This is delicious. Sweet and sour, freshly fermented and crunchy cabbage. And it’s pink. Hence the name. We have a lot of girls in our household, so the word ‘princess’ is often used as an adjective. As in, ‘princess cauliflower’ (dyed pink from beets), ‘princess rice’ (same), ‘princess soup’ (my attempt to copy my mother-in-law’s borscht), and my new favourite, ‘princess sauerkraut’ (a head of red cabbage made its way into the crock).
I documented my first attempt at making sauerkraut in a large crock, just in case it turned out…. and it did! Many thanks to my Grandma for giving me her very heavy 5-gallon-or-so crock.
So anyway, the first thing I do is buy a container of balkan-style yogurt. The purest one, with bacterial cultures and 6% fat. Then I suspend it in a fabric in a jar, so all the whey drips out. This whey helps seed the bacteria. You could also use goat if you have cow dairy allergies. I have a container of goat yogurt in my fridge, waiting for the next batch, just to try it out. What’s left in the cloth works well as a stiff sour cream.
Once that’s been sitting for a day you’ll have lots of whey. What’s in the photo is what I’ve used for 3-4 heads of cabbage plus other stuff. There’s really no exact recipe here…. but the princess sauerkraut contains 2 green cabbages, 1 red cabbage, 3 large carrots, and a bunch of radishes.
I use my food processor to shred the veggies, then put them in the crock.
Between each head of cabbage, I sprinkle about a tablespoon or a bit more of salt. Don’t use iodized salt. Sea salt works well, or the pink rock salt (princess household, I tell you…) works well.
And… mix it up.
The salt works to release water from the cabbage, which is what a good batch of sauerkraut needs. Everything under the juices stays well-preserved, even if there’s mold growing on the surface (although I don’t leave mine that long, I could if I wanted to). I help the process by mixing, punching it down, squeezing it in my hands, and pressing down. In the next photo you can see how nicely the juices have started coming up.
To keep it under the water, I put cabbage leaves around the outside edges and a plate in the middle.
And a big jar full of water on top of the plate to weigh it down.
And covered it to protect from RFCs.*
Then: the waiting. 5 days of waiting. Checking every day to make sure the water level was above the cabbage level. Sometimes a few times. Smelling it, making sure it smelled right. Trust me, if it goes bad, you know. It smelled good and sour the whole time, and made my mouth water waiting for it.
I thought 5 days was good enough and decided to taste test.
It was delicious, so I put it in jars and into the fridge. Yum!
Not long after (maybe an hour or so?), the crock looked like this:
SPICY kraut!!! 4 green cabbages, 3 lbs carrots, 2 bags radishes, 1 chunk of ginger, 4 jalapenos and 4 chili peppers. Plus whey and salt. Oh baby. It is good. (It’s now in my fridge too.) I would add more hot peppers next time though.
*RFC: Random Flying Contaminant. You never know when your 7-year-old is going to sneeze up long-distance gobs. And 9-year-olds doing dishes tend to create projectile suds somehow. And when hubby clips fingernails in the kitchen…. well…. you get the idea….
Living in the city, I often ask myself how much more I can grow. I have a large garden by most city standards, at around 25′x80′. Huge, I know. You’d think I’d be growing enough to feed a small village. Sadly, though, that is not the case. Long rows of plants leave lots of extra space around them, and this extra space needs to be weeded. Add to that the fact that all the nutrition I mixed into the soil is equally blended across good growing space and pathways. Not very efficient.
The reason I like this All New Square Foot Gardening book so much is that it deals with the inefficiencies and presents a better way. Sure, if you live in the country and you’ve got space to spare and want to grow food for all your neighbors, this may not make a whole lot of sense for you. But city folk, who are increasingly becoming more and more interested in growing their own food, do not have the luxury (or burden?) of space.
Mel Bartholomew, who wrote this book, suggests that 80% of the space in a traditional garden is wasted. He popularized 4′x4′ garden boxes that are marked with a square foot grid. Some plants will take a whole square foot, such as tomato or pepper plants. These each get their own square. Smaller plants like radishes don’t need that much space, so they get planted 16 to a square foot. Lettuce will grow 4 to a square foot. Essentially, in the whole garden box you are not wasting any space. And because it’s 4′x4′, you can reach to the middle of the garden without stepping in it.
This is key – don’t compact the soil. Start with amazing soil – not soil dug out of the ground, but a nice potting soil plus composted manure and other blends of compost. If it stays nice and fluffy, the roots of the plants will have the three things they need – air, water, and nutrition – and will grow very well. If you are not gardening in raised boxes but do have a garden, try to designate areas that are ‘no-walk zones’ – never ever step in them. When you add nutrition, add it only there, and not in the pathways.
