Sauerkraut is similar to Korean kimchee and other types of pickle, in that it's salted and fermented, giving it a distinctly sour taste. What is it? Literally (and accurately) 'sour cabbage'. It's made by finely shredding the vegetable, salting it heavily then allowing it to ferment. Originally, the fermentation took place slowly through naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria but modern manufacturers sometimes add ingredients to quicken the process. It's often flavoured with spices such as juniper, caraway and pepper. It can be eaten 'fresh' (fermented for just a few days), so it still has a crisp bite and is only faintly sour, or aged, after which it's more tender and acidic. How is it available? Canned and in vacuum-packed containers in the refrigerated section of supermarkets. The former is much easier to find but the type requiring refrigeration usually tastes better. In countries where sauerkraut is popular (such as Germany, Austria and France), it's available in shops selling fresh, smoked and cured meats. What to look for: flavour, of course. Different brands vary in tartness. If it is too astringent, rinse it in a colander with cold water and drain. If it's still too sour, try balancing the flavour with a little granulated sugar. What else? Sauerkraut is considered nutritious because cabbage is believed to prevent cancer. The fermentation process produces 'good' bacteria that contain antioxidants and aid digestion. Unfortunately, the high heat required for canning kills the beneficial bacteria. Sauerkraut should be eaten in moderation by those who need to watch their sodium intake. How to use: traditionally, it is paired with sausages and other types of cured pork so its sour flavour can temper the saltiness of the meat. For a simple side dish to sausages, heat sauerkraut through (after rinsing, if necessary) with white wine, sauteed onions, garlic, a bay leaf and juniper berries. Choucroute garnie is a classical Alsatian dish featuring sauerkraut. Saute sliced onions in a pan then stir in sauerkraut, small whole potatoes, a bay leaf, juniper berries, whole black peppercorns and other complementary seasonings. Add white wine, chicken or vegetable broth and several varieties of smoked and/or cured pork such as sausages, salted pork belly, smoked ham hock and thickly sliced bacon. Simmer until the meat is cooked and the potatoes are tender.