Local farmers, Hays community members make 1,700 lbs. of sauerkraut


Local farmer Mike Brull has been holding parties out on his family’s land for the past six years, where “the good ole boys” and company get together to mass-produce sauerkraut.

All 1,700 pounds of cabbage in this year’s batch was transported from St. Libory, Neb., a town of 271 people, according to the 2020 census. The group uses a sweet hybrid cabbage that can’t be found in local grocery stores, so they order all of it from Placke Melons and Produce.

“The guys who taught us how to make this, they’ve been getting it up there for 25 years,” Sean Kraus said. Kraus, a friend of Brull, has been a part of the sauerkraut production team from the start.

The “mad scientist behind it all,” as Kraus referred to him, is Jerry Rome from Hays. Most of the sauerkraut helpers on the Brull family farm were between the ages of 40 and 60. The members of Rome’s crowd continue to work the same mass process, in the range of 70 to 80 years old.

“They do it in two days, though. We do it in one evening,” Kraus said. “It’s a community effort, and it’s keeping something alive from the old days.”

Steps of sauerkraut preparation (gallery)

Once the entire batch has been pounded adequately, the outer cabbage leaves will be layered on top, followed by wooden boards with weights on top. After 3-4 weeks of fermenting, the sauerkraut is ready to be canned.

“We use a lot of it,” Brull said. “We’ve got friends; we give it out as Christmas presents. It lasts about a year, and then we start up again.”

Brull and his friends usually make regular sauerkraut, but they’ve had requests for their smoked sauerkraut and jalapeno sauerkraut as well. Brull also makes mass amounts of horseradish in November.

However, the goal of this annual endeavor isn’t to make money. Brull said it’s the annual comradery surrounding the work, and a potluck meal that keeps people coming back.

“We have a good time. We’ve got plenty to eat, good beer to drink…just visiting,” he said. “It beats watching TV.”

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