Thursday, December 12, 2013

Waste not, want not!

Tonight I finally canned my last batch of fermented sauerkraut. This was the first year I tried sauerkraut and geez, it was so easy! Green cabbage and kosher salt. Seriously, that's all it takes!

Take two heads of cabbage, save a couple full leaves from the outside and then shred or slice the heads thin and sprinkle with about 3 TBL kosher salt. I use my grandmothers big enamelware pot for this. Then, with your hands, knead and mix the cabbage to get the salt distributed evenly. You'll notice the cabbage wilt and liquid will start to collect in the pot. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave for about 3 hours or so.
 Then pack the cabbage into a container for fermentation. I use 2 big half gallon canning jars. And when I say 'pack' I mean firmly pack! I use my fist and press the cabbage down into the jars. You want no air pockets at all and as your press, the cabbage will continue to release liquid. Perfect! Once all the cabbage is in your container, pour any liquid left in your pot on top. you want the cabbage to be completely submerged. Take the saved cabbage leaves and cover the top and then weigh it all down. You can see in the photo that I used a jelly jar full of water set right on top of the cabbage leaf.

The best temperature for fermenting is 60-65F. In the fall, I covered with a cloth and set the jars in my garage. Once it got too cold, I set them right on my kitchen counter (I have a very drafty kitchen window so it stays pretty cool). You'll see bubbling - that's natural fermentation! If any scum or mold forms up top, just scoop it off. Make sure the cabbage stays submerged. If it seems to be drying out, make a little brine and let it cool and add to your container.

Once it's as sour as you like (it usually takes 4-8 weeks), remove your weight, through away the leaves and either eat your kraut or can it up! And since I was getting the canner ready, I figured I'd make it worth my while!

Pressure canning is all about patience!
I also canned carrots and potatoes tonight. Now you might ask "Why can vegetables that are so readily available year round?". Well, I'm doing my best to be less wasteful. This country throws out so much food. You know how it bought vegetables and fruits a couple weeks ago and never got around to eating them so you throw them in the garbage. I know I've done it but I'm trying not to anymore.

So.....the week of Thanksgiving I bought a big bag of organic carrots and an even bigger bag of potatoes! Vegetables are always so inexpensive that week! But, alas, I am one small woman who lives alone and can't possibly eat that much. So I canned what was left.

I nice full load in the pressure canner. Did you know that you can double stack your smaller jars in your canner? Yep. You can.
Load it full, turn on the heat, lock the lid but leave the weight off the vent. Bring it to boil and let the steam escape for 10 minutes and then place the weight over the vent. Bring the pressure up to 10 pounds and adjust your heat to keep the pressure steady. Set your timer for 35 minutes ( depending on what you're canning) and check the pressure regularly. When time's up, turn off the burner and let the pressure drop naturally. I'm not gonna lie - this takes quite a while and I get impatient!

After the pressure drops, unlock and remove lid and lift jars out with your jar lifter. Set them on a kitchen towel on the counter to cool for 24 hours. Then check seals and remove rings. If any jars didn't seal, refrigerate them and use.

All this fit in one load! 4 pints of carrots, 3 quarts and one pint of potatoes, and just over 5 pints of sauerkraut. Lids pinging is a beautiful sound to a home canner!

Time for bed now. Waste less. Be nice to our planet! Become less of a consumer. Sweet dreams.