All sauerkraut, all the time

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

-- Saveur magazine includes a simple sauerkraut recipe in its current issue. The basic recipe found online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation calls for 25 pounds of cabbage with 3/4 cup salt and yields nine quarts of sauerkraut. Chef John Shields of Gertrude's in Baltimore says that, following the same directions, 10 pounds of cabbage with 6 tablespoons of salt should yield four to five quarts.

-- To prevent scurvy in the 1700s, British explorer Capt. James Cook's provisions included "40 bushels of malt, 1000 lb of portable soup, vinegar, mustard, wheat, together with 'proper Quantities of sauer Kraut."

-- In the introduction to his 1996 book, "Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom," Sidney Mintz writes evocatively about his Belarus-born father's cabbage and sauerkraut soup. Mintz, a professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, recalls his father's stories about digging deep trenches to line with wood for curing kraut when he was serving in the czar's army. "Once a soldier fell in and drowned in the sauerkraut," Mintz says.

-- During World War I, sauerkraut was rebranded as "liberty cabbage" to counter anti-German sentiment. Years later, Baltimore native H.L. Mencken wrote about it in his column called Table Words, published in the New York American and Los Angeles Examiner, Dec. 24, 1934: "When, during the World War, certain super-patriots went about the country seeking to extirpate every vestige of the German Kultur, they quickly collided with sauerkraut and were bested by it. Unable to induce Americans to stop eating it, they tried to change its name to liberty cabbage, but the only reply was a laugh, and it went on under its original colors."

-- The next Kraut Fest will take place Jan. 9-10 at Gertrude's at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Dr., 410-889-3399. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door; there will be a cash bar.

-- Martha Thomas

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