Catering for a family is both a pleasure and a challenge. If you believe that food goes hand in hand with love as I do it’s a daily opportunity to give love, nutrition and energy for your children to grow.
It’s a challenge to juggle the time to really cook rather than simply unpack and heat food when you’re also the only breadwinner and homemaker.
Christmas is the perfect time to acquire new culinary skills because it’s a time of enforced disengagement from work as pretty much the entire country shuts down. Combined with limited daylight hours, I find the days between Christmas and New Year the ideal time to experiment with acquiring new food skills.
Every September when the kids go back to school and I dread the short daylight hours to come I prioritise one new skill I want to work on over the Christmas break and then prepare. This year it’s fermenting foods so I’ve been saving jars and reading up.
When I want to learn to do something new I like to do my research. There are many resources online that give great advice.
The main points about making sauerkraut I’ve learned are:
You need a selection of glass jars. I bought two ‘Kilner’ type jars (the ones with large openings, a rubber gasket and glass lid fastened with a hinges metal clasp) and I’ve saved lots of jam and shop-bought pickle jars over the last few months in preparation. I love jars with undamaged metal lids because they can be repeatedly washed and reused before being sent to recycling.
Ingredients: cabbage and salt (optional cumin seeds)
You need to buy really fresh good white cabbage. I bought mine from my local farm shop so that they didn’t come wrapped in plastic! (I am avoiding buying food in packs because I am challenging my family to become as close to zero rubbish as possible).
I’m told by numerous websites that you need to use kosher sea salt. I decided to use my regular table salt because it’s fine ground which is much kinder in my skin than the hand milled crystal sea salt. Some experts insist that table salt won’t work (due to presence of anti caking agent and iodine) whilst others say it doesn’t matter. My initial test jar of sauerkraut has fermented despite using ordinary fine table salt from the back of my cupboard.
Find your calm kitchen zen to ferment things because those bacteria need to be nurtured. The room needs to be just warm enough to let the bacteria grow slowly.
You must be present to remember to check your kraut! I’m opening the lid using the hinged lid to release the gases created by bacterial growth. The jars need to be tended daily during the active phase before refrigeration. Once the kraut is done, I intend storing in the back of a cold dark shed.
I made my sauerkraut the day before Christmas Eve. I sliced the cabbage by hand and mixed it with salt with my bare hands. I made sure my hands and jars were completely clean and dry before I started. By squeezing, kneading and bashing the cabbage and sprinkling fine salt onto the threads of cabbage the liquid came out of the cabbage easily. I started in a clean metal bowl and once I could see it was working I tightly stuffed the cabbage into a jar and tipped the liquid in too.
Keep pushing the cabbage under the liquid to ensure that bits of cabbage don’t stick up and go mouldy. The fermentation happens in the liquid in the absence of air. This allows the desired bacteria to flourish and stops the cabbage going ‘off’. As a beginner use white cabbage (which is pale green) so that you can see how the fermenting is working. You can of course replace with a huge variety of veg – red cabbage looks fantastic – but as one website pointed out, you need to avoid growing pink mould and that’s going to be hard to spot in a jar of dark red cabbage!
The cumin seeds give the white cabbage kraut a traditional flavour. I sprinkled some through my mix.
One small cabbage filled my smaller Kilner jar. The volume increases as fermenting happens so you do need a bit of a gap in the top of the jar.
As I’m tapping away Barak Obama is on my radio talking (to Prince Harry who is guest editing a Christmas current affairs programme ) about how he recruited young leaders from around the world to become part of social change. He recruited a million worldwide.
It’s very heartening in these dark days to hear that young people are being empowered to change the world. Obama is pointing out that it’s not enough to develop online communities – they have to then meet face to face and get offline.
He points out its harder to be obnoxious and cruel offline! It’s about getting on the ground to change things.
Goodness Prince Harry is now interviewing his father Prince Charles and he’s asked him what’s the most important issue to address today and his father is saying ‘IT’S CLIMATE CHANGE!’
I am so grateful for the knowledge I have access to online to make positive changes in my life offline. Food is one very important aspect to analyse and change.
I look at my own young people and how open they are to new ideas it makes me feel reassured. I’m acquiring old ideas to feed myself and my children in the hope they’ll go on to develop new ideas to address climate change.
Time to check the Kilner jar! The bigger challenge will be seeing if the kids will eat it…