March 17, 2010

Sour Kraut and a Story to go with it

 It was always my job to grate the cabbage. I was good at it, at least that is what my grandmother always told the neighbors that were helping. She may have just told me I was good at it to get me to want to do it. She was really good at getting me to work. I was always convienced that she could read my mind, really I thought she could tell what I was thinking. The cabbage was the first thing ready each year to preserve. It and the onions were planted at the end of February.  The reasons one the bugs would eat the cabbage up if it was mature when they came out for the spring. Reason two onions and cabbage were not easily damaged if a sudden cold spell brought a late frost. We would place a table under the tree at the south end of the house. That is where we prepared the cabbage.

We always got started early in the morning. Cutting the cabbage from the garden was another fun chore to me. I honestly liked everything we did in the garden and still love to grow vegtables, only not on a large scale as we did growing up. The neighbor ladies that swapped work with us were a hoot. I as a child loved to listen to adult conversation. My grandmother had dear friends. She was however skeptical of friends and I never understood her when she said, "if you live your whole life and can count your true friends on one had you have done well."  The ladies that came to help us were possibly wanting our help as well, but it did make the chore more entertaining. One of the ladies had nerve problems and had actuallly been at one time commited to Bryce mental hospital. A place that I to this day have many memories of because my mother was sent there when I was in the fourth grade. Pearl, the neighbor, did not seem crazy. Grandmother called it a spell with her nerves when she was not able to help with the canning. She also always said that nerves were a thing you had to fight. To control your nerves a person had to get a hold on themself. I would say now, get a grip.

The other lady was Sis. Sis was a very kind lady. My brother always loved her. The house that she lived in was terrible. There was no paint at all on the outside of it. It smelled really bad of the coal heater used to heat it. My grandmother always said Ural, her husband wasn't worth a shit. He never worked except to have one small cotten patch. I still remember picking cotten for them. He would not go to much expense to hire help like Grandmother. She would talk Sis and Ural into letting me help so I could earn some money for school clothes. Sis worked very hard to make up for her lazy husband. Their grandaughter lived with them so she could attend the rural school. Her mother worked in town and lived there to be closer. She a divorced lady that always fasinated me. There were not as many divorced people then as there are now. Sis was very quiet as we went about the food preserving business. As I think now it was probably because she really did not want anyone to know her business. I embarressed my grandmother several times mentioning things that she had said about her lady friends as we were working. I really needed to figure out who's sisters, brothers, moms and dads belonged to who.

Grandmother had this way that to this day gripes me. She acted as she was working harder than anyone. She was working hard she just added a fast pace that was really not necessary. She did this mainly when she thought you shouldn't be stopping work. She always wanted someone doing something. My bus ride to school was forty-five minutes. I would often think, ok the cotton is picked, the cane is shocked, the garden is dead: what could we possibly have to do today? I would get off the bus to find that the potatoes in the crib of the barn had grown sprouts that needed to be pulled off. This made the potatoes last longer. Fried potatoes were so good with the sour kraut.

Kraut was really one of the easiest things we made. Chopping the cabbage really was the hardest part. All it was was packing the cabbage in the jar and coverin that with water to the curve under the rim of the jar. Then you put a spoon full of sugar and a spoon full of salt before you put the lid and ring on the jar. The place we stored it is still funny to me. There was a headge row bush beside the pasture fence that we placed the finished kraut under. The headge was low to the ground and made a constant shade to keep it cool enough. If there was any left by cool weather it was then brought into the house and placed on the curtain covered shelf.

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