Sunday, September 23, 2007
After my week of canning with my dad, Nicole asked for my recipe for apple-tomatillo chutney. Since I’m sure a few other people would be interested, here it is. (Please note that it’s an approximation of what we did this year. It varies from year to year, but I have yet to encounter a version I didn’t like.)
2 qt processed* tomatillos
5 med apples, chopped & cored
1/2 c cider vinegar
1 c sugar
1 t each of mustard seeds
2 onions, diced
2 t cinnamon
2 t granulated garlic
1 c currants
Start by toasting the seeds and then cooking the onions to translucence. Add the tomatillos and then the apples and the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the apples have fallen apart, then jar and seal in a standard water bath. I think this batch made two pints and six or eight half-pints.
*processed=chopped and cooked enough so they won’t go bad if you leave them in the fridge a few extra days
Friday, September 21, 2007
I feel a little silly about waxing poetic about a bunch of carrots, but the carrots I picked up yesterday at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market were absolutely gorgeous! They were fat and bright orange and weirdly shaped and the greens were fresh and just lovely. I’ll spare you the actual poetry, but they really were fabulous. I had to have them!
And since putting food up for the Winter is the special focus of the September Eat Local Challenge, I could not resist making these little beauties (grown by Lancaster Farm Fresh) into pickles.
If you’re anything like me, anything other cucumber pickles is sort of scary. For me, I should say ‘was scary’. I’m not grossed out by other kinds of pickles anymore. But I used to hear the word ‘pickled’ and think of my grandmother’s disgusting homemade bread and better pickles (sickeningly sweet) or the wretched pickled eggs my mother makes (just plain sickening). And let’s not forget those nasty store-bought pickled beets! Argh! Just this Summer, though, I found out how good pickled vegetables can really be…and now I find I crave them.
The best thing about all this is that making pickled vegetables is a total snap, and some of the stuff I need can be found in my garden. Dill and garlic, for instance.
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into small lengths
1/4 cup minced dill
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Blanch the carrots for 2 minutes in boiling water, then immerse them in cold water until they have cooled.
Pack the carrots and dill into a canning jar or two. In a saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil. Pour the liquid over the carrots. Cap the jar, and let it cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate the jar for 2 days or longer before eating the carrots. Refrigerated, they will keep for at least 2 months.
Alternatively, you can give these a water bath to seal.
This jar was made last night, and I tried a pickled carrot this morning - wonderful!!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Traditionally, kimchi is a pickled vegetable buried in a clay vessel underground to ferment over the winter. It’s classically Korean, and Americans primarily see kimchi take the form of cabbage - good, hot, pickled cabbage. I’ve been making cabbage kimchi for years, although it is not the standard fermented variety. Up until recently, I was a little afraid of home fermenting experiments. With the success of the sauerkraut trial, though, I’m over it.
And so my real kimchi experiment begins!
A bunch of small Daikon radishes came in this past week’s CSA share. What better way to use the Daikon than to make them into kimchi?
First things first: I had to find Korean ground chile paste. A trip to the H-mart in Upper Darby provided a massive wealth of choices. I cannot tell you what brand I purchased because the brand name is in Korean. However, I snuck a taste at home and it was the perfect choice. This kimchi is going to be fabulous! I picked up a ginger root, as well, and the project was off to a great start!
So here’s the recipe:
- 1 head garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
2 pcs. of ginger root (1-inch)
2 Tbsp. Korean ground chile
2 Tbsp. Salt
2 large Daikons (peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes) - or in my case, one bunch of small Daikons
1 bunch of Swiss chard (chopped into 1-inch pieces)
Whirl the ginger, ground chile, salt and garlic (from my garden) in a food processor until it’s minced. Place the chile mixture and Daikon radish (from the CSA share) in a large ziploc and mix together. Really mush the chile mixture into the Daikon - make sure it’s absolutely covered with chile mixture. Grab a couple of freshly sterilized canning jars (wide mouth pint jars work best for this) and load the Daikon in until the jars are about a quarter full. Layer in some swiss chard (from the CSA share) and sprinkle a bit of sugar on top of the chard. Layer in more Daikon until the jars are half full. Layer in more swiss chard and sugar. Layer in more Daikon until the jars are 3/4 full, and top with more swiss chard and sugar. Wipe the threads of the jar to remove any bits of stuff that fell over the jar, and screw the lids on really tight.
