In The Kitchen: Homemade or pre-packaged, sauerkraut is rich in tradition

Sauerkraut usually provokes a “love it” or “hate it” reaction from diners.

Sauerkraut usually provokes a “love it” or “hate it” reaction from diners.

The thing about sauerkraut is that there are seldom nonchalant reactions. Depending on your childhood memories and your taste buds, you either “love it” or “hate it.”

I’m not personally fond of sauerkraut. I can remember coming home from school, walking through the front door and, whoa, what a smell! Mother was cooking sauerkraut.

I had a special request for this dish, and, as I told several people what was coming up for In the Kitchen, many said, “I love it.” My boss, Brenda Pilson, said her 6 year old grandaughter, Katy Zeiger, will ask for sauerkraut when she comes to visit her on the weekends.

I remember my grandfather Hobert Rogers always having a jar of kraut sitting on the table. Just like the salt and pepper, he ate it with almost every meal.

Melissa Davis, my sister-in-law, makes sauerkraut and weiners pretty often, so I turned to her for this week’s dish to photograph and her recipes.

Melissa said she remembers helping her late Aunt Mae Lambert (of Chilhowee View) make sauerkraut the old fashion way, using a crock to let it ferment in for days. I know it is much better this way, however, not many people will take the time to prepare it like that. Melissa said she was going to try it this summer.

These days making kraut and wieners consists of opening a can or a bag of sauerkraut and adding meat. We served ours with fried potatoes and cooked apples, with some grilled pork tenderloin for the non-kraut eaters.

Sauerkraut was a good way for our ancestors to keep some Vitamin C in their diets by preserving their cabbage through the winter. In those days, Vitamin C was hard to come by in the winter and sauerkraut was a excellent source.

The word sauerkraut comes from the German language, which literally translates to sour cabbage. During World War I, due to the concerns the American public would reject a product with a German name, American sauerkraut makers relabeled their product as “Liberty Cabbage” for the duration of the war.

If using pre-packaged sauerkraut, there really is no recipe. Just brown hot dogs, ham chunks or sausage in a medium saucepan, then add the kraut.

Cook till heated through.

If you want to make some sauerkraut yourself, here’s a simple, quick way to start your process. It will be ready to eat in 4 to 6 weeks.

Sauerkraut Made In Jars

5 lb. cabbage

3 Tablespoons salt

Shred cabbage fine and place with salt in a large pan, mixing well. Pack solidly in sterilized jars.

Fill the jars with cold water to within about 1/2 inch of jar tops and seal tightly.

The sauerkraut will ferment in about 3 or 4 days and will be ready to eat in 4 to 6 weeks.

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