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Memories of My Grandparents Making Sauerkraut in Antique Ceramic Crocks

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Photo of my maternal grandparents taken by me with my Brownie box camera in 1960.

Photo of my maternal grandparents taken by me with my Brownie box camera in 1960.

Ah, Memories!

My parents' and grandparents' made sauerkraut in my grandparents' basement each year in those large old ceramic crocks. Those memories remain in my mind from my childhood days.

I can almost smell that freshly fermenting sauerkraut now as I am writing this, numerous decades after the fact! There is nothing quite like that smell, which early on I grew to love. Oh...and that excellent fresh and crunchy sauerkraut taste when it is still raw...all I can say is that there is nothing quite like it for flavor.

If you have only tasted jarred or canned sauerkraut, you have missed out on a unique flavor profile of cabbage in this fermentation state.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

Gardening

As a hobby, my grandfather loved gardening. He not only grew beautiful flowers, trees and tended his yard with loving care, but he always had a massive garden. In fact, he had several gardens!

We grew up next to my grandparents with a path between our houses in the field. Later they sold the big house and purchased one next door to us. It is in that house that I vividly remember the sauerkraut making days!

After harvesting his cabbages in the fall of the year, my parents would help my grandparents clean and shred the cabbages and put them into some large crocks they utilized each year to make sauerkraut.

As a child, I was not privy to the actual ingredients nor the method as they often did this chore after my parents had my brothers and me tucked safely into our beds at night. Oh, but I remember the great smells emanating from my grandparent's basement each year as this cabbage slowly turned into sauerkraut.

We often got to sample the sauerkraut out of a crock as it progressed in the fermentation process to determine when it was just right.

My grandparents could keep it that way for quite some time as the basements were cold, but at some point, my mother and grandmother would can the sauerkraut, preserving it for a much more extended time.

memories-of-my-grandparents-their-basement-ceramic-crocks-and-sauerkraut

Making Sauerkraut

As I have come to find out, the process of making sauerkraut is easy if one has the freshly harvested cabbages, a few key ingredients, and the right equipment.

You can save money by making sauerkraut instead of buying it ready-made. You can also add other flavorings to your liking, so do check out the many online recipes. Look at the video below to see the ease of making sauerkraut at home.

German Food

My grandparents were both of German descent and often made German food dishes. With German culture as a backdrop and a vegetable garden ready to provide nutritious ingredients, there was always something flavorful made in my grandmother's and my mother's kitchen.

Pork roasts with brown gravy, homemade applesauce, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes were a favorite meal. Of course, there was the fresh garden salad to accompany the dinner and some homemade dessert. Desserts were prominent in the midwest, where I grew up. A meal was not considered complete without some sweet ending.

German bratwurst on the grill was another excellent pairing for the sauerkraut.

We did not just eat the unadorned sauerkraut out of the canning jars. My mother always grated some potato or even apple into the sauerkraut after rinsing it from the brine and most often added caraway seeds. The apple gave it a little hint of sweetness to offset the acidity. That is how I still cook sauerkraut to this day.

She also made a wonderful red cabbage recipe, but that is off-topic except to say that it relates to cabbage. My mother and grandmother were both excellent cooks.

Mettwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes

Mettwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes

Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

In the "olden days," sailors used to carry sauerkraut aboard their ships to avoid getting scurvy. Fresh fruits containing Vitamin C would have been harder to keep for extended periods, whereas the sauerkraut maintained a high level of essential vitamins.

I caught an episode of Doctor Oz on the television the other day, and he was quizzing a couple of ladies as to whether they thought raw cabbage or sauerkraut had more health benefits. Both ladies chose the raw cabbage, and while that is excellent for nutrition, their answers were wrong.

In addition to fiber, vitamins, and a small amount of iron, sauerkraut has ingredients called isothiocyanates and sulforaphane, fighting against cancer development.

The raw fermented sauerkraut that I used to love eating has even more of those healthy assets! Many of the specific health benefits are negated if pasteurized and canned. So look for fresh unpasteurized sauerkraut in refrigerated sections of grocery stores for the best health benefits.

Sauerkraut also helps boost the immune system and is low in calories. It only has about 32 calories a cup. Be sure and rinse it before eating as the sodium content is high and can be lessened by this critical step.

