Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things


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Kimchi

I got up this morning and said “You know what sounds like a good project for today? Sauerkraut!” We got a head of cabbage in our CSA box this week and I don’t really love it cooked, so I’ve been struggling to find a use for it since my favorite cabbage roll recipe really let me down the last time I used it. Sauerkraut is always a good use for cabbage – aside from being delicious, it’s very nutritious: cabbage is high in Vitamin C and fermenting it gives an end product that’s full of beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus, among others, which is important for digestion).

You’ve noticed, though, that this post is titled “Kimchi” – in paging through my copy of Nourishing Traditions to see what they had to say about fermenting vegetables, I found the kimchi recipe, which sounded WAY better to me than sauerkraut. I don’t know about you, but to me garlic, ginger, and chilis > caraway pretty much every day. Plus, I had all the ingredients on hand! (Scroll down to the bottom for the TL;DR version)

Clockwise from upper right: Cabbage, knife, 2 TB sea salt, carrots, dried chili pepper, garlic, ginger.

The measurements on the vegetables are pretty flexible, but you’d be wise to use the amount of salt specified below. Everything gets shredded or grated or minced and mixed together, then squeezed or pounded to release the liquid from the veggies.

I started by grating the carrots and ginger. I peeled the ginger because it wasn’t organic and also because I rather enjoy peeling ginger. I did not peel the carrots because they’re organic and I’m selectively lazy. I grated both on the fine side of the box grater, but it would have been just fine to do it in the food processor instead.

Shredded carrots and ginger. The spoon was for peeling the ginger – do you know this trick? It’s so cool! I also used the spoon to scrape the ginger off the grater, since the fibers got stuck on there pretty well.

Once you’ve got the carrots and ginger grated, it’s time to start on the cabbage. To start, cut the cabbage into quarters, then remove the core.

Before

After

Just cut along that diagonal line from the center of the cabbage down to the base and either compost the core or save it for snacking. Once you’ve got the core out of there, cut the cabbage quarter in half from top to bottom. Technically this isn’t a necessary step, but since I don’t like long strands I cut the cabbage into eighths. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you possibly can. A good sharp knife helps with this, but mostly it just takes practice. They make special tools for this, which can be great if you’re doing a large quantity, but for just one head of cabbage I’m not going to the basement to dig that thing out.

This is the first quarter of the cabbage, with the carrots and ginger.

Now, one head of cabbage takes up a lot of space once it’s shredded. In order to not have a huge mound of cabbage to work with at the end, I worked in batches. Shred a quarter of the cabbage, put it in the bowl with a quarter of the salt, and squeeze the heck out of it. Repeat three more times.

This is all of the cabbage, plus the carrots and ginger, shredded and salted and squeezed.

At this point, all that’s left to add is the garlic and chili.

This is roughly 3 large cloves’ worth of minced garlic. Maybe 1.5 TB or so.

You guessed it – throw it into the bowl and squeeze the veggies. You should have a noticeable amount of liquid collecting in the bottom of your bowl by this time – keep it all in there, because it’s going to cover your vegetables as they ferment!

This is what you want to see!

Divide your vegetables and liquid between two clean and sanitized (either boiled or chemically sanitized) quart jars and press down on the veggies until they’re covered with liquid. Put a lid on the jar and set it aside for several days to ferment.

See how the liquid is covering the veggies?

I posted about this project on Facebook this morning and several of my friends chimed in with suggestions based on their experience. One person suggested using white plastic reusable jar lids, of which I have an ample supply. Another friend shared a link to a DIY airlock lid project, which uses the regular two piece jar lids and an airlock (which you can get from a homebrew supply store, such as Northern Brewer). I was all set to use that when another friend commented that she ferments in regular Mason jars (as opposed to wide-mouth) and uses a #12 stopper and airlock to seal the jar. Since that was a bit easier than the DIY project, I stopped by Northern Brewer for some stoppers and airlocks. I’ll still try the DIY project, since NB didn’t have stoppers big enough for wide-mouth jars and I would like to ferment in half gallon jars, which of course only come in a wide-mouth version.

