Soul Food: Vonnie’s Sauerkraut

Note: Sorry for the belated post.  I was so caught up with the Thanksgiving Holidays (binge watching “The Newsroom” and working on a puzzle all day) that I forgot to post this week’s Soul Food blog.  Oops.


TomVonnie’s Sauerkraut

By Tom Unfried

Nothing says it’s Thanksgiving Day like sauerkraut.

Wait, sauerkraut? The stuff that smells like a fart when it’s cooking and looks like rotten coleslaw? Yup, that’s the stuff. In an earlier post I shared the Swedish part of my heritage. Now kroppkakor is a really special dish served when the old-world generation felt like having their skin flayed by grating potatoes, but for the Germans in my family sauerkraut was an important part of every shared meal. Apparently some members of my family made large batches of it in old barrels kept in their garage. It was such an important part of our gatherings that my grandmother lovingly approved of my mother’s attempt to make it less sour. So while I can’t remember ever having homemade sauerkraut, I still imagine the way my grandmother’s kitchen smelled while this special recipe cooked (of course it helps that I live in my grandmother’s home.)

sauerkrautVonnie’s Sauerkraut

1 glass jar of sauerkraut

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

Sliced red potatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley for color


Optional: Caraway seeds


The evening before serving, pour sauerkraut into a colander and rinse. Place rinsed sauerkraut in crock-pot. Add can of soup and one can of water. Slice 4-5 small red potatoes and add to the pot. Add salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook on low until ready to serve. Periodically add water to keep covered.


  • Some gourmet sauerkraut comes refrigerated in a plastic pouch. Don’t get this since the plastic bag imparts a bad flavor to the cabbage. Likewise canned sauerkraut. It doesn’t matter what brand, but always get sauerkraut in a glass container.
  • Any kind of potato will do – I use red with the skin still on to add color. Just watch the volume – don’t add more than one large baking potato for each jar of sauerkraut. Potato absorbs the sour, so less potato will make the recipe more tart…not necessarily a bad thing.
  • If you like things more sour, drain the juice from the jar before rinsing the sauerkraut. Add as much of the juice back as you want to taste.
  • Only you can determine the amount of salt and pepper. Remember, you are rinsing the brine from the sauerkraut, so it will be bland if you don’t add salt back in.
  • Parsley adds no flavor to the recipe. I add it to contrast with red for the holidays.
  • Caraway seed is an acquired taste – Germans will love it, Americans may not. You can always make it available on the side.
  • We cook this in the garage. If you cook it overnight and close your bedroom door, you will be greeted in the morning with a “fragrant odor” that will stick around for days.
  • Doubling is easy, just be sure to add a can of water for each can of soup.

This recipe can be made into a meal by adding pork chops, chicken, bratwurst, or even hot dogs. You only need to strain off the potatoes if you’re going to add it to a hot dog bun. If you’re a glutton for nasal punishment, learn how to make sauerkraut here:

I cannot remember ever having homemade sauerkraut, but I imagine I did when I was very little. What I do remember is the way my grandmother’s kitchen smelled when this was cooking. That memory (and of course my grandmother) is something for which I am always grateful.

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