Other reasons for gardening in smaller and more intensive space include saving water and growing what you can eat. Large gardens with long rows of cabbage just might produce more cabbage than an average city family can eat. And who needs 10-20 zucchini plants? One is usually more than enough, as those with gardening friends can tell you.
I like this idea so much that I’m basing my product line on this reasoning. I will have 4′x4′ garden kits for sale, as well as smaller 4′x1′ planters with bottoms for those growing food on balconies.
If you’d like to read more about Square Foot Gardening, you can check out the official website. I will also be posting more about this in the future.
I made some sauerkraut last week after a bit of a hiatus; my last few batches didn’t turn out so well and I was a bit discouraged by the lack of yummy eats after the days of fermentation. This batch turned out ok, although next time I think I’ll let it ferment a bit longer so it has a stronger flavour.
It’s super easy. Do you want to make some? Here’s what I did:
1. Find a medium-sized cabbage, some sea salt, caraway seeds, a big bowl, potato masher, big spoon, wide-mouth mason jars, a drip-catching pan that fits the jars, and a food processor with shredding attachment.
2. Take any yucky leaves off the cabbage. Take some nice ones off too, and save them for later.
3. Shred the cabbage with the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, that’s really too bad because it makes this part a whole lot easier.
4. Put the cabbage in a big bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons or more of sea salt. And caraway seeds, if you like them in kraut. They’re optional.
5. Let it sit for awhile. Clean the food processor, check your email, like my facebook page….
6. Next, stomp it with the potato masher for a bit, until it’s really juicy. If you pile it all in the middle of the bowl and then press down with the masher, juice should ooze around the masher. Then you’re done mashing. Might take 8-10 minutes.
7. Get your big spoon and scoop it into the wide-mouth mason jars bit by bit, pressing down between every 1-2 scoops. Make sure it’s really pressed in there. Leave 2 inches from the tops of the jars.
8. Find those nice cabbage leaves you saved for later, and trim them so they’re a bit bigger than the size of the jar. Use them to cover the top of the sauerkraut, and sort of push down on them until the juice starts oozing around them.
9. Put the lids on, but don’t screw them down tight. They should be loose enough to allow leakage, if needed.
10. Put the jars in the pan designated to catch drips.
11. Leave them for 3 days. You’ll see the juice level rise in the jars as the lacto-bacteria ferment on the cabbage.
12. Taste and see if it’s strong enough for you – if not cover it back up and let it sit for a bit longer.
13. When you like the flavour, put it in the fridge and close the lid tightly. You want to prevent evaporation of the liquid at this point, and the ferment doesn’t need to have overflow capacity anymore.
14. Leave a comment for me and let me know how it went!
Note: if something goes wrong, you will know. Sauerkraut should smell sour, not rotten. If it smells off to you, don’t eat it. If you’re not sure, ask someone who loves sauerkraut to smell it and taste it for you.
For most of this past spring, this is what my deck looked like: it was covered in veggie seedlings soaking up the sun. Can you see why my greenhouse wish came true?
Here’s my hubby, installing the automatic vent openers in the greenhouse. He likes to use the deck for a good BBQ every now and then. Come to think of it, I think I have a photo of him and the BBQ from this spring….. yep. Here it is:
Not a lot of room there. He had to move a few trays to be able to stand in front of the BBQ.
I also wrecked a good portion of his nice-looking grass when I built Big Bertha.
I probably have the most patient and understanding husband in the universe. He totally got why I needed a greenhouse. I’m planning to increase my seedling production this year by a factor of about 6-7. We don’t have enough decks for that kind of growth, so obviously the solution is to install a greenhouse.
Living things struggle when they don’t have enough space; plants need room for leaves and roots. If you look at the first photo again, you’ll see a white tray by the rubber boots. It’s filled with brassica seedlings – I think Collard Greens, but could also be Cabbage. They look similar at that age. If you look at the black tray with square holes right behind it (farther toward the top of the pic), you’ll see brassica seedlings there too. Compare the size difference – the ones in the white tray are twice the size at least. The reason why? Space. The seeds were all sown at the same time. The lucky ones in the white tray were transplanted to give their roots more room. You can see the effect that had: they are some pretty nice-looking seedlings.
I am so incredibly excited to have a real greenhouse in my backyard that I can stand up in! I look forward to spreading my roots and establishing this kitchen garden business. Thanks to everyone who reads and encourages and challenges me to follow my passions. I’ve got room to grow.