Quest for Kraut: the Pickled Pride of Oconomowoc

Our testers sampled several brands of locally available sauerkraut. We agreed that Meeter's Wisconsin Sauerkraut was a top pick, with full flavor and zesty kick. Widely available in Southern California, Meeter's is distributed by Stokely USA of Oconomowoc, Wis. A pleasant surprise was Libby's Crispy Sauerkraut, which lived up to its name with a light, snappy texture. A little on the salty side, it nevertheless proved itself a good kraut at a bargain price. And unlike Meeter's, it contains no added preservatives.

Hebrew National impressed us as an unusual sauerkraut that retains the slightly sulfurous waft of fresh-cut cabbage. Faring less well were two premium brands, Boar's Head and the Kruegermann Berlin-Style Sauerkraut, both of which tasted bland. At the bottom of the sauerkraut barrel was Trader Joe's jar of vinegar-laced cabbage, dull gray both in color and flavor.

But the hands-down winner of our kraut tasting was the brand most familiar to residents of the Upper Midwest region: Frank's Quality Kraut. Frank's wowed us with a robust taste, sturdy texture and a finish with plenty of zing.

Unfortunately, it's a regional brand and unavailable in California. But for kraut fans willing to go the extra mile for an exceptional can, there is hope: mail order. A case of 24 (8-ounce) cans will run you $21.60, including shipping; the 14-ounce cans are $31.10. Send a check or money order to the Fremont Co., 802 N. Front St., Fremont, OH 43420 (attention: Lori). Include a note telling Lori exactly what quantity you're ordering, making sure to provide your street address, and your kraut will be shipped to you via UPS.

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