My family ate sauerkraut regularly when I was growing up. I love the flavor but I would have never guessed how popular it would become.
Fermentation is an ancient method of food preservation that is gaining mainstream exposure. Paleo, Westin A. Price and other traditional diets, which are rising in popularity, tout the benefits of fermented foods. Even the most mainstream in the medical community recognize the benefits of probiotics. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are an excellent source of probiotics without the high cost of probiotic pills.
Fermenting sauerkraut yourself is fun, easy and very inexpensive. In my area cabbage goes on sale around New Years and St. Patrick's Day. I like the make kraut around those times to take advantage of the sales.
To make sauerkraut you only need cabbage and salt. The salt will inhibit putrefying bacteria until the beneficial lactobaccilus can colonize. The naturally occurring lactobaccilus produce organic acids which preserve the cabbage, break down nutrients into more easily digested forms, and provide the tart sour flavor.
Combine 5 pounds of finely chopped or shredded cabbage with three tablespoons of salt, pound and press the cabbage until enough moisture is drawn out of the cabbage to fully submerge it. Then leave it on the counter for 3 or more weeks to ferment. Once the sauerkraut is finished fermenting you can refrigerate it, freeze it or can** it in a hot water bath.
Sauerkraut is one of the most basic and simplest fermented foods. There are great resources to learn more. My favorite books on fermentation are Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Applying heat to cook or can the sauerkraut will destroy the beneficial bacteria, but it will still taste good ;)