The Fine Points of Making Kraut

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A bumper crop of cabbages in New York State means heaps of sauerkraut. Neighbors in a rural community in northern New York recently gathered to celebrate this culinary custom.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

A bumper crop of cabbages in New York State means heaps of sauerkraut. Neighbors in a rural community in northern New York recently gathered to celebrate this culinary custom. They took freshly picked cabbages and sliced and shredded them with the device called a wooden food mandolin, and the aspiring sauerkraut was then salted and packed into plastic buckets.

North Country Public Radio's Todd Moe sent this audio postcard.

Ms. FIE WILSON(ph) (Resident, New York): My name is Fie Wilson. We are, I guess, the first step, placing the cabbage in half and then getting the water out. And then we have to get in the yucky leaves off. But they look really nice. And then we pour them just to get this hard inside part out. And that's pretty much it. And then we hand it off.

Mr. MAX CODIE McGUIRE(ph) (Resident, New York): My name is Max Codie McGuire and I'm working with the mandolin here. Just slicing cabbage. You just start with a quarter or a half head of cabbage. And you brace the mandolin against something sturdy and just work the - I don't know what this is called but the sliding tree that's moving the cabbage back and forth across the blades.

TODD MOE: There's a box and the cabbage was sitting in the box.

Mr. McGUIRE: Yup. Yeah.

Ms. PATRICIA GREEN(ph) (Resident, New York): I'm Patricia Green. I'm mixing the shredded cabbage with the right amount of salt. And then we're going to get perfect sauerkraut here. In a minute, we're going to be tacking it down on (unintelligible). We have to get it thoroughly mixed first. Yeah. My family was German so I got to like it. But we're going to get to like it even more whatever with the whole huge bucket of it.

(Soundbite of sawing)

Ms. VALERIE WHITE(ph) (Resident, New York): My name is Valerie White in one of my kitchens.

MOE: You picked them, you washed them. What are some of the stuffs to make some kraut.

Ms. WHITE: We pour them. We shred them. You want them to be shredded pretty consistently so as they ferment and break down in the bucket, they all break down at the same rate. So that, you know, it's sort of a consistent product from top to bottom. And you nurture it. You need to keep your eye on it, check on it a couple of times a week and make sure that the process is going just fine. And you'll see bubbling. And that will let you know if the fermentation is happening. The salt leaches liquid out of the cabbage. And that's what forms the brine in which it sits and ferments.

MOE: How long have you been making sauerkraut?

Ms. WHITE: Probably about 10 years or so. My grandmother used to make it. And I remember watching her. But I don't - I didn't do it for a long time. There was a little bit of a sauerkraut lapse in my life.

MOE: And you're back to it.

Mr. WHITE: I'm back in. Absolutely.

SIMON: A sauerkraut session at Food for Thought Farm near Camp New York.

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