Around Hope Lutheran Church in Hubbard Lake, Helen Keller affectionately is known as the "boss of the cabbage." At age 92, it's her responsibility to cart quartered heads of cabbage from the church kitchen to the next station involved in the making of Hope's signature quart jars of sauerkraut.
"I may be 92, but I am only 19 at heart," said Keller, declining to take a break from her duties offered by a fellow parishioner.
Keller and about 30 other volunteers gathered on a recent fall morning to make sauerkraut using old-fashioned implements and the muscle power of several men in the congregation. Church members have been engaged in this culinary ritual for the past six years. They do it in anticipation of the annual church bazaar coming up on Nov. 9, where their big batch of sauerkraut typically sells out quickly.
Volunteer Kenneth Radke cuts the cabbage into large chunks that are then shredded in old-fashioned wooden shredders.
Sisters Esther Kubbe, left, and Helen Smith weigh and salt shredded cabbage during a sauerkraut making marathon at Hope Lutheran Church in Hubbard Lake.
A group of men from the church use handmade wood mallets to “stomp” the cabbage in large vintage crocks. Once the cabbage is the right consistency, it is left to cure in the crocks for two weeks before being canned in quart jars.
"We'll be making 400 to 500 quarts," said volunteer Shirley Abend. "There won't be a jar left."
It all starts with an order for 120 cabbages placed with the Joe Swartzinski farm in Ossineke. All the heads are donated to the church, along with 40 others given by various people who just kept bringing them into the church.
On sauerkraut-making day, the heads are first cleaned and cut into quarters. Then several of the men, including Pastor Herb Kitzman, use vintage wooden cabbage shredders to cut the chunks into shreds. From there, buckets of the cabbage goes to a table of ladies who weigh it and add the proper amount of kosher salt.
Hope Lutheran Church Bazaar
5462 W. Nicholson Hill Rd.,
Saturday, Nov. 9
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Soup and salad luncheon
Homemade baked items, canned goods, pasties, raffles, Cooking with Hope cookbook
From there, the shredded cabbage goes to an assembly line of other men who dump it into vintage crocks and "stomp" it with handmade wooden mallets until the cabbage juice is released and the mixture becomes watery. The crocks are covered with large plates and stones, then left to cure for about two weeks before being placed in the canning jars and boiled in a big vat for 20 minutes.
"We have such a great bunch of workers," Abend said of the collective effort. "We've had an amazing turnout."
Prior to whipping up the sauerkraut, volunteers spent one day concocting their "famous" horseradish and another day baking pasties. Both items also are popular at the bazaar which over the years has become a much anticipated event in the fall calendar.
"With the horseradish we have to limit how many jars people can take because it all would be gone in five minutes otherwise," said Jane Degen, current president of the Women of Hope group at the church.
Held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the bazaar this year will feature a soup and salad luncheon for $8, plus a wide variety of other pantry items like homemade jams and jellies, dilly beans, baked goods of all kinds and, of course, the sauerkraut, horseradish and pasties.
A raffle also will be held at the bazaar for a queen-size quilt, a table top quilt and a cross-stitch wall hanging. Other highlights are a large Chinese raffle and the selling of a church-produced cookbook called Cooking with Hope. The cookbook features recipes from parishioners.
Proceeds from the bazaar, which last year amounted to approximately $11,000, go to 15 different local organizations in the area such as the Sunrise Mission and the local fire department. Some of the proceeds also are used to pay toward the debt on the church's building addition.
With canning so many jars of sauerkraut, the church can always use more quart jars. Anyone with jars to donate toward the cause is welcome to contact the church at 727-3206. All others are invited to stop by the bazaar on Nov. 9 and hopefully be among the lucky ones to take home some sauerkraut or horseradish.