Are you ready to start eating more sauerkraut armed with this information?

Source:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 25, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

Thanks for the pin. Have you ever eaten partially fermented sauerkraut? It is delicious!

justmesuzanne from Texas on July 18, 2013:

Pinned to my Healthier Choices board! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 22, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

Yes...sauerkraut certainly counts as a health food. Glad that you enjoyed this hub and thanks for your votes and comment.

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 21, 2013:

What good information! I have read a bit recently about how fermented veggies are really good for you! I will give this a try! Voted up and useful! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2012:

Hello Irc7815,

I would like to think that my grandparents and parents would be looking down on me and liking these type of articles. In my memory, I can still smell that fermenting sauerkraut! Thanks for your comment.

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on August 14, 2012:

What a fun hub! Your ancestors would be proud!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2012:

Hi dwachira,

Nice that you also have memories of your grandparents with regard to cooking. My grandfather was an avid gardener and with so much cabbage, it was natural that they decided to make sauerkraut and once made, it was preserved by canning. Lots of other vegetables were also put up that way. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on August 02, 2012:

I have great memories about my grandparents, my grandfather was an expert in roasting meat and he would go into great lengths to entertain us all during Xmas season. I enjoyed reading this, voted up and useful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 17, 2012:

Hi moonlake,

We also used to have many of those crocks but we have given them away through the years. I have only kept one small one as a memento...not one large enough in which to make the sauerkraut. Nice that you still have one from your husband's family. Thanks for your comment and vote.

moonlake from America on July 16, 2012:

We have a huge crock that belonged to my husband's Great Aunt and Uncle. They use to make sauerkraut in it in the basement. His family was also German. Enjoyed your hub and voted up.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 16, 2012:

Hello Rebecca2904,

It is true that scents can definitely evoke memories of the past. Nice that smelling Old Spice can transport you to memories of being on your grandfather's knee. That is nice!

Have you written about the German foods you mentioned? They sound interesting. Thanks for commenting on this memory of mine with my grandparents and their homemade sauerkraut making in their basement each year.

Rebecca on July 16, 2012:

Great article! I agree, nothing can quite inspire a memory like a smell can - if I even get just a whiff of Old Spice them I'm once again a little girl, sitting on my Grandad's knee.

I have to confess I'm not the greatest fan of sauerkraut (in fact I avoid it like the plague) but you've provided some great recipes here! When I first moved to Germany, it took my taste buds a while to adjust. Pretty much everything was too salty, meaty, heavy, or had me turning my nose up at it for some other reason. But now I love German food! especially Blaukraut and Kartoffelknödel, I don't know if they're really available anywhere outside Germany, but I definitely recommend them :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2012:

Hi alocsin,

Yes, certain scents can certainly evoke memories! Nice that you can think of your grandmother when you smell that combination of jasmine and make-up. I may never again smell sauerkraut as it is being fermented unless I try making it myself. It scented my grandparent's entire basement. I loved that smell! Thanks for your comment and votes.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 14, 2012:

Interesting how smells can evoke the memory of a person. There's a particular combination of jasmine and make-up powder smells that brings the memories of my grandmother back because that was the fragrance she always wore. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2012:

Hi Vin Chauhun,

You guessed right. I'm almost 100% German on my mother's side of the family and about 50% German / 50% Norwegian on my father's side. Umm...sauerkraut. Wish I had some of the wonderful half fermented sauerkraut out of my grandparent's crocks in their basement right now. But that would zap me back around 60 years. Until time travel backwards and forwards becomes possible, I'll just settle for my memories. :) Thanks for your comment.

Vin Chauhun from Durban on July 02, 2012:

i guess i would have to give making sauerkraut a bash....and see how it goes...ich muss probieren....i assume u are german background :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2012:

Hello C.d. Fojtik,

Wow...40 gallons of sauerkraut! No wonder it was eaten often. So wonderful when made fresh like that. So glad that reading this brought back memories for you and I appreciate your comment. Thanks!

