"Sexy" is not a word that's usually associated with sauerkraut. Even in Wisconsin, the nation's largest supplier of cabbage grown for sauerkraut, its old-world roots and canned-food association have lent it an undesirable aura. But I have hope for sauerkraut's status.
I figure if other rustic foods can surge in appeal (think beer, wild mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes), why not fermented cabbage? Indeed, these days you can find its spicy cousin, kimchee, showing up on trendy menus. Kombucha (fermented tea) is - as was recently noted on Facebook - "sellin' like a felon" at the Eastside Farmers' Market. And one of the most talked-about authors in locavore circles is Sandor Ellix Katz, who wrote the seminal guidebook called Wild Fermentation.
If this is a bandwagon, then please get on it. I've been into sauerkraut - and out of fashion - for many years, so I'm eager for a comeback.
Consider making your own. Home-fermented kraut has a lot going for it. It's easy to put together (read: two ingredients); very cheap (an abs-straining 10-pound head of cabbage from the farmers' market costs one dollar); and is markedly more delicious than the bagged stuff from the store. You can freeze it, can it or keep it in a crock. You can serve it with brats and beer at a Packer party, or go upscale and make choucroute (that's sauerkraut and smoked meats simmered in wine).
Make Your Own Sauerkraut
fresh green cabbage
non-iodized canning salt
Assemble the following clean equipment: cutting board; sharp knife and/or food processor; scale; medium bowl; very large bowl; stone crock or glass jug(s); plate to fit inside top of crock or jug; jar of water with tight lid (to fit atop the plate); towel or cheesecloth.
Remove outer leaves of cabbage and cut out cores. Cut cabbage into chunks; slice thinly or shred in food processor. As the cabbage is cut, place it in a medium bowl and weigh it. When you get two pounds, dump it into the large bowl and sprinkle with 3 rounded teaspoons salt. Repeat with remaining cabbage, sprinkling every 2-pound batch with the 3 teaspoons of salt. When all the cabbage is cut and salted, toss it well and let it stand an hour or two. It will give off a lot of juice during this time, which is exactly what you want. (The fresher the cabbage, the more the juice.)
Toss the cabbage again, transfer it to a crock or jar(s) and press it down well, to bring the liquid above the cabbage. Place plate on the cabbage and weight the plate with the water-filled jug. The goal is to keep the cabbage under the brine. Cover everything with a towel or cheesecloth.
For best flavor development, keep the construction in a cool place (60 degrees or so), like the basement. Fermentation (read: bubbles) and a funky odor will begin within a couple of days. Check the kraut every couple of days; when a bloom or scum appears on the top, don't worry about it, just skim it off with a clean utensil (and rinse the plate and weight if you want). If liquid drops beneath surface of cabbage, press the kraut again, add some salty water or remove some cabbage.
Kraut will be ready to eat in 2-4 weeks. Taste it often, and when it's to your liking, remove cloth, plate, etc. Skim off any kraut that wasn't under the liquid. You can eat it straight from the crock or transfer it to freezer bags and freeze (I think this improves the flavor even more).
For an easy winter meal, simmer thawed kraut with onions and fennel seeds (add chopped apple if you like). Serve with sweet corn or beets, roasted potatoes and kielbasa or other garlicky sausage.