Friday, November 6, 2009

Kitchen Science

I really can get excited about the silliest things, really.

For example, I've been fermenting cabbage on my counter for a couple of weeks.

I knew, when I put the cabbage seeds into the ground in the spring, that I intended to make sauerkraut this year. I really like sauerkraut, and I've always wanted to make it. I tried last year, but what I ended up with was just incredibly salty cabbage, because I didn't let it ferment.

Last year, I salted the cabbage in pint-sized jars, added a bit of hot water, and canned it in a boiling water bath - all in the same day. The end result was not so good, and I ended up just tossing it all.

I harvested all of the cabbage in my garden about two weeks ago. It was a bunch of fairly compact, very small heads that I trimmed, cored and sliced into thin shreds.

Then, I put the shreds into a plastic container and every two inches or so of cabbage, I'd add about a tablespoon of salt. When I got to the top of the container, I pressed everything down real tight, and added enough hot water to cover the cabbage with about a half inch of liquid (when it was weighted). I covered the cabbage with a cheesecloth, and then, I put a lid on it and weighted it with ... well, a weight - you know, one of those hand weights that people use for strengthening exercises :).

And I left it ... mostly because I didn't know what to do next.

I tried it today.

It's sauerkraut - a little saltier than maybe some people who don't like salt would enjoy, but it definitely has that distinct sauerkraut tang ... and crispy! Not at all like the watery, stringy, limp stuff I've had from the store. It's seriously good stuff!

I'm planning to water-bath can part of it tonight, because we won't eat it all very fast, but I'll leave some in the refrigerator, where it will stay alive.

I purchased several more heads of cabbage at the Farmer's Market, and I'm going to make more sauerkraut. I'm thinking for one batch I'll add one of the chili peppers I grew and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. That should give it an interesting flavor :). I also have a head of red cabbage, which will be just yummy as pink sauerkraut.

I'm so pleased with myself - to be truthful. A lot of the stuff we do, I'm learning by experimenting. Growing up, my family never ate things like sauerkraut. The first time I canned anything was just over twelve years ago. None of it is difficult (intimidating, yes, but difficult, not at all), and the sense of satisfaction at actually doing it is so incredible. When I succeed in something that I thought would be hard, I feel such a sense of empowerment.

See what I mean? I really can get excited about the silliest things, really.


  1. that's not silly, that is the kind of stuff my life revolves around.

  2. Congrats!

    Now here's a puzzler, I like kimchi, but I hate saurkraut. Hmm...

  3. I know what you mean, I get excited about making yogurt! I've been wanting to try making sauerkraut, then I change my mind over fears of getting sick. I love canning, and maybe all the canning rules of sterilization are what make me afraid of getting botulism from kraut. I'm sure it's ridiculous because people have been fermenting veggies for thousands of years. I guess I just need to make myself try it.

  4. Same here. I made my first bread in my life yesterday and the way I was taking pictures of it you would've thought I had George Clooney in my kitchen!
    And you're right: (mostly) none of these things are difficult, but they are intimidating. Perhaps it's because we've grown up thinking we should leave food to the professionals, we might poison ourselves or simply ruin it...
    No more! Power to the People! :))))))

  5. I get excited over the same stuff. The dehydrator is cause for smiles when I see it, and the tink of cooling canning jars is music.

    Himself likes kraut, and I will, one day, make some for us. I'm just not ready to try it yet; sourdough is first!