C.d. Fojtik on March 13, 2012:

Reading all the comments brought back memories of going to the smoke house where grandmother had a 40 gallon wooden barrel full Of crout we ate crout almost ever meal!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2011:

Hi Thelma Alberts,

One of my favorite ways to eat sauerkraut is with a good old fashioned pork roast baked with onions and caraway seeds...and of course, mashed potatoes to go along with it. I "doctor up" canned sauerkraut by grating apples into it for a little sweetness and also add caraway seeds. Glad you liked this hub about my grandparents (and parents) making homemade sauerkraut. Thanks for your comment.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 08, 2011:

Hi! I love eating sauerkraut with bratwurst,potatoes and brown gravy. It´s my favorite of all the German food although the sauerkraut comes from a can. As a change I cooked sauerkraut with Kassler, another preserve German pork meat. It´s delicious! Great hub and thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 04, 2011:

Hello chuckandus6,

I agree. I cherish these memories of my grandparents even doing mundane things like making sauerkraut. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Nichol marie from The Country-Side on May 04, 2011:

memories are a wonderful way of keeping those we love close in our heart great story

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 07, 2010:

Hi Tony,

The taste of homemade sauerkraut...especially when it is still partially fermented and still quite crunchy is a taste that cannot be replicated once it is canned and jarred. It is delicious! It was many years ago...actually most of my lifetime...when my parents and grandparents made sauerkraut in my grandparent's basement each year. Those days ended when we moved to Texas from Wisconsin and no longer had the huge gardens.

Thanks for finding this hub. Thought that you would be interested since you also wrote a hub about sauerkraut.

Love and peace to you! Absolutely loved the hub you did about your memories of growing up in South Africa!

Tony McGregor from South Africa on December 06, 2010:

I love cabbage and sauerkraut too! Don't believe I've ever had homemade sauerkraut, though. Wish I had.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful memories.

Love and peace

Tony

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 01, 2010:

Hello smarty2pop,

You are correct. Memories of my grandparents, their basement and those ceramic crocks filled with freshly made sauerkraut are firmly embedded. Too bad your try at making sauerkraut was not as successful. Thanks for the comment.

smarty2pop on December 01, 2010:

I love homemade sauerkraut, I tried it myself but wasn't very successful. It's always nice to read about family traditions and I'm sure this one will stay in your mind forever. What nice memories.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 26, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

My grandparents and parents did work hard at harvesting all those wonderful foods from my grandfather's huge gardens. My mother told me that often my grandmother and mother working together would have just finished canning or working with one batch of vegetables when my grandmother would spot my grandfather coming in with another wheelbarrow full of produce. "Oh, oh...here he comes again!" I can still hear in my memory my mother relating that to me. The sauerkraut is such a vivid memory because of the distinctive smells emanating from the basement AND the delicious flavor! Thanks for commenting.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on November 26, 2010:

Lots of childhood memories. We ate sauerkraut in our family. It was very delicious. I admire your granparents for all the love and hard work they put into making this great food. Great videos and illustrations.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 24, 2010:

Hello minutecreature,

Glad that this hub about my grandparents, their basement, ceramic crocks and sauerkraut brought back happy memories of your grandfather helping you with your homework. Amazing how memories can be generated! Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 24, 2010:

Hi Rose,

Pork roast, apple, sauerkraut and caraway...yum! Making me hungry for that meal. We always had mashed potatoes to go with it and a salad. It is in the low 80's today and will be at least 80 degrees F. tomorrow for Thanksgiving but then the temperatures will get colder after that as a cold front moves through. Time to make something like this! Thanks for coming back and answering that question.

minutecreature on November 24, 2010:

Hi, I like your post because I quickly remember the memories we spent with my grandfather who always helped me do my school homeworks.

Rose West from Michigan on November 23, 2010:

Yes, I believe she does add a little caraway. It's a great dish for cold nights!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 23, 2010:

Hello Rose,

Oh yes...sauerkraut, the homemade kind, tastes ever so much better when freshly made. I relish the memories and can almost smell that sauerkraut in my grandparent's basement fermenting in those large old ceramic crocks that they had. Your mom's recipe is the perfect combination! Does she also use caraway seed with her pork roast and sauerkraut?

