Arguably one of the most popular foods in Germany, the sauerkraut has been a staple throughout its history and tradition, in fact, most Germans will be keen to let you know that sauerkraut is an important part of New Year’s Eve as it’s the main vegetable you’ll find at their table!
Sauerkraut was created from the need of people in Germany to preserve their vegetables to get through the seasons. It is a fermented food that brings about many health benefits, as well as an array of vitamins and minerals such as b vitamins, vitamin c, vitamin k, as well as iron, calcium, and other nutrients.
Is sauerkraut vegan? Sauerkraut is vegan as it’s made with cabbage, water, and salt. Its production process is also pretty much vegan-friendly since it’s basically a combination of shredded cabbage and salt that is allowed to ferment for three to six weeks.
What Exactly Is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is a cabbage dish that is combined with a lot of German foods. It is prepared by pickling the cabbage in brine, and as the name suggests, it has a sour taste with a bit of spice, which pairs well with several foods in German cuisine.
Another staple in German cuisines is bratwurst which is a sausage dish. One of the main ways German people enjoy bratwurst is by eating it with a large helping of sauerkraut.
Interestingly, sauerkraut is also an important part of their local economy, so Germans actually go out of their way to support farmers. One of the main companies, Fremont Sauerkraut Company, processes 600 tons of cabbage per day in order to prepare this sauerkraut.
So, while it’s a delicious dish to have on New Year’s Eve, it’s also important for the German economy.
How Is Sauerkraut Made?
Sauerkraut is the product resulting from the lactic acid fermentation of salted, shredded cabbage.
In fact, it’s estimated that completely fermented sauerkraut contains 1.8–2.3% acid (calculated as lactic acid) giving it a pH of 3.5 or less.
Some people think that lactic acid derives from milk, but it can also come from plant sources.
For instance, in this case, lactic acid results from the fermentation process of the salted cabbage. You’re able to naturally find lactic acid bacteria on the surface of the cabbage without the need to add in cultures as you might with other fermented food.
The lactic acid bacteria are easily able to grow in the high salt environment and produce acid and flavors that are associated with the vegetables (i.e: cabbage).
Sauerkraut is really not that difficult to make, and you generally only need three things: cabbage (preferably shredded), salt, and a fermentation unit.
Some sources suggest you work with 5 pounds of cabbage each time, but first remove the outer leaves (don’t throw ’em away) and rinse the rest with cold water to remove soil or debris. The next step is to shred the cabbage leaves into long thin strips.
You combine the 5 pounds of shredded cabbage with 3 tablespoons of canning salt and mix well. Repeat this process until you have five times the amount of cabbage and salt mixed together. Let the mixture sit for 20-25 minutes, and then massage it with your hands for five minutes. The cabbage should release a good amount of liquid, which you’ll pour on top of the cabbage after packing it inside a clean glass quart jar.
Use the outer leaves of the cabbage and place them over the surface of the shredded cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in the brine. Screw the lid onto the jar and then allow it to ferment at room temperature, at least until the kraut is as sour as you like it. This might take a few weeks.
Once it’s done fermenting, store it in the fridge to better preserve it.
Is Sauerkraut Suitable For Vegans?
Yes, sauerkraut is completely suitable for vegans as it’s only made with cabbage, salt, and water. It’s a pure vegetable dish that is both delicious and nutritious. Given that it undergoes a fermentation process, it’s also perfect for people with digestive issues.
There isn’t a scenario where sauerkraut contains animal ingredients unless you decide to mix it with something else that is animal-based like a dairy sauce. In the end, sauerkraut was developed as a way to preserve vegetables and that can be done without any animal ingredients.
Can You Freeze Sauerkraut?
Yes, if you buy sauerkraut but can’t finish it in due time, you can choose to freeze it. In fact, you can do that with most foods, as the low temperature will prevent the development of bad bacteria.
With that being said, sauerkraut is a fermented food that can last for months when stored in the refrigerator, so it would only make sense to freeze it if you have abnormal quantities of it and can’t consume it all by the use-by-date or in a reasonable amount of time.