All ready to go!

This really is simple – you just put a little water in the airlock and insert it into the stopper, then insert the stopper into the mouth of the jar. The airlock allows the fermentation gases to escape while keeping outside air from entering the jar. You can absolutely ferment this in an unvented jar, but you may want to vent it once a day or so (more frequently if your house is warm) to avoid damaging the lid.

Nourishing Traditions suggests letting this ferment for 3 days, then transferring to cold storage. I’ll probably let it go until the airlock stops bubbling, and then it’ll either go in the back of the fridge or into the basement with the other canned goods. Our basement gets pretty chilly in the winter, so it’ll keep nicely down there. You could heat process this to seal the jars for longer-term storage, but that would kill all of the beneficial bacteria that developed during fermentation. Plus it would lose the great fresh crunch of a raw product.

Korean Sauerkraut, aka Kimchi (adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

  • 1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 TB grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes (I used some dried chili we had, about 2 peppers’ worth)

Combine all vegetables and salt and pound or squeeze until vegetables have released their liquid. Pack into sanitized quart jars and press down on vegetables until they are covered by their own juices. Cover (either with an unvented lid or a lid with an airlock as discussed above) and allow to sit at room temperature 3 days or until fermentation has slowed. If using lids with airlocks, replace with unvented lids. Move kimchi to cold storage until needed. Eat!


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Grapes!

Last Friday, Kate and I went out to Wisp ‘O Willow Berry Farm in Stacy, MN. I’d been there with my friend Amy years ago to pick grapes and raspberries and just hadn’t had the chance to get back. Their vineyard has expanded quite a bit from what I remember, as has the raspberry patch.

We picked about 16# of small, sweet, vibrantly purple grapes. We also picked about 2.75# of raspberries while being serenaded by the buzzing of bees and the quacking of the farm’s dozen or so ducks. Their website mentions a donkey but we didn’t see him, sadly.

This is what 16# of grapes looks like.

I’ve been nursing a strong craving for grape jam lately, which triggered the farm trip. Grape jam is something I’d never encountered until adulthood, when I was paging through my battered copy of the Ball Blue Book and stumbled across the recipe. I’ve switched to using the recipe that comes with the Sure-Jell low sugar pectin because I love the extremely bright and fresh flavor I get in lower-sugar preparations. The biggest part of the whole project is squeezing the darned grapes out of their skins, which is where my comment about the size of these grapes comes in. Kate, the kids, and I spent I don’t even know how many hours squeezing the first batch and Chris and I watched three episodes of Game of Thrones while squeezing the second batch. It really is worth it, but it’ll go faster if you can get larger grapes!

Do enlist your children and friends in this project.

After separating 10# of grapes from their skins I was NOT feeling up to doing more. My son has been asking for grape jelly and I couldn’t deny him, being the sucker that I am. In general I don’t like making jelly because the yield isn’t as high and I prefer the texture of jam over jelly, but in this case the ease of making jelly totally makes up for the lower yield.

Mash up those suckers!

It’s pretty simple, really – remove the grapes from their stems and put them in a pot. Mash ’em up, then add a cup or two of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for a few minutes. Ladle it all into a jelly bag or a few layers of cheesecloth, then bundle it up and hang it over a bowl/container until it stops draining. I had the frame for the jelly strainer but not the bag, so I took the cheesecloth route and hung it from the jelly bag frame. It worked well enough, though I was pretty worried that one of the kids or a cat would knock the whole thing over.

Just let it sit until it stops dripping, then compost all the goo.

From there, you just boil the juice down with sugar until it hits the gelling point, or if you’re like me and are impatient and have had bad luck with jam in the past, you add pectin and take the quick route.

Homemade bread and homemade jam. I spoil my kids in the best possible way.

Next up: I’ve ordered another 40# of tomatoes from our CSA, Hog’s Back Farm. I’ll be canning some of them, making another batch of tomato jam, and probably more of the roasted tomato sauce.