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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Making sauerkraut - guest post by Jeannine S

 Shelly and Jaimie were lucky enough to be gifted with a sauerkraut crock. day, Shelly came home from the local farmer's market with a huge head of cabbage. Naturally my question was “What on earth are we going to do with that huge head of cabbage???” To which my sweet daughter-in-law replied “Why, make sauerkraut, of course!” (This was before I knew about the crock.)

Now back in my hippie days in the 70's, I did make sauerkraut, among other things, the old fashioned way with a crockery jar, a plate and a brick. Scenes of the many times the kraut had spoiled due to flies, uncooperative weather, or just plain bad luck, flashed before my eyes. I was dreading it. I hesitantly inquired, “Do you have a crock or big jar we can use?” Sweet Shelly chirped cheerfully, “Well, we have a sauerkraut making crock! Will that do?”

Whew, I figuratively wiped my brow, what a relief! It was actually a great set up. There was the crock with a built in lip to fill with water, a lid and a stone weight for the cabbage. Oh, and by the way, there was also a recipe. Talk about convenient!

We had a production line going, with Jaimie shredding the cabbage (which I HATE to do,) and I was putting it in the crock and smashing it (to release the juice.) We also had to layer it with salt. The worst part was the smashing. I tried a potato masher and that didn't work as well as I wanted it to, so I went back to “old tried and true” - my fist! Once the cabbage was in the crock and layered with salt, we put on the lid and filled the lip with water. (This was to keep the air and wee, small creatures out.)

Then it was just a matter of waiting and fighting the urge to peek at it. After about 6-8 weeks, we opened the crock and for supper, ate some of the most delicious sauerkraut I have ever tasted.

(Editor's note:  We failed to keep water in around the lip of the crock, so it went bad before we put it in the fridge.  So, that went to the compost and we'll be making some more).  

Yes, we can (and dry, and store). On preserving.

A couple months ago we were working on canning some of our harvest and farmer's market finds.  We have 8 jars of pickled beets (one of which also has some parsnips it in because we didn't have enough beets to fill that jar).  Two of the jars have golden beets, so the distinctive red/purple color is lacking.  I'm sure they will taste just as delicious.

A ceramic pot for sauerkraut

At the farmer's market about as long ago, we bought some peaches and cabbage.  We are making sauerkraut with the cabbage, fermenting in a ceramic pot rather than canning, because it will have more health benefits.

The peaches, while bought at the farmer's market that requires the food to be organic, is not local.  However, the woman offered me a deal for her last two quart-baskets.  With the peaches, I wanted some peach butter.  I haven't had it before but it sounds great.  I have been a bit turned off by the massive amounts of white processed sugar in our foods.  That's one area I want to cut back on (though I don't foresee cutting it out completely in our near future).  I did some searching and found a recipe for sugar-free peach butter.  I've heard of using concentrated apple juice and am glad to put this tip into use. 

We also took our hot peppers and hung them to dry around the kitchen, where we also hang our herbs.

(Yes, we're late posting this.  These activities were done in September, but we're now getting around to blogging about it). 

Making vinegar at home

There are a lot of apple peels left over after making sauce, pie fillings, and dried apples.  The last two years we just composted them, but this year we figured we'd make use of them by making vinegar.  We use vinegar for cleaning (including conditioning my hair), cooking, preserving, and I even found ideas of using it for making your skin soft.  It wouldn't cost us anything to make, and it was easy enough, so we went for it.  Using a 5-gallon bucket, we put all the peels in (no peels with black spots or rotten areas).  Put a plate over that to keep the peels down and then put another weight (we used a canning jar full of water) to keep the plate down.  You don't want anything floating around and get exposed to the air.  Cover it in water and put in a place where it can remain undisturbed.  We had our bucket in the cold storage room. After about 6 weeks or so we brought it back up and stored it in sterilized canning jars.  We had a successful first attempt and I'm certain we'll be doing this again next year.

We used a funnel with cheese cloth in it to filter, and just put it in a used gallon container, and then started filling up a few mason jars.  On the left, you can see the green 5-gallon bucket on full of vinegar.  On the right side, you can see that we were also making laundry detergent.

By the end of November, we had our own home made vinegar.