Sunday, June 29, 2008


I picked 12 1/2 pounds of strawberries yesterday, at Thompson Finch farm.  I took the green tops off them, sliced them in half, and put them all in the freezer.  I'm going to have smoothies for life!  And pies & muffins & ice cream toppings...

I also harvested mulberries from a friend's tree.  We held a blanket out under the branches, than someone else shook the tree as they fell.  They're delicious.

I had way too many to eat, so I put some in the dehydrator, with some cherries I got at the farmer's market.  I'm having urges to "put away" food for the winter-- & to see that all this abundance doesn't go to waste.   I don't think a winter of living off frozen spinach & strawberries sounds half bad.  Throw in a couple chickens & a root cellar, and I'm on my way towards self-sufficient homesteading all year round.  

Also, all this beautiful cabbage was just calling out "sauerkraut, sauerkraut!"  so of course I had to obey.   

Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing food & why I love to make & eat lots of it.  Basically as cabbage ferments, the friendly bacteria "lactobacilli" is created, which aids in digestion, increases vitamin levels, and produces beneficial enzymes which promote the growth of healthy flora in the digestive tract.  Studies have been done that show certain compounds created also prevent the growth of cancer.  It has tons of vitamin C, and keeps for a long time-- that's why sauerkraut was taken on sea voyages to prevent scurvy!  Fermented foods have a place in many traditional diets, including German, Japanese, Korean, & Chinese.  
Unfortunately most of what you can buy in the store today is "dead" because it has been pasteurized.  So you get the flavor of sauerkraut, and a lot of salt, without the benefits.  So you have to make it yourself, or support a small local "fermentor".  
When I had to take antibiotics for Lyme disease, the doctor told me I might want to also take "probiotics"... to restore my intestinal flora after the medication kills everything, and to prevent yeast infections & the like.   I think that with everyone on antibiotics these days so much (especially around here for Lyme disease), people should stock up on regular "sauerkraut medicine" to put some friendly bacteria back in our guts.  Yogurt is the most commonly thought of "probiotic" food, but I think sauerkraut's just as good, if not better.  Maybe I'll be making yogurt medicine when I have a cow...

The only ingredients in traditional sauerkraut are cabbage and salt, but you can also add lots of other ingredients, like herbs, spices, etc.  Some people use whey (a bi-product of making cheese) to do a "lactofermentation" but it's not really needed.

I decided to take advantage of the diversity of vegetables & herbs on the farm right now to experiment with different flavors & styles of sauerkraut.

The first step is to chop up the cabbage (and other ingredients).  Sharpened knives make this really enjoyable, and good music, and large bowls.

Then you mix it up with salt (about 1 1/2 tablespoons per head of cabbage), and pack it into jars (or a big crock-- I'm always on the lookout for a nice big ceramic sauerkraut crock in antique stores).  I have this handy little wooden "pounder" that helps me to mush it into the jars, but you can also use your hands, or anything else that might work.  The salt starts drawing out water from the vegetables, and you basically want to press it down until the liquid level rises higher than the veggies.
Then, I put a round stone that fits almost perfectly into each jar, to press down the cabbage and keep it submerged under the brine-water.  Any "floaties" I scoop out from the top--- they will create mold if left there.

The caps I put on just lightly, I don't screw them on.  Basically you want to allow the gases created to escape, without letting in foreign bacterias & molds that will make the batch go "off".
These jars will start to bubble in the next few days, and I will be tasting them for "readiness" after a week probably, or less!

The combinations/flavors I'm experimenting with are:

Cabbage, turnip, carrot, parsley
Cabbage, turnip, carrot, parsley, kohlrabi, scallions
Cabbage, swiss chard
Cabbage, dill
Cabbage, mint, calendula petals
Cabbage, basil
Cabbage, cilantro, scallions
Cabbage, parsley, garlic scapes
Cabbage, purslane
Just purslane (I've heard you can pickle it)

I'll let you know how this experiment turns out!  Ask me if you'd like a taste!

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