Cabbage head

Susan Manzke
Salted cabbage goes into containers as part of the sauerkraut making process.

We didn’t grow any cabbage in our garden this year, so when I saw beautiful heads for sale I had to buy one. The one I choose was so big I almost couldn’t carry it to the car. At home it took up residence on our kitchen counter while I decided what to do with it.

Should I make it into cabbage rolls? Cabbage soup? Slaw? I couldn’t make up my mind, so the large head stayed untouched. With that large head I could do them all. Then it hit me. I would make sauerkraut. Out came the cutting board and knives. I attacked the green leafy ball.

I had to dissect the cabbage into smaller pieces before I could cut it into little kraut type slices. The knife sliced into the green, but held up midway in the firm head. With a lot of effort, I finally managed to take off a lump. 

Even with a good knife, slicing up this vegetable was going to take time. I brought out my food processor to help but it would only take fist-sized chunks, so still lots of cutting. 
Bob wandered into the kitchen and offered to help. (Or did I draft him?) He took over the chunking and buzzing those bits through the processor.

Bob helps make sauerkraut.

Cabbage soon filled the bowl I had out. I gathered more bowls.

When everything was cut, Bob and I discussed which container would best suit our project. Everything we had was either too large (meaning more heads of cabbage to fill that crock) or too small, which meant two containers.

We ended up with a small crock and a glass jar. The only thing to do next was to mix in some salt — we kind of measured and kind of guessed about the amount of salt.

Now our two containers are sitting on our kitchen counter, fermenting. Eventually, time will turn the salted cabbage into sauerkraut. 

All this cabbage work reminded me of my dad. Making kraut was one of his favorite fall activities.

He planted and grew his cabbage — fighting away wild critters who wanted to eat them. When it came time to transform the cabbage into kraut, Dad brought out an ancient cabbage slicer made of wood and metal — it was like a mandolin people use in kitchens today, but much larger.

He set this up in our backyard, over a large crock. Dad didn’t need to cut his cabbage into chunks with this slicer. All he did was remove the outer leaves, throw them into a bushel basket, and start moving one head back and forth on the slicer.

I doubt if Dad measured the salt he added to the crock with the cabbage. He just knew what was needed. He had helped his mother make sauerkraut since he was a young boy. It just came natural to him.

Back then Dad didn’t want my sister or me to use the cabbage slicer. He was sure we’d cut off a finger or something. All we could do was watch.

When finished with all the slicing and salting, Dad carried the heavy crock inside the house to wait for fermentation to take place.

One time after the crock was put away, my cousin came by and asked, “Uncle Chuck, what are you doing?”

Of course, he said, “I’m making sauerkraut.”

He then jumped into the bushel basket with his bare feet and began stomping on the leaves he had removed. My cousin was appalled and never, ever tasted sauerkraut made at our house or anywhere. Dad’s joke ruined the cabbage dish for her forever.

I am not dancing on cabbage leaves today. I’m still trying to clean up all the bits of cabbage that escaped from our bowls. 

I can’t ask Dad how long it will take before we have kraut. He’s been gone since 1991.

Google answers say it will be finished between three days to two weeks. We’ll just have to keep an eye on our containers. Eventually Bob and I will have a side dish that is tasty and brings back good memories, too.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;