Like it or not, sauerkraut was a staple in Apps' household
When I was a kid, if you were of German heritage, you knew about sauerkraut. If you didn’t like sauerkraut, you got over it, for especially in the winter, you ate a lot of sauerkraut. Ma had many ways of preparing it: baked sauerkraut, fried sauerkraut, sauerkraut and pork chops, sauerkraut and ham, sauerkraut and pock hocks, sauerkraut cake.
A row of cabbage stretched from one end of the home garden to the other. By mid-October, the cabbage was ready for harvesting. Once harvested, Pa sliced the cabbage into shreds with a cabbage slicer, which he called a finger shortener.
Ma tucked the cabbage shreds into a five-gallon Red Wing crock and sprinkled salt on each layer of cabbage. My brothers and I took turns tamping down the shredded cabbage with a piece of stove wood. We did this until the crock was filled nearly to the top.
On top of the shredded cabbage, Ma placed some cheesecloth that overlapped the edges of the crock, and on top of that, a big round plate that fit inside the crock and, weighted down with a field stone. In a few weeks, it was ready for eating.
Today, when I am alone at the farm, where we have a wood-burning cookstove, I will often dig out the big cast-iron fry pan and fry up a batch of sauerkraut. The smell of the frying kraut takes me back to the home farm kitchen and its many memories. I still like sauerkraut.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sauerkraut is low in calories and high in vitamin C and Vitamin K.
Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com