(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 23, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Health Benefits. Sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is a food with practically no calories. Cabbage contains lactobacillus bacteria. Fermentation of the cabbage produces lactic acid which promotes healthy intestinal flora. Fermentation does not alter the anticancer enzymes already present in all cruciferious vegetables including raw cabbage. In Asia fermented cabbage has been used to cure Asian flu in birds.  Sauerkraut promotes vigor, vitality, and virility. No wonder this historic 'superfood' is enjoying a renaissance revival.
First, here is a basic recipe from the book of traditional food preservation techniques, Stocking Up (1977):
(1) Select, clean, and dry cabbages. (2) Assemble basic equipment, a cabbage shredder and stoneware crock. (3) The cabbage shredder cuts a half head of cabbage into the crock. Add canning salt layered with the cabbage, and STOMP*. (4) Add plate and weigh it down with a rock, or gallon jar filled with water. (5) Rinse. (6) Then can or package the final product in zip-lock freezer bags.
Variations. For maximum health benefits, eliminate the last two steps. Simply leave the crock of sauerkraut in a cool place and serve daily, as discussed by BronxBoy and Garden Mermaid in this thread. And, as discussed by Anastatia and Darius in this thread.
Fermentation preserves the cabbage, if the sauerkraut is properly made. A local variation here in Alabama, was to top the crock of shredded cabbage with huge cabbage leaves weighed down with bricks instead of a plate and rock.  You can add a sprinkling of caraway seed or a layer of sliced apples to the layers of cabbage. 
Natural medicine guru, Dr. Andrew Weil , promotes sauerkraut as a healthy superfood. On his web site, he provides his own recipe from his Arizona-grown cabbages and method for preserving the kraut. He uses a specially manufactured stoneware crock designed to eliminate the production of scum which has to be skimmed daily using the traditional method. The rim of the sauerkraut crock has a water trough and special ceramic weights to seal the space between the 'kraut and air-born bacteria. This eliminates the formation of scum. Stomping* and scum-skimming were traditionally tasks assigned to children.
History. The Greek, Pliny the Elder, in the first Century B.C. was one of the first in recorded history to mention sauerkraut. Records of the construction of the Great Wall of China built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) refer to fermented cabbage as a staple food for workers building the wall.
Genghis Khan (1162-1227) adopted sauerkraut as a staple food for his troops of mounted horsemen. After conquering most of Asia, Genghis Kahn's Mongol horsemen rode on to Germany, where the locals also took to making sauerkraut. German immigrants brought sauerkraut to America, where it is mentioned as early as 1776. In that same year, the English sailor, Captain James Cook received recognition for using sauerkraut on ocean expeditions to prevent scurvy among the members of the ship's crew on long voyages.
By 1906 sauerkraut and sausage were being sold from pushcarts in old New York City. These "hot dogs" as they were called, are still for sale from pushcarts in New York City--still served with sauerkraut. Sauerkraut became a foundation food of the New York 'deli', thus forming a lunch staple for New York's Wall Street financiers. Today, sauerkraut even has its own web site: http://www.sauerkraut.com/ebook.pdf  where you will find a recipe for sauerkraut chocolate cake.
The inescapable conclusion is that people who eat sauerkraut are people who shape destiny.
I took a block of wood put it on the lathe and made it round about 3 inches and 8 inches long and use that . We do a couple heads then add some salt and caraway seed and pound it for a little. . . . But by using that block we can get the juices up above the cabbage with out adding salt water. Then yes we put a plate on it and a rock on that to hold it down . Personal Communication 10/3/07
 Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Food You Grow, Naturally. Ed. Carol Hupping Stoner. Rodale Press. Emmaus, PA. 1977:169.
 Personnal communication. Janice Day, business woman of Greensboro, Alabama.
 Beaver Valley Homemade Sauerkraut Page. http://www.schmarder.com/dave/sauerkraut/index.htm
 Dr. Weil's Sauerkraut. www. drweil.com.
 How on Earth Did Sauerkraut Become the World's Most Successful Superfood . . . And What it Can Do to Help You.
HEALTH BENEFITS. DeNoon, Daniel J., Eat Your Veggies and Fight Cancer, Too. www.medicinenet.com.
CANNING AND FREEZING. D.G. thread: Canning and Freezing: Sauerkraut.
KIMCHI. ASIAN FERMENTED CABBAGE. Kimchi - wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimchi
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT: Cabbage heads. Brassica oleracea var. capitata. Big_Red. Plant Files. Oct 7, 2004, Nov. 12, 2004. Photographs 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Making Sauerkraut. Contributed by M.A. and Elaine Church of Buckley, Michigan. End photo: Anonymous. Three rabbits painted on ceramic tile. Personal collection of antique rabbit images.
DEDICATION: This piece was inspired by photographs sent to me by elementary and high school classmate, M.A. Church and his wife Elaine making sauerkraut at their home near Buckley, Michigan this fall.
Getting ready for a Michigan hay ride.