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What is “Raw” Sauerkraut?

Posted by Meghan Wilson on
What is “Raw” Sauerkraut?

Usually, when you hear the word “raw” in the food world, you’re not expecting a finished food product. Apart from specialty dishes like sushi, and the basics of your diet like fruits and veggies, the average person tends to prefer their meals fully cooked. 

However, there are plenty of other “raw” foods that don’t quite get the attention we think they deserve. Why should sashimi get all the praise when raw sauerkraut is right there? 

Here at Cleveland Kitchens, we are working to bring raw sauerkraut to as many people as we can, so we can share the food we love! To help you understand what makes raw sauerkraut so unique, we put together this short guide that’ll go over everything you need to know. 

So, whether you’re making sauerkraut at home, trying sauerkraut for the first time, or simply looking for more info on your favorite cabbage snack, this article is for you. Fire up the grill, throw on a couple of hot dogs, and let’s dive in!

Image of hot dogs with Cleveland Kitchen sauerkraut

A Tale of Two Krauts

If you’re a newbie to the world of fermented vegetables, you might be wondering why we are specifying raw sauerkraut instead of just saying sauerkraut! All sauerkraut is just shredded cabbage that’s been fermented, right?

Yes...and no. 

All sauerkraut is shredded and fermented cabbage; this much is true. However, there are two main types of sauerkraut, and they are drastically different in a number of ways. The first (our favorite) is raw sauerkraut, also known as unpasteurized sauerkraut, and the second is canned sauerkraut, also known as pasteurized sauerkraut! 

So, while all sauerkraut is technically made using the same fermentation process, what happens after that process makes a big difference in the finished product. 

What’s the Big Deal?

In some respects, both sauerkrauts are going to taste somewhat similar, and both will pair well with a variety of foods. Yet, when you dig deeper into the two, you’ll find that raw sauerkraut has some significant dietary differences that could end up being a game-changer for you and your gut. At the end of the day, it’s your decision, but once you’ve learned about all the fantastic perks of raw sauerkraut, we think you’ll agree with us. 

Breaking Down the Differences

The most significant factor that separates raw sauerkraut from canned sauerkraut is heat. Both sauerkrauts start their journey in the same way, as they both undergo lactic acid fermentation. You pack the cabbage, weigh down the cabbage, and cover the cabbage in sea salt for both types, and they both sit at room temperature throughout the process. 

However, after the fermented sauerkraut is ready, raw sauerkraut is stored in jars in the refrigerator, while canned sauerkraut heads for the stove. When properly canning sauerkraut, you need boiling water baths, heated mason jars, and a whole lot of heat! While this can make the kraut last longer, it destroys most of the nutritional value you can get from the dish.

It’s a classic tug of war between pasteurization and probiotics. When first invented, pasteurization revolutionized the food world, as people could store foods for much more extended periods of time without ice. Even today, pasteurized milk is the norm in most places of the world! Sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables, just happen to be one of the exceptions to pasteurization’s benefits!

So, while they will both produce tasty fermented sauerkraut, the minute you heat it, you stand to lose a lot of its worth! 

Image of turkey bacon burger with Cleveland Kitchen sauerkraut on it

What Makes Raw Kraut So Good?

We could bring out the magnifying glass to keep comparing raw and canned sauerkraut, but in the end, the only good reason to heat your sauerkraut is to store it for a long, long time! Otherwise, it simply can’t compare to raw sauerkraut. 

This is thanks to the probiotics or bacteria that live in raw sauerkraut. Probiotics, a name you likely recognize from the supplement aisle of your grocery store, are the driving nutritional force behind kraut. These tiny microbes (which are beneficial to the human body) help to regulate your gut, which in turn helps to improve digestion and immune function while battling off antioxidants in the body. 

The only catch is, once you heat the kraut, these microbes die off. True, you may kill some harmful bacteria that can make the kraut spoil faster, but you are also killing all of the good bacteria that your gut could really use! Raw sauerkraut, on the other hand, maintains the probiotic ecosystem, as cold temperatures slow the fermentation process without killing the bacteria entirely. 

At Cleveland Kitchen, we also think that the taste of raw sauerkraut is unmatched. While canned kraut will often come out looking yellowish and slightly sweet, raw kraut keeps a firm crunch and bold, tangy flavors throughout its entire lifetime.

Some Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while the better tasting kraut might be a matter of opinion, you can’t deny that raw kraut has some extra benefits. So the next time you try your hand at homemade sauerkraut or are considering your options in the grocery aisle, take a moment to pause before you start picking up those quart jars! Will you can it...or leave it raw?

Cleveland’s Kraut

With Cleveland Kitchen’s six delicious flavors of ready-to-eat kraut, you know you’ll be getting high-quality, probiotic-rich, raw sauerkraut! As we continue on our mission to make sauerkraut the next food craze across the country, we hope you’ll join us for the ride! 

Check out our krauts, kimchi, and lineup of fermented dressings, or read more articles on the wonders of fermented foods on our blog!

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