Sauerkraut--More Than Cabbage
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I love sauerkraut! I love it in a Reuben sandwich. I love it fried, boiled, on its own or with something else. I love to dip my hand into the sauerkraut barrel to sample the developing flavor. I love it as a side dish or as a main dish—with potatoes and sausage or heated and mixed with ground beef. I like the smell of it as well as the taste. I love to make sauerkraut—though I have not done so for some years now.
Sauerkraut is good for a person physically, and it has some wonderful lessons to teach. It was developed as a method for preserving cabbage and other vegetables when refrigeration was not available. It has special qualities due to the state of fermentation and change that it undergoes.
Sauerkraut can be made in different ways and can have some differences in flavor—but there is an unmistakable taste and smell that sets it apart from all other foods. My method of making sauerkraut was simple. It originated by my visiting an old man who was selling a whole barrel of sauerkraut that he had made. He was ill and was going into the hospital. He gave me a very good deal at a time when our family was feeling a financial pinch, and he threw in his recipe free of charge. That batch of sauerkraut was so good that when the old man died late that year, I decided to make my own.
I took a cutting board, a good large knife, a large stone crock and the handle of one of my old hockey sticks (that I washed first). I got a good deal on cabbage, bought some pickling spices, salt, onions, real garlic and then I was ready. Some people throw other things into the mix, but I was keeping it simple. I cut up the cabbage into narrow strips and filled the crock. I then cut up the garlic and onions and kept adding a little now and again as I beat the daylights out of the shredded cabbage with the hockey stick. In went the pickling spices and salt.
I kept beating that cabbage until it began to release some of the water content. The idea was to beat much of the fluid out of the cabbage and bruise the cells. Then as the water level rose and the stone crock was finally completely full, I selected a large glass plate and found a good stone to place on top of it. The plate just fit into the top of the stone crock and as the stone was placed on, the fluid level rose and covered the plate. I needed to be careful that no cabbage was floating, because that would develop mold. Only the fluid was to come above the glass plate.
I beat the daylights out of the shredded cabbage with the hockey sticks.
Presto, the job was complete—that is, my part was complete. The rest of the job of fermenting—and the real change into sauerkraut—were just beginning. I knew I would have to wait for some time, but the wait was made easier by dipping my hand into the crock from time to time to “sample” the developing sauerkraut. That tasted good too! In a short time, I knew it was ready.
Allowing the cabbage to be treated and stored this way makes it last for a very long time without decaying. I could not help but think about the process we humans must go through at the hands of the greatest “sauerkraut maker” of all—our Heavenly Father. Cabbage is cabbage, but when it is converted it becomes sauerkraut!
God’s conversion process
Almighty God does not allow anyone to mess with His process. John 6:44 tells us that only the Father can draw a person to Himself. That calling and our response is the beginning of a wonderful process—one that will result in eternal life for the chosen, a condition that will never see corruption. We first need to be humbled and beaten up just a little. In Acts 2:38 we are told that the first step is to repent. Psalm 51:1-4 gives a good description of the inner emotions and understanding that we are to arrive at. Job also expressed his understanding in Job 42:6 when he stated that he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. We cannot enter the process until we come to that state.
It is interesting to me that the next step in Acts 2:38 is to be baptized, that is, full immersed under water. Baptism removes the guilt for our sinful life as Jesus Christ pays the penalty. Just like the beaten cabbage is protected from the corruption of the air, God’s Holy Spirit given at baptism protects us too. It preserves us in the sight of God and allows us to come to Him boldly through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16). In 1 John 1:7 we read that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
In 1 John 3:4-6 we see that we are to shun sin for the rest of our lives. The process of learning to think according to God’s way continues in us until the day of our resurrection or judgment. Paul states in Romans 6:1-4 that a converted person (under grace) should not sin. We walk in newness of life. Sin is defined by the commandments of God. Knowing those commandments and keeping them faithfully is an imperative for a converted person.
Sauerkraut differs, so do we
Just as it takes a while for the beaten cabbage to ferment into sauerkraut, so, too, it takes time for a human who embraces Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior to develop into a converted child of God.
The spices, garlic, onions and salt add to the flavor and can be thought of as ingredients God adds to every one of us. We all have different experiences and different backgrounds. God gives us different responsibilities and different gifts so that we can be useful to Him. Sauerkraut differs as well. Each batch is slightly different depending on the cabbage used and the quality and amount of the other ingredients. But it is all sauerkraut just the same.
We, too, differ within the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul points out the differences among the members of the Body of Christ. He calls some of them the hand, some the eyes and some the hearing, but all are part of the body and work together. The lessons learned in loving one another is the real work that goes on inside of God’s sauerkraut barrel. We find in 1 Corinthians 13 a description of the final product that we are meant to become.
Jesus Christ stated that the words He spoke were the words of the Father and His actions were the will of the Father (John 5:19, 30, 36; 8:28). Jesus Christ and God the Father were one, so much so that Jesus could flatly tell Philip that “he who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Thus we humans have a good look at God the Father through the life of Jesus Christ.
The spices, garlic, onions and salt add to the flavor and can be thought of as ingredients God adds to every one of us.
Many years ago, I asked myself the question of whether I was a Christian, that is, a follower of Jesus Christ. As I studied into His life, I realized that I had much to learn, and to change. I needed to conform to Him and in doing so I was conforming to God. Paul acknowledges that “it is God who works in [us] both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He is faithful to complete and finish the work He has begun in you and in me (Philippians 1:6).
We do have a large part to play in learning, developing and exercising our will to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. But God the Father is the superior “sauerkraut” maker of all time. To Him alone belongs the glory and honor of the completion of His Creation. Cabbage has no will, but we do. God waits for us to be “willing cabbage” in His Hands. He will turn us into that everlasting “sauerkraut.” God wants us all to be saved, to gain the gift of eternal life.