In this article we are going to explore sauerkraut varieties made in different countries. This probiotic food has historically been a staple in many cultures and countries. Today we are going to look at the European national versions of this wonderful product.
Many countries produce their own versions of sauerkraut in Europe: Russia, Belarus and other post-Soviet states, like Baltic countries. Poland, Bulgaria, Austria and Germany produce their very own varieties. If you like making your own food, we have a homemade sauerkraut recipe for you to try it.
The Russian sauerkraut or the Soviet version is a typical staple of most post-Soviet states. It is called ‘kvashenaya kapusta’ which literally means ‘fermented cabbage’. You can find this version in almost all Russian-speaking countries of the former USSR. This dish is always raw and never pasteurized. You will never be able to find it in air-tight glass jars, only in breathable containers in the supermarkets. If you go to the market, you will most likely find this product in a large container without it being covered. In this case it is sold by weight. Widely available everywhere, you will never experience a deficiency in this food. The Russian version is considered to be a living product, never heat treated, with a specific smell, which should not be repulsive.
A typical recipe is very easy to prepare. You can find detailed instructions of how to make it in our article or in our video. The classic recipe involves adding some carrot for flavour and colour, which you won’t find in other countries, except for Poland and Baltic states. Another ingredient added in small doses to the Soviet style sauerkraut are sour berries such as cranberry or lingonberry. The taste of the Soviet sauerkraut is very mild, less sour than its European counterparts. It is always a living raw product, so the amount of probiotics is higher than in versions from other countries. Many people eat sauerkraut adding some virgin oil just before serving it. It is considered as a healthy cleansing product. It is a staple dish in Russia and the brine or the juice is thought to have healing properties for headaches and stomach discomforts.
As for the sub-versions of the Russian sauerkraut, there can be many. The general classification is: sweet, classic and with added horseradish. The classic one is described above, while the sweet one has additional sugar in it. Many people like sauerkraut a lot with added sugar. The one with the horseradish has a very potent flavour and appears to be more white in colour. It is a good antiseptic version for when a person has a cold, for example. There can also be versions of cabbage with vinegar but those are not considered to be sauerkraut, those are marinated cabbage salads, which are a totally different thing, lacking the probiotic benefits of real sauerkraut. Be careful with those.
The Soviet version of sauerkraut is my favourite, because I am personally more used to its flavour, thus the length of this paragraph. Let us now look at the sauerkraut varieties from other countries. They are also very interesting and diverse.
Polish version, called ‘kiszona / kwaszona kapusta’ in Polish can be both living and pasteurized packed into air-tight glass jars or in plastic bags. You can find it with or without added carrot. There are also interesting versions with mushrooms available at some shops. Generally, Polish sauerkraut is more sour and salty than the Soviet one. This is applicable to both pasteurized and raw versions. The product is very popular across the entire Poland, available in every supermarket. Also you will be able to find sauerkraut juice in many places. Cabbage culture is really big in Poland, some staple dishes are made from cabbage. Polish sauerkraut often accompanies meat dishes.
The Batlic sauerkraut (from countries like Latvia and Lithuania) is very similar to the Russian version, as it is also the post-Soviet version. In Lithuania it is called ‘rauginti kopustai”. The taste is similarly mild and refreshing. The Baltic version is also always raw, you will be able to buy it in 1kg plastic buckets from the fridge in the supermarkets. This is a true living product. Sometimes you will find cranberries or lingonberries on top of the product for added flavour. Adding carrots is also practiced, though not everywhere. The final product helps the digestion and relieves different pains due to raw probiotic qualities.
The Bulgarian version of sauerkraut or ‘kiselo zele’ in Bulgarian is also a probiotic product though it looks and tastes quite different to other aforementioned variations. Bulgarians use a lighter cabbage for fermentation, compared to the post-Soviet states. Their cabbage ferments faster due to its texture and results being a lot softer. Also, they tend to ferment the whole cabbage at once, without shredding it in pieces, like other sauerkraut eating nations do. The final texture results feeling a bit like kimchi, due to its softness.
German and Austrian sauerkraut
These are very special national varieties of sauerkraut. It is from the German language that the word ‘sauerkraut’ came from in the first place however it was the Slavic people who first started consuming such a product.
In Germany or Austria you can try the most amazing sauerkraut juice or ‘saft’ as they call it. It is just perfect for people who love the taste of a real fermented product.
The sauerkraut from these countries has a distinctive strong sour flavour, very appetizing and very cleansing when consumed. Producers often use very good quality salt for their fermentation which results in an amazing taste. The cabbage is shredded thinly, thinner than the Soviet style, giving the final product a more potent sour flavour and more juice. This type of sauerkraut is perfect to heal different pains when consumed. The quality of the German/Austrian sauerkraut is always outstanding. They have perfected the recipe and made it a true healthy staple of their cuisines. Even if it is pasteurized, the product feels like a true healthy nutritional food.
Europe is the birthplace of sauerkraut. In this article we have reviewed different European national sauerkraut varieties and saw their specific characteristics. Now we know that there is a broad spectrum of true probiotic products to choose from from all over Europe. Hope this article gives you valuable information to make a delicious choice suitable for you! Hope you find and enjoy your favourite type of sauerkraut.