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Taking It Krautside



Sauerkraut, that staple of family cookouts, has a secret life. While most store-bought varieties are pasteurized, if it's prepared at home, and served raw, kraut is a tangy fermented side dish that boasts additional health benefits.

Also little known is that sauerkraut practically makes itself. All you need are cabbage and salt.

Take five pounds of cabbage (about three heads), remove the outermost leaves, and quarter and core the rest. Shred the cabbage into a bowl and mix in three tablespoons of salt.

Fermentation requires an anaerobic environment, so pack the mix in a crock -- a ceramic, glass or plastic container -- and secure the cabbage with a plate weighted down with, say, jars of water. The cabbage will eventually submerge in its own moisture, effectively creating a seal. (If it doesn't, after a day or so, add water.)

Left in a cool place (try the basement), the kraut will be golden-brown and ready in a week or two, depending on temperature. Winter is ideal kraut-making time, as warm weather facilitates mold and mushiness.

Sauerkraut is high in fiber. It's full of vitamins B6, C and K, and reputedly has anti-cancer effects. Homemade kraut in particular is rich in probiotics that aid digestion (and that are killed by processing store-bought kraut). And refrigerated in a tight-lidded container, winter's final batch can last till your Fourth of July cookout.

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