Cincinnati is a sauerkraut city. We take our civic condiment very seriously. Germanic-Cincinnatians even renamed it “Liberty Cabbage” during the anti-German sentiment of World War I, so they could still eat it, without being judged. Before the industrialization of our food, many small makers fermented and sold it out of their crocks at Findlay Market or other downtown markets.
Tens of thousands of pounds of sauerkraut are topped on sausages at the Red’s and Bengal’s stadiums, at local German festivals, and at home cookouts and family picnics.
We’ve even seen a small revival of craft sauerkraut in recent years with companies like Fabulous Ferments. We’re even seeing an infiltration from the north from Cleveland Sauerkraut, which debuted at the June City Flea in Washington Park.
For those of us who grew up in Germanic families, sauerkraut accompanied pork and mashed potatoes, was integral to cabbage rolls, and topped nearly every sausage and even sandwiches like roast beef or ham. Good sauerkraut is full bodied, tangy, sour and might have caraway, dill, or even berries. My mother amped hers up with very thinly sliced apples that stewed as it cooked.
But one sauerkraut recipe has been eaten by super-fans for over 30 years in the Clifton area, mostly by students and families connected with the Fairview German Language School. It’s the beloved recipe of former German teacher, Frau Anneliese Forbes. She is a legend at Fairview School, having taught there for over 30 years, during which she shared her sauerkraut recipe, carried with her from Germany. She could be called Cincinnati’s Queen of Sauerkraut, or more appropriately “Die Koeningen von Sauerkraut.” She just celebrated her 90th birthday on June 28, and she’s still going strong, teaching German to teenagers at Notre Dame Academy in Northern Kentucky through the Tri-State German American school.
I had the great opportunity to taste this local, handmade sauerkraut in March, at their Fasching Carnevale fundraiser – the German version of Mardi Gras. Freshly fermented sauerkraut beats any of the canned or industrially packaged brands like Vlassic. It just tastes better, and has more of that probiotic power that fermented foods promote these days. That’s the gut cleansing action that populates us with the good bacteria.
Anneliese escaped from Germany during World War II, and ended up in Cincinnati, with her delicious sauerkraut recipe. Many generations of students at Fairview School in Clifton have heard her immigration story on German American Day, and have eaten her sauerkraut.
During her teaching days, Frau Forbes was recognized as a demanding teacher, ruling her classroom with a firm hand, but a loving heart. Frau Forbes started teaching at Fairview in 1964, when the school was still at its original location at Warner and Stratford streets. She approached each student independently, determining exactly where they needed help, and regularly communicating with parents. She was actively involved outside of the classroom too – acting as a teacher representative on the PTA and leading the Edelweiss Dancers – a student German folk dancing group. She also chaperoned several student trips to Germany.
Frau Forbes was heavily involved in local city politics, promoting and hosting events for former Mayor David Mann, who honored her with a tribute in front of the Ohio House of Representatives when she retired in 1994 on her 67th birthday. Frau Forbes is a living legend of Cincinnati education, and homemade sauerkraut.