While strongly linked to German culture, sauerkraut points back to a way of life, when, among other things, people made their food from scratch. There wasn’t the degree of specialization that we have today where preparation is outsourced to specialists. It points to when the role of the woman was to manage the home and this included baking and cooking, not commuting to the office on a daily basis. The fermentation process that sauerkraut undergoes reminds us of the time before refrigeration, and this was one of the various methods that were used to preserve food.
I recall my grandfather describing how they made sauerkraut at home. After slicing the cabbage and putting it into a barrel, it would be crushed by foot, much like wine-makers crushed their grapes. Then the crushed cabbage would sit in a cold cellar and ferment for a while before eating.
The recipe was passed down by word-of-mouth, from mother to daughter. As it was made so frequently, there was no need to write it down. I searched the internet to find both the ingredients and importantly the process. In the end, I cherry-picked the ingredients from several recipes to recreate a taste that I remembered (see: Sauerkraut – hertha). Similarly with the process, I combined those steps I recognised into a process resembling that described to me by my grandfather.
: While my grandfather described in general the making of sauerkraut, he never provided the details, and I was too young to think about asking.