In the Kitchen with John- Horseradish Sauerkraut Prep

I picked up some fine cabbages, including some pretty red little things, and since I have done a couple runs of sauerkraut and feel my fermentation game is pretty solid, I decided to experiment a little bit. Earlier in the week, I took a daytrip with my traveling partner Breyana to Zanesville, Ohio, to the Ohio Stoneware factory outlet. While there, I picked up some weights that were missing from the crocks I inherited, as well as some nice lids, and I got them at a steal because I took “imperfect” ones which were only half price. So, I had all the items I needed, and I got to making some sauerkraut.

A couple quick notes- as always, I am not telling you this is the right way to do it, the best way to do it, the fastest way to do it, etc. I am just showing you how I did it. Part of the fun for me is just experimenting and playing around and seeing what happens. Second, as always, before you do anything make sure your knives are sharp and your work space and counters are clean so you can have room to work.

First up, clean and prep all your ingredients. I cleaned up four heads of cabbage, four mini heads of red cabbage, a red onion, and I cleaned and prepped some horseradish root:

knives, a pot of cabbage, a bowl of shredded horseradish, and a red onion

Second, you need to weigh out your cabbage and measure your salt. This is crucial- too much salt and you will kill the fermentation. I always use three tablespoons of salt per 5 lbs of cabbage, and I had about 16 pounds of cabbage and horse radish so I used 9 tablespoons of salt and put it in a container. As you can see, I have my crock in a clean sink ready to go:

canning salt, paper with measurements, dutch crock in a farmer sink

At this point, it’s just time to start shredding. Again, I like to do it by hand, as my knife skills are good enough that I can get a pretty consistent cut with a little intentional variation for texture. If you prefer super fine cabbage, or just don’t want to do it by hand, you could use a food processor. I don’t even have one anymore after mine broke, and I have to say I don’t miss it. By the time you pull it out of storage, re-clean it, assemble it, use it, clean it again, and put it away, it’s just easier to do everything with a knife. But ymmv and you may not feel comfortable with knives or a mandoline.

sliced cabbage on a cutting board next to a knife

I then throw the cabbage in the crock, and each layer I add a little of the measured salt and some of the horseradish:

shredded cabbage in a crock with salt being poured in

Once you get a good bit in, it’s time to tamp it down and start working the cabbage and horseradish. I inherited my dad’s tamper (which was his grandmothers), and I like to tamp it all down, and then reach down with my hand, pull from the bottom, and circulate it it, macerating it and working it:

cabbage in a crock with a wooden tamper

macerating cabbage in a crock by hand

You just keep doing this until you run out of cabbage. As you can see, it will look like you are going to run out of room, but you won’t- as you work it, it shrinks in size:

full crock of cabbage and horseradish

As you are doing this, you should notice the salt doing its magic and pulling the moisture out of the cabbage. Just keep tamping and manually circulating the cabbage for a while until you have enough brine to cover the cabbage:

cabbage macerated until it is covered with brine

As you can see, the cabbage has released enough water that a natural brine has been created. I’ve read about people adding water, but I have never needed to- I use really fresh cabbage from local farms, and they are plenty juicy that I have never needed to this. At this point, it is time to do one final round of tamping, and then to cover it with cheesecloth:

cheesecloth covering brined cabbage

I measure out the cheesecloth, and then I use a butter knife to push it down the sides so that the entire surface is covered. It is also very important that you take a clean, damp rag, and clean out the crock above the water line. You can research it on your own, but this a lactic acid fermentation, so you don’t want any crap or residue above the anaerobic environment you are creating to become a bacterial mess. Finally, place your weights on top of the cheesecloth, and make sure the cabbage is covered with the brine completely. You should have at least an inch of water:

stone weights on top of cheesecloth covered with brine

As you can see, you have now completely covered the cabbage, created the necessary anaerobic environment for the fermentation process to take place. You then simply place a lid on the crock and store it for however long you want it to ferment. The fermentation time can vary- I like to do about two weeks. I’ve found that a 14-15 day ferment leaves you with a crisp kraut which you can then cold pack and put a couple in the fridge to use or give away, with plenty left over to process in the canner. Others like to go longer. It’s really up to you.

Additionally, some people check every couple of days and skim any scum off the top. I don’t. I just make sure it is clean and properly done, and then basically it is fire and forget. I put the crock with the lid in a cool shaded area, put a reminder on my phone, and in two weeks I will check it. I basically act like I do when I am smoking something- “looking ain’t cooking.” If I like what I see, I will can it then. If I think it needs another day or two or even a week, so be it.

As always, YMMV.








I’ve Been A Terrible Blog Host

I have been busy in meat space doing people things. Here is a video of Seth’s kittens to make up for my absence:

Also, this has been a great summer for birds. I went to the fern today to take a picture of you all, and the third bird harvest had already been completed and they were gone! Grand total of 11 birbs hatched on the front porch this summer. Not bad.








