Time, Salt and Community
MONTGOMERY-For three consecutive days last week, a flatbed truck from Turbotville pulled alongside the former Arrowlet factory on Bower Street Extension, its load covered with heavy black tarpaulins that were ratchet-cinched to the truck frame.
Immediately the driver and its occupants emerged from the truck interior and met with three men outside the building who’d been waiting for their goods. Once the tarps were pulled aside, gleaming green and purple-blushed heads heaped in cases were briefly admired before both sides jumped to action.
Inside the darkened factory, a forklift came to life and on it, Elmer Buck emerged, maneuvering the machine to the side of the truck. Twenty skids of cabbage-650 pounds each-were then hoisted from the flatbed and relocated to the building’s interior.
It was time to make sauerkraut-a major fundraiser for the Montgomery Lions Club. By the end of the third day, 25,000 pounds of cabbage had been received-enough to produce 60 barrels of the salty and sour delicacy, greatly appreciated here in Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day.
For three hours of each of those days, the leafy cruciferous is prepped by removing the core and thinly shredding the tender leaves in near-perfect precision. The host of men producing the kraut vary in age from nearly 80 years of age to teen-aged boys.
Members of the varsity football team, high school booster club and Boy Scout Troop No. 28 put their muscle into the stomping part of the procedure, Norman Kobe said. Kobe, chairman of the Montgomery Lion Club for the last 35 years, said many of the core members are aging, and his own health is declining, allowing the community to assist in the enterprise.
Because sauerkraut needs to ferment over the next six to eight weeks, time is the biggest factor in producing a tasty product. The addition of salt and pressure in the form of “stomping” reduces the finely shredded leaves into kraut, Kobe said.
Kobe, now 77, was a teen-aged boy himself when the first kraut fundraiser occurred 63 years ago. The chapter uses the monies to fund various projects and organizations in the community, including the annual Easter Egg hunt.
When fermentation is reached, the crisp kraut is packed into gallon and quart plastic containers and is available for purchase by the first week in December, Kobe said. The containers find their way into the local grocery stores, and members have also braved cold, seasonal elements and sold it on weekends outside storefronts prior to January.