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1630s, from German Sauerkraut, literally "sour cabbage," from sauer "sour" (from Proto-Germanic *sura-; see sour (adj.)) + Kraut "vegetable, cabbage," from Old High German krut, from Proto-Germanic *kruthan.
They pickle it [cabbage] up in all high Germany, with salt and barberies, and so keepe it all the yeere, being commonly the first dish you have served in at table, which they call their sawerkrant. [James Hart, "Klinike, or the diet of the diseased," 1633]In U.S. slang, figurative use for "a German" dates from 1858 (cf. kraut). "The effort to substitute liberty-cabbage for sauerkraut, made by professional patriots in 1918, was a complete failure." [Mencken]. French choucroute (19c.) is from Alsatian German surkrut (corresponding to German Sauerkraut), with folk etymology alteration based on chou "cabbage" + croûte "crust" (n.).
fermented white cabbage, a vegetable preparation important in the cooking of central Europe. Sauerkraut is prepared by finely shredding white cabbage and layering the vegetable with salt in a large crock or wooden tub. The cabbage is covered with a weighted lid and allowed to ferment, preferably at below 60 F (15.5 C) for at least a month. Commercially made sauerkraut is canned or sold in bulk. Caraway seeds, peppercorns, and juniper berries are sometimes added to the cabbage during fermentation. Sauerkraut is often served with smoked meats and sausages in dishes such as choucroute garnie and Berner Platte