Although sauerkraut – German for “sour cabbage” – is thought of as a German invention, Chinese laborers building the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago ate it as standard fare. Chinese sauerkraut, made from shredded cabbage fermented in rice wine.
Most likely it was brought to Europe 1000 years later by Gengis Kahn after plundering China.
Although in Germany instead of using the wine they dry cured it by sprinkling salt on the shredded cabbage. The water is then drawn out of the cabbage to make the juice that you see that accompanies the kraut.
Today’s sauerkraut is made by combining shredded cabbage, salt and sometimes spices, and allowing the mixture to ferment. It can be purchased in jars and cans in supermarkets. Fresh sauerkraut is sold in delicatessens and in plastic bags in a supermarket’s refrigerated section. It should be rinsed before being used in casseroles, as a side dish and even on sandwiches like the famous Reuben Sandwich. Sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamin C as well as of some of the B vitamins.
There is a theory that the Tartars introduced the acid cabbage from the Orient into eastern Europe, and from there kraut went to Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, and France.