Baltimore, Sauerkraut, and Thanksgiving

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Photo via A Daily Apple
Photo via A Daily Apple

I grew up in Virginia, and I usually go home for Thanksgiving, which means I’ve never had a truly Baltimore Thanksgiving.

Maybe that’s why I was surprised to learn that the holiday isn’t complete without one locally traditional side dish: sauerkraut. Preferably sauerkraut and apples.

This is probably old news to all you natives, but I learned about this holiday tradition through a New York Times story that lists every state’s special side dish contribution to the Thanksgiving meal–and man, some people eat some weird stuff. (Russian salmon pie? Pecan pie… with turkey gravy!? No thanks.)

The Times tells me that Baltimore’s holiday sauerkraut stems from the influence of German and eastern European immigrant communities in the region. “The absence of sauerkraut when turkey is present, Thanksgiving included, is unthinkable,” they quote John Shields, chef/owner of Gertrude’s, as saying.

Despite living just one state over, I’ve never even considered serving Thanksgiving sauerkraut. Corn pudding, though? That’s a different story…

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  1. I served sauerkraut for many years at Thanksgiving because it was a Baltimore tradition. No one ate it so it is officially off the menu. I was very disappointed that’s what the NYT featured from Maryland.

  2. I’ve helped with the St. Francis of Assisi (on Harford Rd.) Thanksgiving dinner for a couple of years, and they made a similar recipe to the John Shields recipe, but we used sausage instead of bacon. Preparing 4-5 large aluminum pans full that were enthusiastically consumed confirmed, to me, that Baltimoreans love their turkey & kraut! I’m not a kraut eater, but that recipe was fantastic, and the kraut was even better the next say on a grilled turkey ‘samich’!

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