Saturday, July 26, 2008

Watching the Crock

Around the New Year, inspired by Ed's raptures about his pickling crock, I found a nice smallish ceramic crock at a nearby shop, determined to try something different for food preservation this year.

I'd had the wild notion to try making sauerkraut. Granted, I've never tried fermentation before, and I've never been a fan of sauerkraut, but I thought I'd at least try and have some homemade kraut for My Dear Papa, who loved it.

Well, that was the idea, anyway. When I informed him of the plan, My Dear Papa pointed out that he had real difficulty with eating sauerkraut and other sour things these days, so he probably wouldn't partake.

Back to the drawing board! Instead, I remembered Bonnie's talk of kim chi on the Ethicurean, and then I found Emily's inspiring post about making kim chi to break in her crock. What the heck? I thought. It's worth a try.

I decided to follow Emily's recipe as it didn't sound terribly hot and spicy -- and I do like ginger -- so with two heads of cabbage from this week's double CSA share, I thought it was time to get started.

I shredded most of one head of cabbage and grated a couple of carrots, tossing them into the crock this morning before heading off to the Inn.

I added the brine and fumbled around for a dish that would truly fit the crock, finally settling on a small baking dish. Setting the dish atop the vegetables, I added a quart jar of water and allowed the excess brine to spill out (having set the crock in a baking dish) as the dish weighted down the vegetables.

Then, I walked away, leaving the dish to press down for the better part of the day (though I had to switch bowls at some point as the first one would only go down so far). By evening, I was ready to drain the vegetables, reserving the brine.

I added scallions (from my garden), ginger, crushed red peppers (from last year's preservation), salt, and sugar to the cabbage and carrots, stirring well to mix before returning them to the crock and topping with brine. I pressed a dish into the vegetables again and tucked the lot into the refrigerator.

According to Emily's recipe, I'll have to wait a few days to taste the final product, but I'm optimistic. It certainly looks good to this point!

Guess I'll just have to wait and see!

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At 7/28/2008 2:59 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

looks wonderful! If my cabbage ever decides to form heads this year, then I'm going to try it in a small crock, too. I suppose I could buy it at the farmers' market, too...

At 7/28/2008 3:14 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I thought it might be a nice change from cole slaw or dried cabbage for soups. We'll see! And I do still have another head left...

At 7/29/2008 1:18 PM, OpenID eatclosetohome said...

Oh, hooray! I'm glad you're trying it. It's wonderful stuff.

A couple thoughts - this usually spends the first few days at warmer temps, say, 65-70 degrees. That lets the beasties get a good head of steam before chilling slows them down again.

Also, you might want to cover the crock with something - a shower cap would be perfect - and do wash the "lids" frequently. I've had some trouble with my pickled stuff developing kahm (a harmless but not-tasty yeast) after time, and these measures are supposed to keep it out.

And finally, be sure, when you bottle this up, to keep the level of the brine well above the level of the veggies.

It's wonderful stuff. I just had some of that original batch a couple days ago, still fresh and tasty after 8 months!


At 7/29/2008 1:30 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thank you so much for the tips, Emily... I really appreciate it!

Since I don't have A/C and the place is warmer than 70 degrees, I thought the refrigerator was safer. Maybe if I set it out overnight? I'll definitely pull it out and check on lids and such this evening.

Out of curiosity, as the dish presses down and there's more brine on top, do I just leave the brine or pour any off? Seems an awful lot of extra, but maybe I need that for packing later?

I'm glad to know it's a good recipe!

At 7/30/2008 9:20 AM, OpenID eatclosetohome said...

Wow, I'm not sure about the temp question. I've been told (since my original post) that fridge temps slow fermentation waaaay down (and usually we want that) but I've not heard if anything "bad" happens above 70. So I'm not sure what to tell you on that score. I think your idea of putting it out overnight is good - maybe just leave it on the counter for 24 hours instead of 3-7 days?

Keep all that brine - if you repackage this into smaller jars, you'll want the extra for topping them off.

At 7/30/2008 9:47 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Emily. I didn't get to it last night so will try it tonight and report back!


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