4 Wheelin With Babci

by Sandy L on November 7, 2010

Got Kraut?

Every November, Babci buys 20 heads of winter cabbage and makes just about the best sauerkraut known to man.  She is very particular about her kraut making process.

Here are some of her requirements:

  1. She has to have a special type of late picked winter cabbage
  2. She has a special way to shred it.
  3. Most important of all, it can only be made with real spring water, fresh from a mountain spring.

She claims that without real spring water, the cabbage gets brown and mushy. In case you’re not a sauerkraut tasting expert (which I’m sure you’re not), the key to a good kraut requires full fermentation of the cabbage without compromising the color or crispness of the product.  She claims chlorination is evil and ruins the water and even the store bought spring water is no good.

The Road to Get There

What does this mean to me? It means that every fall, I have to go 4 wheeling in the woods to damn near the top of a mountain to get Babci her spring water. The only way to get there is a crappy mountain road that can only be navigated with an all wheel drive vehicle.  Some years it’s so washed out that I question my judgment and wonder if it’ll make it out of there without a tow truck.  This year we haven’t had much rain, so thankfully it wasn’t that bad.

October Mountain Spring

I mean wouldn’t you want your water to come from a fern and moss covered mountainside?  Although Babci did just tell me she was pulling beer cans out of our neighbor’s recycle bin, there are still some things she just won’t compromise on.

It’s actually a beautiful area called October Mountain. We even drive by James Taylor’s house to get there.  For Babci, it’s worth the extra effort. There is no store bought kraut that even comes close to the quality of hers.

That is one thing I learned with my hobby obsession. Because of economies of scale, it’s not always cheaper to make your products from scratch, but sometimes, you just can’t find the quality that you’re looking for. That’s when it makes sense to do it yourself. My cheese making instructor said the same thing. He said that no store bought cheese comes close to the ones that he makes. He can  tailor his cheeses especially for his palate and you just can’t get that at the local supermarket.

Do you or someone you love go to great lengths to make or procure a certain kind of product for the holidays?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly On Money November 7, 2010 at 7:03 PM

I love this! I can believe that the water must effect the taste of the sauerkraut. Our traditional food is NM green chili. Every last summer we buy 30lb of chili, have the farmer roast them and come home and peel them. It takes a couple of hours and I do it without gloves (the skins are very delicate and its hard to peel with gloves on). After I have to soak my hands in milk because they burn so bad from the chili.

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Nicole November 7, 2010 at 7:33 PM

Oh wonderful story! You must really love her for that.

Um… my father always makes a point of going to Aldi to get a Stollen… does that count as great lengths?

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Sandy L November 8, 2010 at 4:55 AM

MoM – Wow, bare handed chili peeling. Now that’s hard core. Yum. They must be great though. I love those kinds of traditions.

Nicole – LoL – all traditions are pretty cool if you ask me. I don’t get stollen though or any fruitcake tradition. Has anyone had a good fruitcake ever? I’m always amazed she wants to go with me..with her fear of bandits and all. I think she wants proof that I didn’t just run to my house and fill it with my tap water.

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Nicole November 8, 2010 at 6:56 AM

I have a few good fruit cake recipes. The trick is to make from scratch and to use actual dried fruit instead of artificial candied fruit. (One of my grandma in laws also makes a great fruitcake, but my MIL hates it. I think eating almost an entire one by myself made up for my previous sins in this grandma’s eyes.)

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Squirrelers November 8, 2010 at 1:02 PM

That sounds fantastic! I’ll bet it blows away any sauerkraut one would buy from a store. Very cool stuff. Sounds like one of those great processes and recipes that very few of us could replicate, even if we we told exactly how she does it. I enjoy these stories of Babci and her talents.

This gets me thinking about a video clip that was shown last night on a Sunday night football game. The game was in Green Bay, so they as usual they show some brief clips of that share the local flavor. One was of a sauerkraut factory, where they showed in short time (10 to 15 seconds maybe) how it’s processed, including a step where a bunch of guys in boots are in this bin working on the kraut. Even the announcer commented on how he’d think of those boots when trying sauerkraut the next time. Which was exactly what I thought, though it might not have been the intent of the video clip.

I’m sure Babci’s version is better:)

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Lindy Mint November 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Wow, real spring water. That’s hard core. It also sounds like a lot of fun!

It’s not as exciting, but my mom is known as the Fudge Lady around these parts. She has my brother-in-law order her up cases of Marshmallow Fluff since they don’t sell it on the west coast. It makes way better fudge than that other brand.

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Invest It Wisely November 8, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Wow, that’s really cool that you guys live near an actual mountain spring. I would love to try that sauerkraut!

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Crystal November 8, 2010 at 3:59 PM

Wow – that is true love. And probably very good sauerkraut!

In regards to fruitcake, I LOVE it! Not the store bought with crappy candied fruit, but homemade fruitcakes with dried fruit is amazing! I can easily eat half of one in one sitting…

None of my family has a tradition like this but I do drive my grandparents to a family reunion 3 1/2 hours away every year…

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Everyday Tips November 8, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Great story, as always. We had a cottage up north growing up, and we always drove to what was called the ‘artisan well’ to get our drinking water. It was ice cold and wonderful. We filled up gallons and gallons of milk just and used that as our water for the week, so I understand Babci. (I want to go drive to that well and see if it is still running now. It did not require an ATV to get to it either.)

I grew up on sauerkraut as my german parents loved it. I cannot stand it, but I am sure that Babci’s is better than what I ate.

By the way, my jelly arrived in the mail tomorrow. I made some fresh bread and I am waiting for it to cool to taste it! Thank you so much!

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Money Reasons November 8, 2010 at 8:25 PM

Sounds pretty fantastic! Such skill and focus is missing in a world full of McDonald junkies (including me).

It’s good to see you treat your mom so well too!

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Sandy L November 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Nicole and BFS – Maybe I should try fruitcake. I’ve only ever been exposed to the crappy kind. I didn’t know there was such thing as good fruitcake. Candied fruit, blehck.

Squirreler – Yuck..add yet another reason to make it from scratch. I assure you no part of anyone’s feet were involved in the manufacturing of said kraut.

Everyday Tips – Growing up, we had a place we used to go to called “Indian Rock.” It actually had a faucet and everything. It was much easier to get to than our new place, but since Indian Rock is hours away, we go into the woods instead. Hmm..homemade bread. I killed Mason (my sourdough starter) last week. I’m so sad. I’ll have to wait til the holidays to make a new batch as I won’t be home enough days in a row to restart it.

Lindy Mint – yeah, a guy from work swears by Fluff for his fudge. Cases of fluff though? She must make a lot of fudge.

Invest It – Perhaps that’ll be my next giveaway.

Money Reasons – it really is a dying art. I don’t eat enough kraut to be bothered to learn. Babci’s not the best teacher. Maybe someday she’ll show me how. She babies the stuff for a few weeks. I don’t know if I’d have the patience for it.

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Nicole November 9, 2010 at 7:05 AM

My aunt-in-law videotaped my grandma-in-law (not the fruitcake one… the fruitcake one just uses the recipe on the can of condensed milk and rarely cooks) make all her famous recipes… grandma’s rolls, grandma’s yellow noodles, grandma’s cinnamon buns etc. Because of course she doesn’t actually use the recipe she wrote down. Of course, none of those take weeks.

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retirebyforty November 12, 2010 at 7:15 PM

yum, I want some sauerkraut. You should make a contest post. :)
Babci is very popular on the internet.

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