Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sauerkraut Mystery Partially Solved

Our Chubeza delivery this week included more cabbage. We do like cabbage, honestly we do; my dad's family has Polish roots, and Chad comes from a Mennonite family. And cabbage rolls are a staple of Mennonite cooking. And we like cabbage with tomato sauce, and we like slaw. But there was just too much of it for one week. So, we decided on sauerkraut. But we had no clue how to do it. We turned to two dependable sources of information: my grandparents and the internet.

Now, apparently, this is not very easy, and Faith Petric's song describes the process in a deceivingly easy way. In her song, while cleaning the fridge, she comes across a strange substance:

Look at this, it's sauerkraut, now when did we have sauerkraut?
Whatever this stuff was, it sure is sauerkraut by now!

My grandparents, after a lengthy interrogation, confessed, that they don't do any fermentation at all. They just stick the cabbage in a pot of vinegar. Now that won't do. The internet resources, on the other hand, were less candid, and more vague and mysterious. "Large ceramic pots" in the garage were described, a process of removing some foam, daily, under a gauze, was mentioned, and the whole process was described very unappetizingly. Naaaah, we said, we won't go there.

Then, Shari Ansky's book came to the rescue, and we modified the recipe there to include more stuff we liked. And after five days of just standing in our porch, it came out delicious. And here is how we did it.

The one essential tool for this enterprise is a large glass jar that closes hermetically, with rubber, like the one you see above in the picture.

You'll need:
3 celery stalks
A nice head of green cabbage, cut into quarters or smaller pieces
4 red spicy chiles
4 bay leaves
black pepper, unground, to taste

Chop the celery stalks into pieces that fit on the bottom of the jar, and put them there. Then, pack the jar, very tightly, with cabbage pieces, chiles, bay leaves and pepper. Finally, pour into the jar salt water (1 tsp salt to 1 cup water) until the liquid covers the veg. Leave in a lit, sunny spot for five days. Voila.

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