Burying your jars underground for the Winter is not necessary for fermentation, I’m happy to say! In fact, you need only find a dark, cool space and place your jars in there for a few days. The kimchi should ferment within three to four days. My recipe says not to disturb the jars while they’re fermenting, and you’ll know they’re fermenting because water will rise from the vegetables. I made my kimchi last night and I can already see the fermentation process in action.
When the kimchi is done fermenting, refrigerate the jars. It should last for about a month in the fridge. I have three pints and a half pint of kimchi currently fermenting. I love kimchi, but enough to eat four jars of it in a month? Probably not. My plan is to keep two jars, give one jar away to a friend, and put one jar through a water bath. I really want to see if the texture of the Daikon is negatively affected by the water bath. Certainly canning pickles for long-term storage is a common practice, so why not kimchi?
Baked eggplant cutlets
Monday, September 10, 2007
Eggplant was a foreign thing in my household growing up. They were certainly available, but my mother had no idea what to do with one. In fact, she still doesn’t - last Summer she called and asked how to make eggplant parmesan for my vegetarian cousin. My people just don’t know from eggplant, I guess. And while I like eggplant and do know how to prepare a mean eggplant parm, my experience with eggplant is still so limited my first instinct is always to go with what I know when faced with eggplant.
Well, sort of. Who wants eggplant parm when it’s 90 degrees outside? Not me. So the eggplants are now hibernating in my chest freezer, made into baked and breaded eggplant cutlets. So they’re halfway to eggplant parm. I imagine that one day this Winter I will want to hug myself for thinking to have locally-grown, organic eggplant cutlets put up.
Making breaded eggplant cutlets is a breeze, but you do need to plan ahead a little. Eggplant has a way better texture for cutlets if you salt and press the slices before breading and baking. So slice up the eggplants about a 1/2 inch thick. Put down a plate covered by a paper towel and put down a single layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices (I like to use sea salt for this). Put down another layer of paper towel on top and another single layer of eggplant and salt. Repeat until you run out of eggplant and end with a paper towel. Now put another plate on top of that and weigh it down with something. You don’t want to use anything too awful heavy, but something that’ll weigh down the top plate a little. The salt will draw the water out of the eggplant and the paper towel sops up some of the extra water. Just walk away for about an hour.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
OK, whisk and egg or two with a bit of water blended in. Put out a plate of bread crumbs. Depending on how much salt you used, you might want to brush some of the salt off your eggplant cutlet prior to dipping it in the egg. And after you dip the eggplant in egg, coat the cutlet in bread crumbs.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for five minutes. Flip the cutlets and bake another five minutes.
Let them cool, layer them on wax paper, and freeze in a freezer bag. There you go: baked eggplant cutlets for a snowy day.
Picked a peck of roasted peppers
Sunday, September 09, 2007
The other day I mentioned to a friend that I planned to roast peppers this weekend (my kitchen is overrun with bell and hot peppers). She was confused. “Why would you bother?” she asked. “That’s so much work for something you can just buy in a jar at the store.”
This weird idea that cooking or canning takes so much effort and time is pervasive in people who don’t do either. And yes, you can certainly make a bigger production out of cooking or canning than is necessary - but it can also be a simple, quick thing, too. And roasting peppers is one of those simple, quick things.
Realizing that not everyone in the city has the space for a grill, I’ll discuss oven roasting, gas range-top roasting, and grilling for the purposes of making roasted peppers.
- Grilling. Turn your grill up to high and coat the peppers with olive oil. Sure you can be genteel and use a brush, but I generally just pour a little oil on my hands and rub the peppers. It’s quicker and you get the benefit of a little olive oil bath for your hands. Toss the peppers on the grill and wait for the peppers to get charred. Turn the peppers so all sides get charred.
Gas range. Turn on a burner or two on your stove top. Make sure the flames just reach the trivet. As with grilling, coat the peppers with oil. Place them directly on the trivet over the open flame on the burner. Wait for them to char and keep turning the pepper until all sides are charred.
Oven roasting. Preheat your oven’s broiler. Coat the peppers with oil and arrange them on a cookie sheet. This will generally take a little longer than roasting over an open flame, but keep an eye out for the peppers to start getting charred. Turn the peppers so all sides are charred.
