In my corner of the food universe, everyone’s crushing on kimchi these days. We — friends, co-workers, me — make it, share it, gift it, and put it in and on everything. When we see kimchi on a menu, we know instantly what we’ll be ordering. We are, it’s fair to say, obsessed; and in this we are far from alone. But while kimchi soaks up all the plaudits, nobody, it seems, swoons over its European cousin in cabbage-y fermentation, sauerkraut. Who will sing of sauerkraut?
I, for one. Here, let me begin. Sauerkraut — nothing more than shredded cabbage, salt and time — is vegetable fermentation in its purest form. It is to cabbage as wine is to grapes: a complex, lively, astonishingly delicious ennoblement. (Kimchi, which involves more flavoring and manipulation, is a nearer analogue to beer.) The comparison to wine may seem a bridge too far for sauerkraut if all you know is the dull jarred stuff that upholsters billions of hot dogs. But as anyone who has ever made it at home understands, good sauerkraut, with its irresistible mix of salty and savory, crunchy and tangy, is a sophisticated thing of beauty.
And the good news …read more