Sauerkraut is a typical raw material of the Hungarian cuisine, ingredient of several Hungarian dishes. Sauerkraut is finely sliced cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. Mankind has been growing cabbage for thousands of years and fermentation goes far back to the ancient times. The aim of fermentation is to preserve vitamin C and other water-soluble vitamins of the plant. Sauerkraut is made by a process of pickling called lacto-fermentation. The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt and left to ferment in a barrel or crock. It takes 3-4 weeks to make sauerkraut. It keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at 15 °C or below. Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required.
Before refrigeration sauerkraut provided a cheap source of nutrients and vitamins during the winter. There are several health advantages to homemade sauerkraut. It’s extremely high in vitamin C (20 mg/100 gr) and enzymes, this was the reason why sailors took sauerkraut in large quantities for the long journeys to prevent the typical sailor disease, scurvy. It’s also low calorie and easy to digest. Due to the lactic acid bacteria and its high fiber content sauerkraut is the friend of intestines. It has a beneficial effect on peristaltic movement, has an important role in maintaining the intestinal activity and helps prevent constipation.
Mecca for sauerkraut in Hungary is Vecsés, a little town near to our capital, Budapest. The sauerkraut of Vecsés is far-famed, the secret of its taste and popularity lies in that every condition is ideal to make high quality products. The favorable climate, sandy soil able to warm up easily, the impermeable layer providing an adequate supply of water in case of drought, the cabbage variety improved exclusively for fermentation and of course, the expertise and the long-held family recipes that are inherited from father to son.
Sauerkraut production has a 300-year tradition in Vecsés. The settlement became completely deserted during the Turkish rule. Count Antal Grassalkovich settled fifty, largely Swabian families in Vecsés in the 18th century and they brought along the knowledge and recipe of growing and fermenting/pickling cabbage. Over the next centuries they improved the so called “flat” cabbage by carefully selecting the seeds year after year. Families dealing with pickling in these days in Vecsés are the descendants of the former settled Swabians and they have carefully preserved the traditions and recipes.