups and stews, chocolate cake and even Jell-O. For a range of ideas, check out the Web site, www.sauerkrautrecipes.com.
Where to buy: Sauerkraut can be found in most supermarkets near other canned vegetables, or in the refrigerated section next to hot dogs. Prices are reasonable at around $2 for a 16-ounce bottle.
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