Seventy-seven years later, another reporter, Carleton Jones, complained that the tradition "shocked" him at first and that he'd never gotten over the feeling there was something distasteful about it.

"Turkey Joe" Trabert has no such concerns. He even adds his own Bawlmer touch every year, heaping gravy on the kraut. And he can't name one friend who doesn't serve the pickled stuff with his big bird.

"What the hell's unusual about something when everybody you know is doing it?" he said.

And on Turkey Day 2013, it isn't just old-timers carrying the banner.

Six months ago, when Meaghan and Shane Carpenter started their boutique foods company, Hex Ferments, they did so in the belief that fermented foods are as flavorful, healthy and relevant to the human diet today as they've been for centuries.

The married couple, 30-something transplants from the upper Midwest, cure their own sauerkraut in the old-fashioned way in a variety of flavors, including red beet and garlic. They create kimchi, Korea's breath-busting answer to sauerkraut, and kombucha, an effervescent fermented black tea drink.

They'll soon be selling their wares from a shop in Belvedere Square.

But they'd never heard of Baltimore's turkey-and-kraut habit — at least not until a friend filled them in a couple of weeks ago.

It was too late to work up a big new batch for today's holiday, but they're smelling opportunity.

"To find this as part of Baltimore culture is fascinating," said Meaghan, who expected to be cooking some kraut in vodka to go with a neighbor's turkey. "I wish we'd learned about it sooner. But next year, we'll have a lot made up. We'll be doing something special."

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com