At this time of the year a lot of our gardening actually happens in the kitchen. You’ll find us in there processing our own and other people’s excess garden produce, plus stuff we find at the local markets. We’ll spend whole days drying, chutnifying, relishing, jamming, bottling and fermenting – delighting in the knowledge that when Winter comes round we’ll have well stocked shelves and happy bellies.

preserves

A recent preserving binge produced these tasty treats: cherry jam, zucchini relish, cherry & plum jam, apricot jam and more zucchini relish. Hmmm we think that’s enough jam now.

cucumbers

The cucumbers have arrived and so have our pickling efforts!

Lately we’ve been making sauerkraut fairly consistently due to the serious amount of cabbage and carrot coming from our gardens. We alternate between making kim chi and ‘kraut’ following this basic method:

Ingredients

  • Cabbage (any colour (red is extra beautiful). Some people will only use chinese cabbage as it has a higher moisture content and is therefor a lot easier to have successful sauerkraut
  • Salt

Optional Ingredients for extra taste and beauty

  • Carrot, daikon radish, beetroot (one or all of them is fine)
  • Dill (is so tasty)
  • Peppercorns

If you want to make kim chi this is where you also add ginger, lemon juice and chilli

Tools

  • Ceramic crock pot or glass jar/s
  • A kitchen utensil to pack your vessel tightly; i.e. potato masher, wooden spoon
  • A weight of some description, more on that below

Method

  • Chop cabbage finely and put in a large bowl
  • Add some salt and roughly massage the cabbage until you can see some of its’ juice start to pool
  • Grate your carrot or beetroot/radish and leave to one side
  • Start packing your glass jar or croc pot with alternate layers of cabbage and carrot/vegie mix

With each layer you put in, sprinkle some salt and ‘pack’ it down firmly so there are no air pockets forming. You should eventually start to have a lot of moisture covering the cabbage as you’re doing this.

  • Once your jar is full, make sure there are no air pockets and that there’s a solid layer of moisture covering the contents. If any cabbage is sticking out then this can ruin the sauerkraut, it needs to be completely immersed in its’ own juice. To do this, place a weight on top of the contents. I use a sterile lid (to cover the surface) and the pestle (from my mortar and pestle) to weight down my sauerkraut which works just fine. In a crock pot I’ve also used a plate (to cover the surface) and a glass jar full of water to weight it down – improvise!

2014-02-06 09.17.47

Once your jar is packed tightly, make sure there is a solid layer of juice on top with no bits of cabbage sticking out. Above, I’ve wedged a sterilised lid (from a different jar) to press the contents down. You can add a weight on top of this as well.

2014-02-06 09.18.42

Our high tech weighing down system, a sterilised lid from a jar and a pestle

What next?

Leave it on your kitchen bench to let the fermentation process kick off – do not put it in your fridge just yet. It doesn’t need to have a lid on it, indeed with a weight on (the mortar in my case) – it can’t! Depending on what climate you live in will determine how quickly this happens. In cool temperate Tasmania it’ll take around one week for it to turn into delicious kraut. However you can leave it out longer for it to develop a stronger taste. Once you’re happy with the taste (just keep trying it every day until your are) move it into the fridge to ‘stabilise’ it. From here eat and enjoy at will!

2014-02-02 09.23.14

Cabbage, carrot and dill sauerkraut in action on our kitchen bench

You may notice that in the above photo I’ve got my large jar sitting on a plate. This is to catch the excess liquid which can sometimes (and did this time) overflow. This occurs as the weight slowly compresses the contents, causing the juice to rise considerably.

As far as I can tell sauerkraut goes with anything savory – salads, roast vegies, poached eggs, the list goes on – it’s all delicious and wonderfully healthy.

Dive into the world of fermentation with world expert, Sandor Katz here. Mr Katz is currently touring Australia with our mates from Milkwood Permaculture – you can see if he’s coming to a place near you here!

*Your blogger is Hannah Moloney: Co-director of Good Life Permaculture and lover of all things fun and garden-esk