December 12, 2021

"Mostly Dutch" | Civil War Era Sauerkraut Recipe

 Jun 27. Marched today by the following name towns 1stWaynesboro, 2ndDunoy, 3rd Funkstown 4th Fayettsville & stopped at Greenwood for the night. Hard looking crowd in this country, mostly dutch. Cloudy this afternoon.

- R.T. Douglass, Co. F, 47th Va.

The Wisconsin Farmer, 1863
In the 1860s, sauerkraut was known to prevent scurvy and was seen as a necessary component of the diet of soldiers. Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art (1852) claimed it was a "certain cure for cholera," although we know this is not true.2  There was a call in newspapers for women at home to can sauerkraut to send to the soldiers to prevent diseases. Typical recipes from the time call for sauerkraut to be boiled with beef or other cuts of meat. 

Sauerkraut held strong associations with Germany as it still does today.  Although no official count exists, it is estimated that 216,000 union soldiers were German immigrants and another 250,000 were first-generation immigrants from Germany. There were even a number of German-Americans fighting in the Confederate army. They were frequently referred to as "Dutch".

If you want to make this 100% authentic, there are a variety of heirloom cabbage seeds you can still get today that were grown in the 1860s. The Late Flat Dutch variety is dated back before the 1830s and is valued for sauerkraut. The Brunswick is another early variety that is suitable. I had a lot of fun trying to make this the period way (using leaves to keep air out). This is a fun recipe to make with kids because there's plenty of mashing. It tastes significantly better than store-bought. My family enjoyed this batch at Thanksgiving.

Peasant Life in Germany, 1858

Civil War Era Sauerkraut 


- Cabbage (2.5 pounds)
- 1.5 Tablespoons Salt
- 2 teaspoons Cumin
- 2 teaspoons Tumeric or Saffron


Wash the cabbages and remove the tough outer leaves and set them aside. 

Remove the thick veins and shred the cabbage as thin as possible.

 In a large crock, knead the salt into the cabbage by hand.

Use a wood pestle to pound the cabbage and salt mixture until enough liquid forms to cover the cabbage.*

Mix in the spices.

Cover with the outer leaves and place weight on them until all of the cabbage is submerged in the liquid.

Sit in a cool spot for 2 weeks. After the 2 week fermentation period, sauerkraut can be kept in the refrigerator for months or canned. 


* If liquid does not form, wait 30 minutes to see if enough liquid forms. If enough liquid never forms, 1/2 a cup of water with a teaspoon of salt can be added. 

At 70-75 degrees, fermentation should be complete after 2-4 weeks. At 60-65 degrees, fermentation may take 4-6 weeks. 


1 Hammond, William A. A Treatise on Hygiene: With Special Reference to the Military Service. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1863.

2 Sartain, John, ed. Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art. Plates. 10. Vol. 10. Philadelphia, PA: John Sartain & Co., 1852.


  1. Hi this is super random, but I just came across your blog and noticed that on your about page, your Linked In goes to a Harry Potter video instead of your Linked In! Thought you'd want to know :p


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