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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homesteading Update, 17 April 2012

One of the unhappy by products of living where there is abundant rain is the fact that the weeds love it, and they tend to grow faster and heartier than do things you want to grow.  For example, if my apple trees grew as fast as the weeds do they'd be pelting me with apples by now, much like the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz.  Of course, in my neck of the woods, part of the reason the weeds get so big is that it's always raining, which deters one from getting out there to do something about it.  I'm not exactly afraid of rusting, but neither do I dig getting soaked.  Consequently they have quite the toehold on the garden this spring.

Well this past weekend was really nice, weather-wise, so it was all about weeding and planting blueberry bushes and staking up hops plants.  The asparagus are really coming on strong so we've been eating a lot of that.  And really enjoying it; if you like asparagus and you have the space, I'd really encourage you to plant them because they are so much better than store-bought, and you know what? They're a lot cheaper, too.  The asparagus has me planning a lot of perennial vegetables for the next place; stuff you plant once and then are able to harvest year after year just makes a lot of sense, both in terms of your time and money, and let's face it, your back as well. And in difficult years, perennial vegetables might be what gets you through.  I think they're a good investment.

Once the weeding was done for the weekend we made sauerkraut. Steve was going to put some on the grocery list, but I said, no let's make it again.  So we bought twelve pounds of cabbage, which is five or six heads.  I have to figure out how to get the cabbage to overwinter in the garden so that I can do this from home grown; January King fares really well, but I always plant it too late.

Anyway, while I quartered, cored, sliced, and then shredded cabbage in the food processor, Steve, the Fermentation King, figured out the proper proportions for the rest of the ingredients.  I noted to him that I was getting way ahead of him on the cabbage and that he needed to hurry up.

He frowned and snapped, "Dude! I'm working!" somewhat indignantly.

I laughed and he scowled.

"I'm not laughing at you," I said. "I'm laughing because in ten years of marriage, this is the first time you've called me 'dude'.  It makes me feel good.  I must be a good buddy of yours," I finished, by this time on the other side of the kitchen to give him a kiss.  He grinned at me.  "Well you are a good buddy of mine."

I went back to shredding cabbage and he was ready with the salt.  Since I was leaving the hard part up to him, he got to decide what kind of sauerkraut to make, which turned out to be Weinkraut.  For every five pounds of cabbage, he added three tablespoons of pickling salt, and since we were mixing in different seeds, he decided to do that in layers.  The first layer got caraway seeds, the second layer got juniper berries, and the third and final layer got celery seeds.  Then he smacked it all down with the business end of his fist.  By the time we got the crock stones on top of the cabbage, it was already exuding enough liquid to keep it covered.

The coolest place in the house is the laundry room, because we don't heat it, so that's where the crock went for the next six to eight weeks. Sauerkraut is supposed to taste the best when it's fermented at cooler temperatures, say sixty to sixty-five degrees (Fahrenheit), because it gives it enough time to develop the flavors you want it to. You can ferment sauerkraut at much higher temperatures, and it will take a lot less time, but the flavor won't be as good.  The first time I made sauerkraut, it was late summer and a little too warm, and the sauerkraut was a little funky.  Not inedible, but definitely funky, and I think I'd rather have funky music than funky cabbage.  I mean, we ate it, but I don't want to repeat it.

Because this is a wine kraut, and Germans frequently eat apples and cabbage together, Steve decided that we'd use some of the Apfelwein that he made; a cup of that went into the crock last night. All we need to do now is let the kraut do its thing in the relative cool and quiet of the laundry room for a couple of months.

Just hopefully not its funky thing.


Miriam said...

Oh, it's going to be soooo good! We just ate the last of our most recent batch (actually there was a bit left, but it had fermented just a bit too long...) so it's time to get a new batch started. I really like the idea of including pickling spices, not just salt, so I think I'll try it!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

One word: Mulch!

Since we covered our garden in marsh hay last year, I'm never going back to an un-mulched state of being. We went from constant weeding to no weeding, in one application.

On other matters, I say Brava! to perennial vegetables. I just wish there were more of them. After asparagus and rhubarb, where do you go?

Now you'll have to excuse me, as I want to get my sauerkraut going before the weather gets too warm.

Hippo said...

That has to be the sweetest, touchy feeliest, heart warming recipe for sauerkraut I have ever read!

Rachel said...

Funny, I always thought living where it is so sunny is what causes the weeds to grow like crazy.

Leigh said...

Now you've got me hankering for some homemade sauerkraut! I didn't plant cabbages this spring because with our kitchen project, I have no room to do anything including chop cabbage! Bummer.