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Feature Story June 2003

"It's Kraut Time"
By Bob Williamson

Cabbage heads were brought in from the garden and cleaned. Kraut cutters were of various designs but always-about 12 inches wide and long enough to slide the cabbage head up and down to cut the slaw. A large stone crock was brought up from the basement and thoroughly cleaned. Some years the cabbage crop was large and nice. Plenty of rain made the heads of cabbage large enough to fill the crock full to the brim with the sliced slaw. After the cutting was completed salt was worked in the slaw by hand until the slaw was bleeding juice. A clean cloth was placed over this and the crock was placed in a cool room of the upstairs to work. In later years we used a plastic garbage bag with some water in it, which would seal the entire top of the crock. This kept the spoiling under control. Prior to that the spoilage had to be lifted from the kraut daily. A large plate kept in place with a rock covered with the clean cloth work for years.

I think the mixing in of the salt was an art passed down from one generation to the next. Mother always said it took just the proper amount to make the cabbage bleed a bit and that made the kraut work in its own brine. Some neighbors would watch the moon sign for a correct date to harvest the cabbage and process it. They claimed they had less spoilage during the working stage. After a few weeks of letting it work and ferment it was taken out and placed in quart jars. Then sealed and cooked in a pressure cooker to seal the lids tight. Then the jars were placed in a pressure cooker where they were steamed and cooked a while.

The jars were placed in a dark cool place in the basement for storage for the next winter usage. One of our favorite meals was a jar of canned kraut cooked with a big chunk of salty pork. Mom usually made dumplings on top of this mixture, which made an especially filling meal for a hungry crew. The kraut you buy in the store now days do not taste the same.

 
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