In all cases, this is your next step: grab a ziploc bag and seal the hot peppers inside. Wait at least 10 or 15 minutes and then peel the peppers - the charred skin should come off pretty easily. Discard seeds and membrane and pepper stems.
They can be stored in a few different ways. If you plan to eat them immediately, you can store them in oil in the fridge. They’ll last for maybe a week or two. For longer term storage, freeze them. It’s easiest to freeze them in a single layer on wax paper. Or peppers can be canned - pack jars with peppers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and pour in hot water and a smidgen of canning salt. Process in a water bath for 30 minutes.
Linvilla Orchards - raspberries!
Saturday, September 08, 2007
The Linvilla website reported this morning that raspberry picking was “excellent”. The guys working the Pick-Your-Own stand were less enthusiastic. “These raspberries are pretty picked out. Jump on the back of the tractor and we’ll take you up to a patch hidden next to the apples,” they advised.
Of course, the man driving the tractor had yet another opinion. According to him, it was the last couple of rows of the regular raspberry patch that we wanted. “No one ever looks there!” he declared.
Happily, the tractor man was right. The husband and I picked four quarts of gorgeous raspberries this morning. And we amazed the guys working the stand in the bargain. “We haven’t seen that many raspberries come out of there in at least a month,” they said. Never underestimate the picking power of two determined people with a yen for raspberries!
One of these quarts will be frozen for a nice snack mid-Winter, but three of those quarts are now raspberry jam. And, in a nod to the September Eat Local challenge, I used a new canning method. Well, new to me, at least. Short cuts tend to make me a little nervous, but the idea of skipping the water bath and simply sealing cans by inverting them was too irresistible.
All my jars of raspberry jam have sealed correctly (I heard the “ping”!), so it seems to have worked. It took such a small amount of work that I think this would be an ideal first foray into canning for the novice.
Here’s how to do it and what you’ll need:
3 lbs. raspberries
5 cups sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin
a mess of small canning jars
OK, start with your canning jars. Separate the lids from the jars and put everything in the dishwasher. Set your dishwasher to its hottest setting and put them through a cycle. Alternatively, you can give your jars a wash in hot, soapy water and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven, and placing lids in a bowl of boiling water. The point is that you need your jars to be hot when you start packing in the jam.
Place raspberries in a sink full of cold water. Swish your hands around in there a few times and make sure all the stems and assorted stuff is removed. Lift the berries out of the water gently and drain.
Puree the raspberries in a blender or food processor for about 15 seconds.
Put the berries in a large saucepan with the sugar and bring to very full boil and be sure you stir constantly. Add the pectin and return to a full boil. Boil hard for one minute and keep stirring!
Remove the pan from heat and skim off the foam that’s floating on the top. Immediately ladle the jam into the hot jars (you should leave about 1/8 of an inch of headspace). Wipe off any jam that gets on the threads of the jar and screw on the lids tightly. Turn the jars over so they’re resting on the lid for about five minutes.
Turn the jars upright and be sure to test the lids to make sure they sealed within one hour. There you have it: homemade raspberry jam!
And if you have a jar or two that doesn’t seal, you can always put it through a water bath for five minutes. This made five half pints and two pints of raspberry jam.
Coincidentally, if you want to try to make jam minus the pectin, I found a recipe here.
Head to Headhouse and Make this Soup
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The bounty of the much-touted Headhouse Farmers Market inspired this soup recipe. Make a list of the ingredients and head to the market to see if you can get one item from a different stand to spread the love around. Or, just stop by our table, Weavers Way Farm, and buy everything but the corn. Deliciously fresh, this soup can be served hot or cold so it’ll make the transition between seasons with you. To stock up for the colder months, buy extra fresh corn to cut off the cobs and freeze. Then buy bushels of tomatillos to make salsa verde to also freeze or can. That way, when winter settles in, you can call upon your stockpiles to make this hearty soup to remind you of the freshness of summer.
Corn and Tomatillo Chowder
Adated from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soup
2 T. peanut or corn oil
4 large shallots or 1 medium onion, diced
1 hot pepper such as Hungarian Hot Wax, diced
1 sweet pepper (purple, red or green), diced
2 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off (about 2 cups)
12 or so tomatillos
3 c. of vegetable or chicken stock
1 c. light cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Husk tomatillos, place in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Place on high heat until water boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes until tomatillos loose their bright color and float to the top.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large deep skillet. Add the diced onion and peppers, reserving a tablespoon or so of the pepper for garnish later, to the hot skillet and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until they get soft and brown on the edges. Add the corn kernels to the skillet and saute for 2 minutes until softened and the color pales. Finally, drain tomatillos from their hot water and add to skillet to toss with sauted vegetables. Stir to incorporate.