Rose West from Michigan on November 23, 2010:

I've never even thought about making sauerkraut at home - must taste even better than store-bought! My mom makes a pork roast with apples and sauerkraut in the crockpot - so yummy :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 23, 2010:

Hi Hello, hello,

I thought that you would like this hub about my memories of my grandparents, the crocks in the basement and sauerkraut being made! Isn't that fresh sauerkraut taste wonderful! Thanks for the comment.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 22, 2010:

Oh this hub is right up my street. It brought back all the memories. Sauerkraut is lovely. I can taste it right now. Thank you for a wonderful hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 21, 2010:

Hello agusfanani,

Thanks for the visit to this memory hub concerning my grandparents, and their basement filled with the lovely scents of sauerkraut being prepared in those ceramic crocks. Let me know if you try it and like it. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 21, 2010:

Hello Sally's Trove,

So happy to hear that this hub about my memories of my grandparents, parents, and the sauerkraut crocks in my grandparent's basement brought back happy memories and smells for you as well. Also, thanks for the votes up.

agusfanani from Indonesia on November 21, 2010:

I like pickle very much but I've never tried sauerkraut ( or I may have tried it but didn't realize its name). Considering its benefits I think I should make and try it.

I'm always amazed by your hubs, they are all beautiful and useful ! Thank you.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on November 21, 2010:

What a fun video, the song about sauerkraut. I don't understand the words, but the melody and rhythm are just as robust as the dish. That was fun!

Thanks for sharing these memories, Peggy. My family is Polish, and so much of the foods are the same. My grandmother and mother, both excellent cooks, fill my memories with hearty dishes from the bounty of the earth. Cabbage, capusta, was and is almost central to their cooking. I could smell my grandmother's kitchen while reading your words.

Voted up and awesome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Hi Ethel,

No, sauerkraut tastes different from pickled red cabbage. You'll have to give sauerkraut a try if you like the pickled red cabbage. And the fresh sauerkraut tastes different from the canned. Guess the only way for you to know is to try them. Let me know what you think if you do. Thanks!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on November 20, 2010:

Does suaerkraut taste like pickled red cabbage?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Hello samsons1,

Thanks for the comment on this hub about memories, my grandparents basement and sauerkraut crocks. Amazing what comes to mind from the days of our youth!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Hello Micky,

I like cabbage also in addition to that being made into sauerkraut. My mother used to make a red cabbage recipe out of Mader's cookbook (a wonderful German restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) that I thought was the best I have ever eaten. I have the cookbook so will have to make it sometime now that she is gone. Getting through this first set of holidays without her...not looking forward to it!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Hello Pamela,

Sounds like your grandmother and the other women on the porch who were cutting the cabbage to make sauerkraut had some fun. They probably visited the entire time that they were working. Do you remember eating the raw sauerkraut? My grandparents entire basement took on the smell of sauerkraut during that time when it was being made. As a kid I was fascinated and learned to love sauerkraut...especially at that stage of being freshly made.

Sam from Tennessee on November 20, 2010:

up and beautiful! Well written, enjoyed the videos also, Now I need to write one...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2010:

Hello dahoglund,

We like bratwurst a couple of times a year. When we lived in Wisconsin we learned about grilling them and then putting them in a mixture of beer and sauteed onions. That way they can be kept warm and readied for picnics whenever anyone wishes to eat. That was new to us but tasty.

As to the sauerkraut, that was enjoyed year round accompanying many different meals.

My mother recalled her Dad making root beer in the basement and having it explode like happened to your Dad. I guess it only happened once or twice but surely made an impression. Haha! Thanks for the first comment.

Micky Dee on November 20, 2010:

I love cabbage in every way. I love Korean kimchee too. I would love this sauerkraut! Thank you Dear Peggy!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 20, 2010:

Peggy, I really enjoyed this hub. When I was a little girl I remember a few women, including my grandmother, getting together on the porch and cutting cabbage for sauerkraut all day long. I hadn't thought of that in years. German food is delicious. Awesome hub, rated up!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 20, 2010:

My wife whose grandparents came from what is now Hungary is more attuned to German foods than I am. I take sauerkraut in small doses with hot dogs. I never saw quite the obsession with brats as there is in Wisconsin. Most of them have too much fat and I don't need to add to my cholesterol, mostly I don't like the taste of things high in fat.

The closest I can recall to your grandparents making sauerkraut was my dad making homemade rootbeer. He made the mistake of putting it in canning jars and when it fermented the jars exploded.

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