Harvest Time memories

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Jack Wanker’s Sauerkraut Recipe plus his advice on how to get along in politics

     Harvest time and pumpkin celebrations are almost over but some old time harvest and political events during my childhood in the Tualatin area still come back to me at this time of the year.  In fact, one of my first mentors was Lloyd “Jack” Wanker of Wanker’s Corner fame.  He saved me from Sasaki’s berry patch where my first mentor Nami Sasaki taught me to work hard at 10-12 years old every summer so I could buy school clothes. Jack hired me for two summers to stock shelves in his store and deliver groceries (drove his car at 12 years old) to residents of Meridian Road, Pete’s Mountain, Stafford, Rosemont and Prosperity Park.

A bit about Jack Wanker.  He was born on the Wanker’s Corner home place along the Tualatin River in 1901. The house still stands on Stafford Road at the river.

His daughter Dorothy Wanker married my uncle Robert Saarinen of Tualatin.  Jack operated the original Wanker’s Corner Grocery Store at Wanker’s corner for over 50 years. His brother Dubbs operated the original Wanker’s Tavern and my uncle and dad, Bob and Ted Saarinen, operated the Mobil gas station, all at the corner of Stafford and Borland Roads just east of Meridian Park Hospital.

Jack had a wonderful sense of humor, loved the good ol’ days and was well liked by young and old.  He made homemade wine in his basement and a smiley faced sign posted on his refrigerator door might still be appropriate today: “Just because you are a Republican and I am a Democrat, there is no reason why we can’t get along.  I will hug your elephant and you can kiss my a—!!”

Jack Wanker’s Recipe for Sauerkraut.  Jack’s grandparents, the von Wanker’s (pronounced Wahnker) came from Germany and the sauerkraut recipe was passed on.  It is a bit unusual as edited by Jack but a good read and accurate today.  Every year, he would harvest his cabbage and invite the men in the family to a “wine tasting” to help make homemade sauerkraut which smelled up the basement, barn and house for weeks. My daughter Maxine Addington and I captured Jack’s recipe in our family book “Traditional Family Recipes and Favorite Stories About Them” in 1990:

Here is the recipe as written by Jack Wanker:

1. Use one 10 gallon crock.

2. One sauerkraut (cabbage) cutter.

3. 60 pounds cabbage (one crate) plus several heads (heads not used can be stored root-side down, out of the way of frost and dogs).

4. Tide Chart.  Make the kraut at high tide. After making, watch the tide chart as brine will rise and fall with the tide and you may lose brine and court disaster.

5. 1 cup canning salt per 10 gallons.

Grate several heads, fill crock 1/3 to 1/2 full.   Sprinkle salt over kraut. Tamp with a wooden tool (or a baseball bat) until firmly packed on the bottom and juice comes readily when pressed lightly with your fingers.

Repeat until all the salt is used.  Firmly pack to within 3” of crock top.  Weight the kraut down using platter or board cut to fit inside the crock.  Weight platter down with a large rock or plastic jug filled with water.  Kraut must remain covered with brine.  *Let it work in moderate temperature 3 to 4 weeks.  Clean the mold that will appear, as needed.  If mold is excessive, clean out a layer of kraut and the rest will be fine.  At desired consistency, remove to cool, dark area.  Clean as necessary with a dish towel.  Eat at will. Sauerkraut is so easy, it’s crazy.  But you must tend it!!!   Jack Wanker.”

* My Dad and Fritz Delker went nightly out to our barn (where McDonald’s is now)  to work their share of the kraut made in Jack’s barn.  To keep us kids away from the crock, Dad told us they were going out to pee in the kraut to keep it working.  One day, we could no longer believe Dad’s story so we lifted the lid.  Sure enough, there was a terrible smell and a yellow layer of foam on the top which closely resembled what Dad had warned us about.  “Oh my golly we said, Dad was telling the truth!”  We quickly closed the lid and stayed away.  I never ate sauerkraut after that until my husband Jim and I followed Jack’s recipe years later and it was GREAT EATING….

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