Carefully pour contents of skillet into a blender (or use an immersion blender for extra ease) and process until smooth, adding a little stock if needed to loosen it up. Transfer blended contents back to skillet and slowly add in stock over low heat. Allow soup to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to scrap up any corn sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in cream. Serve soup chilled or warm. If serving warm, gently reheat - never allow soup to come to a boil. Garnish each bowl of soup with diced pepper and thin slices of an uncooked tomatillo.
(makes 4 large servings)
Two for the dough
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Unlike most vegetables, potatoes are made for long-term storage…if you have the perfect place to store them. You know, some place dark, humid, and about 40 degrees. Unless you have a root cellar, most of us do not have these ideal conditions. My basement is cool, but not that cool! As a rule, I maybe get about two months out of potatoes if they’re stored in my kitchen. So what do you do if you find yourself with an overabundance of potatoes?
There are lots of things you can do - make mashed potatoes or cook up a mess of fries or hash browns, and then freeze it all up for a rainy day. I decided to use up my massive store of potatoes from the CSA (about 13 pounds, by my last count) to make potato gnocchi. It’s really easy, although slightly time consuming. And in the end, you get a good supply of fabulous gnocchi!
Start with potatoes. You need good, starchy potatoes, rather than waxy potatoes. In other words, you want to avoid new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, round white potatoes, and round red potatoes. Use Yukon Golds or Russets or something like that. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cut the potatoes almost in half, arrange on a baking sheet, and bake for an hour.
As soon as you can handle the potatoes without burning the crap out of your hands, peel the potatoes. The skin should just come right off. Work fast - you need to get those babies through a potato ricer before they cool down! Why a potato ricer? You want nice, fluffy potatoes and no other way gives you just the right consistency. After the potatoes are riced, you can let them cool down to room temp…just don’t throw them in the fridge.
Next is the question of eggs - to use eggs or not to use eggs. I’ve made them both ways, and it’s fine either way as long as you don’t use too much egg. You absolutely don’t need egg, and your gnocchi will turn out a little lighter without the egg. The batch I made here has eggs. Let’s say about one beaten egg per five pounds of potatoes.
The real trick to making good gnocchi is getting the dough right, which means adding just enough flour but not too much. Most recipes call for about a cup and a half of flour per two pounds of riced potatoes. I just keep adding flour, a bit at a time, until the dough feels right to me. Specifically, it should be pretty smooth and slightly sticky. The longer you work the dough, the more flour you’ll need…and then your gnocchi will be like bricks. But when you feel like the dough is good, put it aside in a bowl draped with a clean towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.
The next part goes pretty quickly - grab a hunk of dough, roll it out into a half-inch rope, and cut into inch long nuggets. There are several opinions about finishing the gnocchi, but all agree on one thing: there needs to be some nooks or crannies to grab the sauce. Some people score the gnocchi with fork tines. Some do so while bending it over their thumb to form a little inner pocket. I go the easy route and just make a little depression in the the middle of each dumpling with the end of a fork.
And then you can either cook ‘em or freeze ‘em. If you opt to freeze, be sure to spread the gnocchi out in a single sheet on a baking tray and freeze them this way. You can pack them into a freezer Ziploc or whatever when they’re frozen. You just don’t want them sticking together, you know? For cooking, just put on a pot of water to boil, toss in the gnocchi, and scoop them out as they float to the surface.
Best of all, you can make gnocchi entirely out of local ingredients - potatoes and eggs are easy to come by, and you can purchase Daisy pastry flour (made in Lancaster, PA) at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market. Hooray!
Friday, August 17, 2007
Well, not exactly a catastrophe. Mostly making lemonade when life hands you lemons.
I bought from my CSA 12 lbs of tomatoes this week in the hopes of canning pizza sauce. I looked in my recipe books about canning sauce and came up with what I figured was the most common method for canning. It boiled down to this (no pun intended): Chop, cook, puree and strain, cook down by half, can. I used 6 lbs of my tomatoes and got: soup. A wonderful, very yummy, entirely local (onions, garlic, basil and tomatoes) tomato soup. Which is a disaster if you can’t stand tomato soup. (I can’t, but I have someone in the house who adores it.. so mischief managed.)
So I tried again last nite. My theory.. I was blitzing the good stuff and straining it out. So last nite I rearranged my method and came up with this: chop, cook, strain out juice and reserve, cook down, can. I saved the juice for 2 reasons. It would make a good base for my next veggie soup stock (I make ALOT of vegetable soups) and I had it on hand to top off the jars. Jars need to be filled to 1/2 an inch from the top. I used about 1/2 a cup of the reserved juice to top off the 2nd qt of sauce. And I am much happier with the thickness and consistancy of the sauce.
Pizza Sauce for Canning
6 lbs of tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes)
1 cup of onions
8 garlic cloves
1 tbl olive oil
basil to taste
Chop the onions and garlic, set aside. Chop and seed tomatoes. (I left the skins on, they don’t bother me in sauce.) Put the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion. Cook until soft. Add tomatoes. Cook until they release their juice (about 25-35 minutes.) Strain. Reserve juice and return pulp to pan. Cook down until thick (about an hr). Place in clean qt jars (top off with liquid as needed to reach 1/2 inch from top) and seal. Process in a water bath for 35 minutes.
Pick your own
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Can it, Janet
The reaction to finding out that I can food is always the same: a funny look and incredulous, “You do what?” Maybe we’ve all just become too attached to our freezers, or maybe canning food seems like an old-fashioned thing to do. But canning food is not the sole province of little old ladies with too much time on their hands - those of us who care about the preserved quality and safety of our locally grown food are also well-served by knowing how to can.
So why would anyone can their food instead of, say, freezing it? In many cases, I do prefer produce frozen instead of canned. Take, for instance, green beans. Beans that are blanched and frozen keep their color and texture so nicely it seems silly to preserve them any other way. And lots of vegetables have that advantage. So why would anyone can food? Shelf life is a big factor.
Canned green beans - if they are canned and stored correctly - can be kept for up to five years. Blanched and frozen green beans can be kept in the freezer for about 9-18 months, depending on how cold your freezer is and how the beans are packed. And consider what happened to me this past January: my chest freezer went on the fritz and I lost every single bit of food I had preserved from the Summer prior. I definitely wish I would have canned a bit more food last year when that happened!
You could also look at the total amount of energy used in canning food versus the cost of running a chest freezer. Or the convenience of not having to defrost food. You might even consider the safety of food processed under high heat.
Obviously, I don’t can every bit of food I preserve. I happen to prefer green beans that are blanched and frozen over those that have been canned - they keep their color better and I like the texture better. Both freezing and canning have their advantages and disadvantages, but canning is my preferred method for preserving sauce, soup, salsa, and some fruit. I will refer you here to learn all about home canning. It’s a great way to preserve all that gorgeous locally grown food you seek out or grow yourself!
Monday, August 06, 2007
The garlic I harvested out of my garden a few weeks ago has been drying on my back porch. Last night I took it off the hook and trimmed away the stalks and roots, and wiped away the excess dirt. Success! I now have more garlic than I know what to do with!
These pretty purple-streaked cloves are the Purple Glazer garlic - it’s a mid-season, hardneck variety. Originally from the Republic of Georgia, the garlic is supposed to be great for baking. The cloves are not supposed to be hot, but you could have fooled me - I accidentally cut a garlic bulb in half with my shovel while I was digging up the bed, so I popped a clove in my mouth. Uh, yeah, the garlic is super spicy fresh out of the ground.
This was my first attempt at growing garlic, and I must admit that it was a little thrill to discover the cloves did actually grow into bulbs. Our soil is pretty clay-ish, so you just never know what’ll happen. The bulbs didn’t get huge - my guess is the clay soil kept them from getting too big. I do plan to grow garlic again, so the plan is to build a raised bed so I can get the soil just right.
Do you grow garlic in the Philadelphia area? What are your favorite varieties? While I love the look of Purple Glazer, I think I might try something else next year - perhaps Music, Ontario Purple Trillium, Chinese Pink, or Chet’s Italian.
So now I’ve got all this garlic - what to do with it all? I dried the garlic, so I can at least rely on it to last for a little while. But in thinking of longer term storage, what then? There are several different preserving methods that work for garlic -
- Freezing - freezing garlic will produce a slightly mushy clove, but retains the flavor really well. Place peeled whole or chopped cloves in a freezer bag and, well, freeze it.
- Drying - You can dry cloves that have been cut in half in a dehydrator or your oven (140 degrees for two hours and then 130 degrees until the garlic is totally dry and crisp).
- Oil and vinegar - cloves of garlic (both whole and chopped) can be preserved in both oil and vinegar. In refrigerated vinegar, the cloves will keep for about four months. For oil, it’s best to freeze it - otherwise, you run the risk of botulism. The oil will keep for a few months.
- Salt - dry a few cloves and then give a whirl in a blender until the cloves are a fine powder. Add four parts sea salt for each one part garlic powder and process for just a second or two to combine the two ingredients. Do not process the garlic salt too long because it will cake. Store the garlic salt in an airtight glass jar.
- Pickling - Loosely fill a glass jar with peeled garlic cloves. Add enough red or white wine vinegar to cover the garlic and then add about one tablespoon of sea salt per cup of vinegar. Dried (not fresh) herbs such as red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and oregano may be added to taste. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to distribute the salt and herbs. Refrigerator garlic pickles will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator, as long as the garlic remains submerged in the vinegar.
I wondered, though, whether garlic could be preserved in other ways. What about roasted garlic? The answer is yes: it can be frozen! Just roast the heads, squeeze out the garlic and mash - spread thinly onto sheets of wax paper and freeze it. I also found a great recipe for garlic and basil pesto that can be frozen for a few months.
However I end up preserving my garlic, one thing is for certain: I’m going to have garlic breath for months!
Give me the kraut and no one gets hurt
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I love sauerkraut. Love it! Growing up, we always had sauerkraut, pork, and mashed potatoes on New Year’s Day (for luck), a tradition I still continue as an adult. And in college I admit that my breakfast of champions was a daily hot dog with mustard and kraut from Dave’s Dogs in front of Temple University’s library.
My family never served homemade sauerkraut, though, and I’m relatively certain that Dave’s Dogs didn’t exactly use the finest sauerkraut. I’ve sort of wondered about the logistics of making sauerkraut at home, but it never really went beyond the wondering stage…until about a month ago. I ended up with two rather large heads of cabbage through the CSA share. Not knowing what I wanted to do with two heads of cabbage, it seemed like a good idea to try my hand at sauerkraut-making.
The first obstacle was finding a vessel in which to let the cabbage ferment. Stoneware crocks are popular - the Harsch Fermentation Crock, for instance. But I wanted something less expensive for my first time out. I settled on a five gallon food grade plastic bucket with an airlock in the lid, one meant for homebrewing (which ensures that I try homebrewing at some point, as well!).
After that, it was super easy. Using a mandoline, I sliced up the cabbage as thin as I could and tossed it in the bucket. I sprinkled four Tablespoons of pickling salt over the cabbage, and used my hands to mix the salt in and squeeze the cabbage until liquid was released. I poured some water over the cabbage until it was all just covered with water, put on the lid, and let it ferment in my kitchen for just over three weeks.
Most recipes I ran across for sauerkraut called for kosher salt instead of pickling salt, but sometimes you have to improvise. The pickling salt worked just great, although I think it makes the sauerkraut slightly sweeter than kosher would have. Regular old table salt, by the way, will not work. Don’t even try it. The ratio of salt to cabbage, by the way, is five pounds of shredded cabbage to four Tablespoons of salt.
If you use a crock that isn’t air tight, there’s this whole rigamarole involving cheesecloth and pressing and skimming scum off the top. I’m not one for scum, so I took the easy route. Also, the temperature of your kitchen (or wherever you might choose to ferment the sauerkraut) has a direct bearing on the length of time it may take to ferment properly. The ideal temp is around 75 degrees, which takes approximately three weeks. The lower the temperature, the longer it will take to ferment.
All of that to get to the final product: last night I uncorked my fermenting vessel and checked it out - perfect, tangy sauerkraut! I didn’t relish the idea of dragging out my pressure canner last night, so I packed it into freezer bags and threw it in my chest freezer. Frozen sauerkraut will last just about a year. Of course, my annual New Year’s Day krautfest is only about six months away. Hooray!