Find out more about the history, tradition, customs, and processing of sauerkraut.
Credit the Chinese for the creation of sauerkraut more than 2,300 years ago. Originally it consisted of shredded cabbage that was pickled in wine. Workers building the Great Wall of China were among the first to enjoy it. Around the end of the 16th century, salt was used in place of wine in the fermentation process. It produced a better product, and it's a recipe that's still followed today.
The Dutch eat chicken stuffed with sauerkraut at Christmas to mark the end the year. A chicken is chosen because of the way it scratches the ground—it symbolizes scratching the earth over the old year.
The Dutch also enjoy pork and sauerkraut to start the New Year. Because a pig uses its snout to push the earth forward, it is interpreted as a way to look ahead to an exciting New Year. Also, many cultures believe it is good luck to eat sauerkraut on New Years Day, at graduations and other family celebrations.
Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been fermented in salt. Cabbage is planted in the spring and harvested beginning in August. The heads of cabbage are washed and shredded. The shredded cabbage is mixed with salt and tightly packed into stainless steel or fiberglass-lined vats to ferment.
During fermentation, lactic acid is created. This is what gives sauerkraut its unique flavor and texture. After about six weeks, fermentation is complete and the sauerkraut is ready for packaging.
Nearly 140,000 Tons
About a tenth of a head. If all the sauerkraut we packaged in a year went into 14.4 oz. cans, they would stretch halfway around the world.
In an average year around 185,000 tons of raw cabbage is harvested. Most of it is grown in Wisconsin and New York.
Worldwide, more than one billion servings. Two out of three Americans eat sauerkraut on a regular basis—that translates into about 1.5 pounds of sauerkraut a year. In Germany, the average consumption is 3.74 pounds of kraut a year!
Sauerkraut is ready to eat from the package and can be served hot or cold. Versatile sauerkraut can be used as a condiment (sauerkraut is second only to mustard as America’s favorite hot dog topping), side dish, in a main dish like classic sauerkraut and pork, as well as a recipe ingredient. Add it to salads, soup, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, egg dishes, tacos, smoothies, and even desserts. See our recipe section for great ideas.
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