WL Lions take pride in homemade sauerkraut

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The cabbages are shredded by devices called mandolins, then - perhaps most importantly - salted by Stan Schwabauer. If there’s one thing the West Linn Lions Club has learned in more than 40 years of making sauerkraut, it’s to avoid — under any circumstances — messing with the salt.

Only one club member, Stan Schwabauer, has salting privileges. And so every year when the Lions take a day to prepare sauerkraut for their annual Sauekraut and Sausage feed, Schwabauer ambles around the kitchen, waiting to be called.

“I guess it’s a privilege I get,” Schwabauer said. “It is important — you want it to have a certain taste.”

The Lions Club gathered at Elks Lodge in Oregon City Nov. 10 to turn hundreds of pounds of cabbage into homemade sauerkraut. After it is prepared, the sauerkraut is stored in several large buckets for about three months, allowing it to fully ferment just in time for the annual big event Feb. 20.

The event is meant to serve as a thank you to the community for volunteering its time and making donations to the club’s various causes. But even the most loyal attendees might not know just how much effort goes into preparing for the feed.

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Bob Hoover takes his turn bruising the cabbage with a baseball bat.

“We think this will be our 43rd annual sauerkraut and sausage feed,” club member Doug Fiala said. “We have never bought sauerkraut for our sauerkraut and sausage feed.”

To do so at this point would be sacrilege; indeed, the making of the sauerkraut has become a beloved tradition for the Lions, ever since it first began as an effort from club members Don Schmeiser and Walt Logsdon.

It all starts with, well, a whole lot of cabbage.

“We had about 650 pounds of cabbage,” Fiala said. “The first thing we do is take the outside leaves off, then ‘core’ the cabbage and cut the big heads into about six pieces. After that is done, we store those pieces in water.”

From there, the cabbage is shredded by devices called “mandolins,” and then salted by the aforementioned Schwabauer. As legend has it, Fiala filled in for Schwabauer one year, to less-than-stellar results.

“That was when Stan was sick,” Fiala said.

“And I wasn’t smart enough to stay there,” Schwabauer joked.

Schwabauer said he learned his technique — about two handfuls of salt for every five-gallon bucket — from his father.

“It’s kind of a home recipe that my dad used to do years ago,” Schwarbauer said. “I’ll go every once in a while and taste it out of the barrel, see if I’ve got it salted enough or not enough. ... You kind of learn what the taste is.”

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Dick Akins slices cabbage for the kraut.

Once salted, the cabbage moves on to the “bruising stage,” during which club members pack it down using baseball bats. The club uses the same bats every year, taking pains to clean and sanitize them beforehand, of course.

“(The bats) are the best thing we’ve found that works really well,” said Harlan Geigle.

You might call Geigle the “anchor” of the sauerkraut preparation process. Posted at the back wall of the kitchen, Geigle is charged with “packing” the sauerkraut for storage and fermentation. When the buckets are about three-quarters full, Geigle places bags of water on top of the sauerkraut before sealing the barrels.

The idea, he said, is to “pack it in, make sure there’s no air down below. And the juices will work up to the top.”

The barrels stay that way until about a week before the Sauerkraut and Sausage Feed, when club members examine them to make sure the fermenting process is complete.

“I don’t know how many years I’ve been doing this — more than I can count,” Geigle said. “It’s just a great event. After it’s all done, people get to come and have a good time and have good food. It’s kind of a payback for the public.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The West Linn Lions turned hundreds of pounds of cabbage into sauerkraut on the evening of Nov. 10.

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