A Baltimore Thanksgiving Tradition

November 20, 2018

Fran Lane

In Baltimore, sauerkraut and Thanksgiving go hand in hand and is a time honored tradition.  Its origins can be traced back to our city’s German immigrants.  When President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, about one quarter of Baltimore’s population was German and they brought this Old World dish with them.  Whenever people gathered for a special occasions, sauerkraut was served.  It soon became common to serve it at Thanksgiving meals all across the city  –whether your family was German or not.

Many Baltimoreans share stories of grandparents making batches of sauerkraut in the family basement in the weeks before Thanksgiving, creating an aroma that became associated in their minds with the holiday's comforting feel.

In fact, in1907 an unnamed Baltimore Sun reporter commented about the kraut-and-turkey blend:

"Of all the multitude of duties that confront a public journal," he wrote, "none is more genuinely pleasant than that of noting, each autumn, the reappearance of sauerkraut upon the tables of the great plain people. … It is the first course in that gastronomic saturnalia which reaches a climax or culmination in roast turkey."