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The community effort needed to make collard kraut
04.19 syrup boiler shed
New syrup boiler shed at Historic Effingham's Living History site - photo by Photo submitted

Historic Effingham Society will offer a unique experience to the visitor on April 21 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Olde Effingham Days in Springfield. We will offer a wide variety of exhibits and entertainment, from syrup to sauerkraut.

The new syrup boiler shed has a new bricked furnace and all the tools of syrup making of days gone by. A syrup demonstration is planned for the furnace and boiler. The cane mill will be on display to show how cane would be processed. You may find a biscuit to sample our syrup.

After you tour the Effingham Museum, you may choose to buy some vegetable soup and fried cornbread prepared on our turn of the century wood cook-stove in our old kitchen or barbecue from “The Hut” to recharge yourself for the rest of your tour.

After seeing our circa 1900s farmhouse, the Seckinger-Bridgers House, you can tour the 1790’s Rubin Morgan Barn, look at old tools and implements, see real farm animals, view meat in the smokehouse, visit Monteen’s Garden, check out the Blacksmith Shop, peek inside the door at the outhouse, see a working sawmill, check out the chicken house or see how moonshine was made at the still.

Demonstrations will include: early masonry, handwork by the ladies, basket weaving, chair caning, washing clothes with a washboard and wash pot over an open fire and many others. Be sure to visit our lemonade stand and bake sale for some sweet treats. You may have your souvenir photo made by Historic Effingham volunteers behind bars in the Old Jail or in the privy.

Don’t miss the demonstration of “Collard Kraut Making.” Kraut making was a community event. After the collards had had a good frost on them, the ladies in families or communities gathered at someone’s house and together they made kraut, by the crock, keg or by the barrel full.

The first order of the day was to harvest a large amount of the collards. Each lady spread a large white cloth on her lap and took another clean white cloth and began wiping the front and back of each leaf, one by one, removing any bugs or debris. Some bad spots or really tough stems were removed. The collards were then washed carefully in several clear waters in galvanized tubs.

The ladies stacked the leaves on top of each other and then rolled the stack into a tight roll, slicing the collards thinly with a sharp knife on a cutting board. The thinly sliced collards were combined with a sprinkling of salt in the bottom of a crock or barrel. One of the ladies then worked on the collards bruising them with a heavy pestle, crushing them thoroughly so that they released juices.

Layer by layer the process was repeated with collards and salt and crushing with the pestle. The mixture was tasted and salt was added so that it was very salty.

When the container was filled or collards ran out, the juice should cover the collards. Sometimes a little water needed to be added. Whole collard leaves were placed covering the entire surface in the container. A clean white cloth and lid of boards (that covered the entire surface of the container) was placed over the top and weighted with a heavy rock. The top of the container was covered with a clean cloth tied to secure it.

The container was put in a cool place like a shed or barn to ferment. Periodically it was uncovered and any mold wiped away. The leaves, board and rock were washed and replaced along with a new clean cloth. The kraut was checked off and on until it reached the sourness that was desired (around 5 or 6 weeks).

When the kraut was “ready” it was heated in a large pot on the stove to the boiling point and placed in hot sterilized canning jars sealed with hot canning lids and rings. Once sealed it would last until the supply was exhausted.

To eat, collard kraut was heated and served most often with sausage or pork and was a staple in the diet of many Effingham County residents. Some people made cabbage sauerkraut but collard kraut was a favorite in this area.

We look forward to seeing you at Olde Effingham Days and hope you will enjoy stepping back in time, seeing the way our forefathers lived and worked.

This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have questions or comments or information to share, please call her at 754-6681 or email: