Old What’s Her Face* and I went to town today. We tried out a new beer pub, and it was pretty good. Good menu, and they prepared the food well. Large beer selection too. She doesn’t drink at all, so we never have to take turns when we drive somewhere.
We stopped off at a fresh produce store on the way back. I’m a firm believer in learning some old school ways of doing things. I’ve fished, hunted, grown my own food, and canned. Everyone ought to have a basic understanding of how all this works before the next major flood, storm, or junta shows up. Humans have been preserving the harvest this way since prehistoric times. Vegetables were pretty hard to come by in February, and pickling was one way of staying healthy through the winter.
Today, I’m pickling and it’s remarkably simple. We used a few modern tools for the sake of convenience, but I’ve done this with basic kitchen knives too. Today’s recipe is for sauerkraut. I always wanted to try kimchi or dill pickles, but never seem to find everything I need at the same time.
First you need a pickling crock.
This one is kind of souped up, because it has a water valve built in the top. It let’s the carbon dioxide out, but doesn’t let the nasty yeasts inside. It isn’t necessary, but then you have to keep scraping a gross scum off the top. I don’t have that problem.
Here are a few special tools. The crock came with two stones to keep the kraut below the liquid. I made my own kraut bat from a spalted tree root I found along the Boise River. It’s crooked, for the cool factor, but it also helps inside the curved crock.
Just add vegetables. This batch is five medium cabbage, four onions, and a half dozen apples.
The recipe is surprisingly simple. Put everything through the food mill and make coleslaw. Layer it in the crock, and spread a fistful of salt every couple of inches. Smash the crap out of it with the kraut bat.
The salt, and bat, pull juice out of the cabbage. All the vegetables are covered with the bacteria that creates fermentation. It’s what does all the work. You can pickle almost anything with just the vegetable and salt water. I’ve been told to never attempt green beans though. You need an extra step or they turn toxic.
Someday, I’ll find pickling cucumbers that are ripe alongside fresh dill. Until then I’ll stick with sauerkraut. I will generally eat more sauerkraut anyway. It can stay in the crock for a year as long as the water valve is kept full. I generally freeze some and clean everything up after a month or so. This is the healthy kind of fermentation too. It rivals and may even surpass all the yogurts that are so popular right now. Talk about pro-biotics. You may also can it, but this will kill all the beneficial beasties.
Here’s what it looked like about 2/3 of the way through. You can see the footprints from my kraut bat. These were good cabbages and I only had to add about a quart of water to make sure the veg stays underwater.
Add some liquid to the trough around the top of the crock and put it away. As long as the water valve remains full, it will keep happily burping along. I’ll probably try it in about 30 days. Maybe a nice pork loin and some Belgian ale.
*Not my wife’s actual name