For the last two hundred years, Tancook Islanders
have been growing cabbage for the art of making sauerkraut.
The cabbage is planted in early spring from home-produced seed. The kind of
cabbage that is selected to dry for the seed is very important. Some say it is
a cabbage that has two leaves covering the outer head instead of four.
In the fall the
cabbage is picked and shredded. It is then packed into barrels with course
salt. The sauerkraut must age in the barrels for a couple of weeks. A large rock is used to push the mixture
down. As the cabbage ages, the volume of juice rises and falls in the barrel.
According to legend the volume of juice rises and falls with the changing
tides. At high tide, the brine sometimes overflows. At low tide the brine
level drops in the barrel. The cabbage brine (juice) is also known as broth or
In the past, most
families grew cabbage and made a barrel of kraut at least for their own use.
Some islanders sold sauerkraut on the mainland. All the work was carried out in
special cabbage buildings. In the 1800s and early 1900s the cabbage was
stomped by using bare feet before it was put into the barrels.
The art of sauerkraut
is slowing dying out on Tancook. A few islanders are working hard to keep the
tradition alive. You can still buy original Tancook sauerkraut
in some Lunenburg County stores or directly from Tancook producers.
The word sauerkraut
means sour cabbage.