Life’s Guilty Pleasures

Today I had to drive to the big city to drop Tammy off, and it was around lunchtime, so I stopped at a place I go to about twice a year, a little hole in the wall that sells nothing but dirty water hot dogs:

That little blue thing- that’s basically it. I have no idea what is in the rest of the house it is attached to, but that blue front is the whole place. You open the door, run right into a counter with about 4 stools and they make your dogs right there. And they are amazing.

Now when I say dirty water dogs, I mean just plain old dogs simmering in a tepid pool of gray water. And these are not artisanal dogs or any shit like that. We’re not talking all beef franks with a natural casing. We’re talking real American hot dogs made out of all the shit they can’t put into a chicken nugget or that is too low quality to make scrapple or sausage, mash it all together into a pink slime with an assload of chemicals, and throw it into something resembling a casing. If you read the label it will tell you made from chicken, turkey, pork and a list of other stuff, but they could really just write “lol animals and shit” because YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING AND YOU DON’T GIVE A FUCK.

They then take the dog, put it in a sad, damp bun- you know the kind, like wonder bread but with less lust for life, the kind you see on the bottom shelf of your grocery store bread aisle that come in an eight pack and half of them have inevitably been crushed or stepped on while stocking them and the sign says “59 cents but will negotiate” in magic marker on one of those pink stars.

Once in the bun-like object, it is covered with an all “meat” chili that comes in mild, medium, or hot. I don’t know if it’s actually meat- it could be soy or something else, all I know is there is nothing as natural as a bean anywhere in it. We’ll just call it meatlike chili sauce. On top of that, if you like, and I do, they will top it with an overly creamy cole slaw. The end product looks like this:

And they are fucking fantastic. I could probably shove an entire one in my fat face and eat the whole thing in one bite, but I don’t because you gotta savor this shit. And I love them. But I only get them about every six months, because while they are amazing, in about 45 minutes, I will have the world’s worst heartburn and sometimes awful things happen later on.

But it’s totally fucking worth it.








In the Kitchen With John- Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned last night, today was sauce day. As always, this is more for me than you all, as I will look this up next year to refresh my memory before doing it again- you all are just along for the ride. Started last night with a ton of tomatoes I had frozen over the last couple OF months (love you eemom):

They mostly thawed over night and I threw them into big pots to start the cookdown:

Now everybody will tell you different amounts of time to cook them down, I just did it for about 2 hours, constantly stirring because you simply can not let it scorch or you have ruined the entire batch. STIR, STIR, STIR. Once the pulp and everything has cooked down into a bubbly brew, run it through your food mill:

If you are like me, you probably don’t have a dozen 24 qt stock pots, I have just the one and the pot for canning, so I strained them into several smaller pots, washed the big 24 qt stock pot I originally used, then transferred everything back into that. Then I did the canning pot full of tomatoes, and after cooking down and removing all the seeds and peels, everything transferred to the 24 qt stock pot and filled it all the way to the top.

At this point, Tammy and I just took 30 minute shifts stirring as we cooked it down. I cooked it down a solid6-8 inches to let it thicken, because I didn’t want to can tomato juice. This took the bulk of the afternoon, and both of us got our workout in.

QUICK SIDEBAR- Are there any carpenters who want to make me a 24″ wooden spoon. I hate the flimsy ass wooden spoons on amazon, I need something longer than the traditional ones, and I need something small than a 4 foot cajun paddle.

While cooking down the sauce, we prepped the mason jars:

I cut some basil from the garden, washed it, and placed it in each jar. Also, in three of them, Tammy wanted to try a clove of garlic, so three of them got that and the basil.

When the sauce is finally cooked down to where you want it, grab your funnel and ladle it into each jar stopping below the neck:

Wipe off the tops of the jars with a damp cloth, and place a lid and a ring on each one (you should have the lids heated in a hot water bath so you get a good seal), and hand tighten the ring. Then place them in the canner and wait for it to get to a rolling boil, and then process it for 40 minutes. Here is your finished product:

In total, we got 17 quarts of sauce. I thought about running the sauce through the chinois after it went through the food mill, but decided I didn’t care if there were a few seeds- YMMV. I’m not trying to win the damned state fair. And remember, NONE of this is seasoned (other than the basil). That way you can just pull it out and use it and tailor the sauce to your tastes.

As always, the dogs were a giant help:

And because Tammy is a Rosie Whisperer, here is a closeup of Rosie ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA:








Busy Day Today

Spent the day running around- picked up Tammy, dropped off medicine for his dogs and visited his cats, hit Lowe’s for some paint for the front porch, came home, then headed to the Bridgeville Farmer’s market to get some things, then to Chico Fiesta for dinner, and now back home to prep for tomorrow. First up, Samantha and Charlie helped us pick out paint:

Tomorrow we deal with this:

That’s 16 gallon bags of tomatoes that will turn into sauce tomorrow. Curious to see how it turns out.

I’ll post some kitten pics tomorrow, but for now I am pooped.