home cooking

Recipes

Adventures with a 3 gallon sauerkraut crock

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Oh sauerkraut, you most delicious of sandwich additions. I put you on my breakfast sandwich, drop you in my rice, place you delicately in a heap next to my steak. You bring me such joy with your salty crunch, and as a bonus, you're good for me (at least I think you are.) I read a piece a couple months back in Gastronomica about sauerkraut. It went through all the claims that people make about its health benefits, refuting them one by one on the basis that they didn't have scientific backing. But then I heard a story the other day on how probiotics are being discovered to reduce anxiety. My conclusion is that if something has been believed for thousands of years to be good for you, it probably is, plus it's delicious, so why not eat it? Therefore, I’ve embarked on a new adventure. I recently bought a 3 gallon stoneware crock, something I've been wanting for a while, but couldn't get over the sticker shock of spending $250 on a vessel used specifically to ferment cabbage. Luckily, I found a solution. For $35 you can order one from ACE online, and then pick it up at a local store. Feels like I’m pitching you here, but I would be remiss to not tell you about the wonders of this deal.

For my first batch, I wanted to go simple. Just salt, cabbage, and caraway. It's astounding how many recipes there are online, not to mention in one of my favorite books, Wild Fermentation, on how to do this. I’d made it before in small batches, but there is something about filling up a 3 gallon container that makes you want to do some recipe research. I watched a video on youtube put out by the Ag. Council of a nice woman in Alaska, (seeming very 1950's) which gave exact instructions (2.5Tbsp of salt per 5 lbs of cabbage). Then I watched a video of Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation, who has a more democratic approach (just put salt in until it tastes right).

I settled on 3 Tbsp per 5 lbs of cabbage. Something like 20 lbs of cabbage went into this batch, and the only place in my house to deal with that kind of volume is the sink. After a good scrub, in went the cabbage. First sliced and cored. After all the cabbage was sink-side, in went the salt and caraway seeds. As I said before, exactly 3 Tbsp per 5 lbs. For the caraway I just eyed it, probably about the same ratio though.

Once seasoned, mix. Get all the salt evenly distributed around the cabbage, and then wait 15 minutes. Some folks recommend bashing the cabbage rather than letting it sit, and this is what I've always done in the past As soon as it was cut and salted, I would cram it into jars, awkwardly using a wooden spoon to push it in. It's a hassle. Using this new method, you just leave it for a bit, go drink some coffee, and voila! It's reduced by more than half! You should never use a metal container as your fermenting vessel, but I don't think the 15 minutes in the sink hurts it at all.

Now is the pack, which is made much easier this way. Pack the sauerkraut into your crock (I like to use my hands), and push it down until the liquid (which is naturally being released from the cabbage), is released. The juice (which, when fermented, is the best hangover cure I've found) should be at least an inch above the veggies. Place a plate on top to weigh it down, and wait and wait. The waiting is the hardest part.  As this is a bit of an experiment, I've been taking some out periodically to see how its progressing. Check back here in a few weeks for the finale. Now go buy a crock! It's better than paying $9/jar at rainbow.

Iso

 

UPDATE:

I've been taking out samples during the fermentation process, in the guise of experimentation, but really just because I'm too impatient to wait to eat some:

After 8 days the kraut is good, starting to get a fermented flavor, but a little on the mushy side.

 

 

 

 

 

On day 12, it's started to firm up a bit, with a good "krauty" flavor.

Recipes

Dilly Sea Bean Pickles

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Sea Beans are great, I love their salty crunch.  Also called pickleweed, Sea Beans are known scientifically as Salicornia europae variety ruba, and are halophytic (salt loving) plants. When I try to describe how they taste, I always "the Sea".  It reminds me of warm days spent by the coast. That's what's so great about foraging, getting to hold onto the time you spend outside, rather than just a memory, you're reminded by foods you bring home.  Sea Beans can be found in salt marshes up and down the coast.  If you're harvesting them near the city, be careful that it's not from a polluted area, the bay's got more of those than not.  Often used as a  garnish in restaurants, sea beans can be eaten raw, but they're so salty that a full plate is not that appetizing. I try to find other uses.  They are great sauteed with butter and garlic if you're in a hurry, but if you've got time (6 weeks or so), they make a great pickle.  Crisp and salty, their thin build lets the picking mix penetrate all the way to the center, totally masking the Sea Bean flavor.  Experiment with different concoctions, but my favorite is dill.  Great with fish, or in egg salad.  Pics are a bit blurry, I guess the iphone isn't perfect.

To make Dilly Sea Beans, you'll need.....

-1/2 pint mason jars (you can use larger ones, but I like standing all the sea beans up in the jar, and this size is perfect for that)

- Garlic (optional)

- Fresh dill

- White vinegar

 

1.     The first step is to sterilize your jars. This isn't a super crucial step since we're using vinegar in the pickling (a soap and water wash is probably fine), but it's a good habit to get into, and becomes more important when making naturally fermented pickles.

-Fill the jars half full with H20.  Place in microwave on high for 5-8 minutes, and forget about them for a bit.  I'm generally not a fan of the microwave, but if you want to kill things, it's the place to put them(kinda makes you wonder what it's doing to your food).  This is a good time to put your lids and rims in some water to boil, they should boil for about 10 minutes (don't put them in the microwave!...unless you want to have a really good story about explosions in the kitchen)

2.   Next step is to get your ingredients together.  Peel your garlic and....well that's about it, it's super easy.  If you want to get a bit OCD, and want your finished product to be a work of food art, the envy of your peers, and a testament to the validity of the  dominant power of the human race on our small planet, you can pick out the long sea beans and arrange them in piles according to size and direction, if not, that's cool too.

3. Make a cocktail of 1/2 h2o, 1/2 vinegar (figure out how much you'll need to fill the jars), and boil.

4.  Get the jars out of microwave, empty the water.

5. While that heats up, place a sprig (mostly leaves) of dill and optional garlic clove in the bottom of each jar, and then fill with sea beans.  I like to stand them all up in one direction, for vanities sake.  Then place a sprig of dill on top.

6. Once vinegar boils, fill jars, leaving 1/2inch at the top of each.

7. Place lids on jars, making sure the edges are clean.

8.  Now one more boil, place jars in a pot with water to 3/4 height of jar. Boil for 10 minutes.

8. Done! So easy, so delicious. Well, I guess not quite done.  After they cool check to make sure the lids don't pop, if they do, the vacuum didn't seal, and they should be put in the fridge to pickle. Place the jars in a cool dark place, and let sit for 4-6 weeks.  You can use these in the same way you would cucumber pickles. Sandwiches, egg salad...well I suppose you know how to use pickles.  Last thoughts : They're Great! Make them! Also, I'm going to be at the maker faire in the homegrown village, may 29th-31st showing people how to make these, as well as limoncello. Come say hi.

Western Vinigar is local, right?

Western Vinigar is local, right?

Beauty has no price

Beauty has no price

Dilly

Dilly

Getting ready

Getting ready