Texas Folklife Fellow dishes on sauerkraut in the Texas Hill Country

Julie Gossell’s podcast captures the savory – and smelly – traditions surrounding the German staple.

By Laura Rice and Raul AlonzoDecember 22, 2022 10:24 am, , ,

While it’s the taste that may be the most alluring for those who enjoy it, it’s perhaps the smell of sauerkraut that leaves the most lasting impression.

For Julie Gossell, this became even more apparent when she first started trying her hand at making it.

“I can tell you, I made three batches of sauerkraut this year, and my house still smells like sauerkraut in some spots,” Gossell said.

As one of the Texas Folklife Fellows for 2022, Gossell was tasked with creating a podcast focusing on a cultural tradition from a particular part of Texas. She had the Hill Country, where the strong influence of the German immigrants who settled the area led Gossell to sauerkraut.

“I talk about current traditions,” Gossell said. “I wanted to explore which families in the area were still making sauerkraut. And then I tell the tale of learning to become quite a proficient sauerkraut maker. And it’s very work-intensive. If a family made it, the family would come together, just like people do in my area to make tamales at Christmastime. It’s like a work-intensive day of shredding and beating the cabbage.

The creation of the podcast itself was a learning process for Gossell. She explores the history of the dish in the Hill Country area, the families that still make it to this day, and the labor-intensive steps to making it herself – each episode capped with a polka-influenced theme song by her musician son-in-law, Jaime.

But Gossell’s interest in cultural preservation looks to extend beyond the fellowship. She plans to continue utilizing the skills she learned in the Texas Folklife program to work with the Boerne Library to preserve oral histories in her area.

“Sauerkraut is just the beginning,” Gossell said.

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