Sunday, 5 July 2009

A different spin on kraut

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Normally when people mention sauerkraut, we think cabbage. And lacto-fermented vegetables are becoming more mainstream thanks to the Weston Price organization or the cookbook Nourishing Traditions. But, any type of vegetable can be pickled in this way, using salt, whey and water. The lacto-fermentation makes the vegetables more digestable and helps to make their vitamins and minerals more easily assimilated.

Our first cabbages of the summer always become a summer slaw we love. But I have been overwhelmed with greens of all types, mustards, kales, spinach and lettuces. I already have succession plantings of some of these greens coming on too, so what to do? I started digging through my preserving books, and lo and behold, in All About Pickling by Ortho Books (gag), I found pickle recipes for quick pickled greens. O-Shinko was the easiest and the recipe called for spinach, salt and water. Another recipe was for lettuce kraut. I was in business. And what could be better, cabbage is a heavy feeder and much easier to raise when you have a high fertility garden. Whereas, lettuce and spinach on the other hand, are simple to grow in large quantities, and don't require as many inputs and time as getting a head of cabbage to mature. SIMPLE - GREEN- FRUGAL!

The lettuce and spinach kraut recipes called for 10 or 20 pounds of leaves, so I fell back on the quart size recipe from Nourishing Traditions and made two batches at a time as I needed to pull pre-bolting greens from the garden.

For each quart of kraut you will need:

Enough tender greens to fill a wide mouth quart jar
1 tablespoon good quality sea salt
4 tablespoons of whey (optional, if whey is not available use an additional tablespoon of salt)

Procedure: I found it easier to just layer a small amount of salt and leaves and keep alternating and pushing the leaves down until the jar was almost full. I added the whey and made sure the leaves were covered. Put on an airtight lid and let ferment on the counter for about 3 days, and then move to the refrigerator.

I did find that if I mixed tougher greens (kale) with tender greens (spinach or lettuce) the tender greens were ready sooner and if I waited they became mushier than we cared for. So I have been making kraut mixes with kale, cabbage leaves, and chard or lettuce, mustards, spinach and a few lambsquarters for good measure. The tender greens are ready in a few days and the cabbage type take a little longer. Just test and see how you like the texture, if the kraut is too crunchy, just cover and wait a few more days.

These pickled greens are great as a cool, summer side dish, or as the condiment on sandwiches.

This cabbage is from last year, we cut the head off in the winter and expected it to bolt, but it has started to grow as if it is it's first season. The leaves are tender, and I need this space cleared for the next crop, so I won't see if it will make a second head or not, but it will make excellent quick kraut. Sweet and tender, we have been eating leaves from these plants braised with chicken broth and balsamic vinegar, but time to go, so kraut it will be.

This Lacinato Rainbow kale is also from last year, and I need to remove the plant, so in the kraut jar it will go.

I always like being able to find new uses for the food we grow, while I can compost it, or feed it to the livestock, I like finding one more way to bring it to the table in nutritious way.

Have you discovered a new use for anything in your garden this year?