Tancook Island Sauerkraut
By Tabitha Steager
Tancook Island sauerkraut is produced from a cabbage cultivar that has been grown on this small Nova Scotia island for over 175 years. The smallish, tight-headed cabbage is perfect for making sauerkraut. The seeds are saved from year to year for replanting and the local cabbage fields are fertilized with seaweed harvested from the island shores. After fall harvesting the cabbage is hand shredded, salted and placed into wooden barrels with a weight on top of the sauerkraut. The barrels are covered and left to undergo a cool fermentation for up to four weeks According to producers the level of the brined sauerkraut in the barrels rises and falls with the height of the island tides. The resulting richly flavored sauerkraut has been a staple part of the local island diet and was once shipped extensively to the mainland for commercial sale.
Originally produced by the German colonists on this once mainly agricultural island, Tancook Island sauerkraut production is currently dwindling. Only a few islanders, most of who are in their 80’s, still practice the art and their supply of local cabbage is under siege. Deer, a newcomer to the island, have had a population explosion and do so much damage to the yearly island crop that most islanders have given up growing Tancook Island’s unique local cabbage and many fear that this once proud local craft will be lost forever if not protected and fostered. By adding Tancook Island sauerkraut to the Ark of Taste we hope to encourage its production and the transmission of its unique recipe and method to future generations.