Taste of the New

The first time I tasted "new" sauerkraut, I hardly recognized what I was eating. Zingy and effervescent, the lightly fermented shredded cabbage was nothing like the aggressively sour and briny sauerkraut I was accustomed to getting on my hot dogs. Even the raw sauerkraut I'd bought in the past at eastern and central European markets had nowhere near the same liveliness and true cabbage flavor. The French have long appreciated "choucroute nouvelle," a seasonal specialty that is fermented for just a couple of weeks as opposed to several months, the time allotted for most sauerkrauts. During the cabbage harvest, cooks in Alsace pair new sauerkraut with pork and sausages in ** choucroute garnie**; I've found that it brightens the flavor of a dish such as a composed vegetable salad without overwhelming it with tartness. New sauerkraut isn't sold in the United States, but it's easy to make: just chop, salt, and pound fresh cabbage and store it covered in a glass jar at room temperature. Within several days, the process of lactic acid fermentation begins to transform the raw cabbage into a mildly tangy and thoroughly delicious food.