RISING SUN - The other day, I called up my dad to get his opinion on something. This is unusual because I’m a fairly opinionated person and usually cast my own judgement on any and all situations without much consultation. However, my call was deemed necessary because I was tackling a small scale version of one of the things my dad is an expert a– making sauerkraut.
I am attempting a modernized take on the age old family tradition by attempting to make my kraut in a quart jar. Additionally using sea salt and some strange and exotic wrinkly cabbage. When explaining all of this to my dad, he paused. He apparently hasn’t been kept up to date on the way sauerkraut and all the other fermented foods have become quite hip. And with their hipness, many new ways to create them have been born.
Cruising the internet, I came across many interesting recipes for sauerkraut and other things like Kimchi or Cordito. Nearly none of which called for making the creation on a crock. Jars or food grade buckets are the current standard it seems. Additionally, the description of the best part, the tamping or as I like to call it smashing, of the cabbage had been reduced to massaging gently. However, if you’ve ever made sauerkraut, what you do to that poor cabbage is far from any massage I’ve ever had....but I digress.
My problem came with the fact my fancy wrinkly cabbage was rather dry and I wasn’t sure if I could just go ahead and dump some water in there or not. He assured me I probably should or my jar of shredded cabbage and salt wouldn’t do too much otherwise. However, he seemed quite puzzled by my idea of putting it in a jar rather than one of the many perfectly good crocks that exist in our family. Alas though, the only crocks I have in perfect krauting condition are all 30-50 gallons. Our one to three gallon ones all had cracks and I was without THAT much cabbage so a quart jar seemed logical.
The jar is now sitting in my basement, hopefully turning into something edible. It seems fairly hard to mess up making sauerkraut though. It is after all what my dear friend Tina calls “just controlled rotting.”
Oddly making sauerkraut was this weird thing Chasca and I bonded over in the early days of our courtship. We both had nostalgic memories of tamping cabbage in gigantic crocks in kitchens of our homes and grandmas houses. I’m not sure how many people can say one of the real deal sealing moments in a relationship can be credited to sauerkraut. But, we’ve never been very typical in how we’ve went about falling in love anyway.
I have a lot of happy memories around making sauerkraut. My family together at my grandma’s house, working like a well-oiled machine in her kitchen toward a common goal of delicious sour goodness. I can very clearly see the big white stone crock filled with stinky cabbage sitting in front of my grandma’s China cabinet in her dining room. I can also recall attempting to slip our fingers in the juicy mess for a little taste after a long day of smashing the cabbage into oblivion. It’s a task I feel Thatcher would take to with gusto.
I was particularly inspired to get in on this venture again not only by the eight small heads of cabbage taking up room in my fridge, but also by a fermented pickle experiment we currently have under way.
I posted a picture of the bubbly, pleasantly rotting pickles on my social media and it was met with mixed and somewhat comical reviews. My favorite being “Y’all make some nasty looking stuff. I bet it’s good though.”
I’ve particularly enjoyed indulging in the food preservation venture this year. Completing pickles, relish, jams and now attempted kraut and salsa. My kids are both old enough to understand staying out of the way of the hot pot and jars and enjoy participating in little ways like snapping beans and shucking corn.I hope to work up to one day undertaking the actual pressure canning version of all of this, but I have time to get there. For now, I’ll just keep rooting on my fermenting quart jars and stacking up my half pints to enjoy on a long cold night this winter.