The Making of Sauerkraut

The Making of Sauerkraut

 Come the first of October ladies line up at our village market to put in an order for shredded cabbage. It is the beginning of sauerkraut season. The clerk writes down the quantity of cabbage for each family, then an order is placed for the entire village. Within a few days a notice is posted in the shop window announcing the date of delivery. The village PA system announces the date as well. Throughout the next week we are reminded of the date and time that we are to pick up our cabbage. This year it is Tuesday, 15 October. I mark the day on my calendar and block out enough time to make sauerkraut, just as all the other women are doing. Before sun rise, on the morning of the 15th, the village PA system breaks the silence of the early morning by informing us that the cabbage truck is due to arrive at 8:30 in the morning. We all jump into action. Crocks are washed out and lined up on the floor, onions are brought up from the cellar and sliced. Dill is brought in from the barn where it has been hanging to dry. Packets of salt and cumin seed are opened. At 7:00 the older ladies of the village start gathering at the village shop, pushing their hand carts or pulling their wagons. They know the truck won’t arrive for another hour or so but it is an occasion for conversation and gossip. These ladies are the pros, well-organized and efficient. They’ve got the routine down pat. Just before 8:30 the younger ladies arrive. These are the working women who have taken off the morning to collect their cabbage. When the truck arrives the back door is flung open. The driver climbs in and starts calling off names. Each order is bagged with the name and weight written clearly on a tag. The driver barks, “ Novakova 10 kilos, Kasparova 30 kilos” and on and on. They all wait until their name is called, then pay for their order and haul the cabbage home. After all the ladies are gone, a few bags lay on the floor of the truck, unclaimed.  They are lowered to the pavement. The store clerk carries them inside of the store. These bags belong to the novices. The ladies that are not so organized and experienced. I’m one of these ladies. I send my husband to claim my bag after the rush is over. I have arranged for my friend to help me make my sauerkraut again this year. I am at her house helping her with her kraut. My friend is the matriarch of her family, which means that she is in charge of sauerkraut making for her daughter’s and granddaughter’s family ( and for me) as well as for herself. She is the expert, the one with the recipe. We all take turns chopping the cabbage and packing it in the crock but she adds the salt and cumin. She tastes each batch and gives her OK then gives us each a taste so we can develop the knowledge for making sauerkraut ourselves one day. After we finish, her granddaughter is left to clean up and she and I go to my house to prepare my cabbage. I have already prepared everything needed. My crock is cleaned and on the floor near the table. A bowl of sliced onions, packets of salt and cumin are on the table. A bunch of dried dill is washed and waiting. My husband has left the bag of shredded cabbage on the floor under the table. In a few minutes we are done. The crock is full, a wooden disk is placed on top of the cabbage and weight down with a stone. The crock will stay in a warm place for a couple of weeks or so then it will be moved to the cellar where it will remain all winter.