Sauerkraut

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This weekend, my mother was making the last batch of her “German-Russian” sauerkraut. She buys massive cabbages at our local farmstead and keeps them in her “root cellar” box so she can make sauerkraut through the winter.

Unlike the German and US culture, where sauerkraut is eaten with hot dogs or sausages, Russian people eat it as a salad (often adding onion, boiled potato and sunflower/vegetable oil) or incorporate it into other salads, usually accompanying potatoes, beets and carrots.  All of these vegetables preserve well and are staple vegetables for a huge chunk of the year…or at least it was when we were growing up.  I am sure now days you can easily find fruit and veggies in Russian supermarkets during their off season.

With that said, every fall, my mother stocks up on kraut cabbages, each weighing 15-22 pounds and treats all of us to her homemade sauerkraut.  She uses four ingredients: cabbage, carrots, salt and sugar.  She works the cabbage with her hands and then allows the fermentation to take place,  It is always amazing to me how much cabbage she starts with and how much kraut is there at the end.  Fermenting vegetables is on my list of to do and learn.  So I watched her carefully and took notes.

Ingredients:

  • Kraut cabbage (15-20lbs)
  • Nonionized sea salt (4tbs)
  • Sugar(5tbs)
  • Grated carrots (2lbs)

Equipment:

  • Cutting board and knife
  • Large dish to hold a lot of cabbage
  • Large enamel pot
  • A plate or dish that would fit into the pot
  • A large vessel of some sort to be used as a weight

Procedure:

  • Slaw the cabbage, as finely as possible
  • Grate carrots (they add pretty color and taste awesome)
  • Add salt and sugar
  • Press/work the cabbage to release juices, the size should decrease A LOT!
  • Transfer to an enamel pot
  • Place a plate on top, not sealing completely
  • Add water weight on top
  • Cover with cheesecloth
  • Keep at room temperature to ferment for 3-4 day (the cabbage juice should get watery, and the cabbage should be fermented but still crunchy
  • Transfer to a glass jar and keep in the fridge, good for a week

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Sauerkraut and Potato Salad:

  • Sauerkraut (pressed, to get rid of water)
  • Raw chopped onion to desired size
  • Boiled potatoes, chopped to desired size
  • Sunflower, vegetable or olive oil
  • Pepper to taste or chili flakes if a little heat is appreciated

Mix everything in a bowl and enjoy!  Complementary to a nice bratwurst!

“Vinaigrette” Russian style vegetable salad:

Boil and chop the following vegetables:

  • beets
  • carrots
  • potatoes

Add the following to the vegetables

  • Pickles (chopped)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped raw onion
  • Canned or boiled kidney beans or red beans
  • Sauerkraut
  • Oil of your liking
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix and serve!  I like to chill it and let it sit for all the flavors to marry.  Great as a light lunch or a side dish.  There are many variations to this salad. Like all good recipes, every Russian woman has their own way to make this, their own.

Delicious and simple!! Happy Krauting!

Our holiday turkey, better late than never!

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Our friends at Van Erem Farms raised our family two turkeys, a hen and a tom.  They  have a nice spacious farm and love their birds as much as we do.  I feel very comfortable buying meat or eggs from them as our values are similar when it comes to the quality of food we eat and the care of the animal.  Our birds did not put on enough weight to be our Thanksgiving main dish but they were ready to be harvested for our Christmas dinner.  Paul was going to help with the turkey harvesting, but we all got super sick.  Read the Van Erem blog post about their experience with growing and harvesting turkeys.

https://vaneremfarms.wordpress.com/

We did not actually cook our bird until December 26th, but man, it was great! We cooked the hen and saved the tom for a big family gathering (maybe my birthday) since he was a big boy!

unnamed big onet2 bird

We kept the bird in the fridge for 4 days to allow the muscles to relax (to allow the rigor mortis to break) and cut of the tail with the oil gland.

oil gland

If the contents of the oil gland spill on the meat, it will not taste good. Since no one eats the butt in our home, we chose to chop it off.

cut

When it was well rested, we brined the bird overnight, using Alton Brown’s brine recipe as a guide.  We then allowed it to air dry for a few hours and come to room temperature in a roasting pan, on a rack. Then we cooked it, following the directions given to us by Van Erem Farms. I suspect if you ask them nicely, they will give you a copy too..

brine pot

Our turkey turned out great! It was delicious and very flavorful! Most unlike any factory bird we have ever had. Even better than the expensive “free range” birds we have been ordering from upscale supermarkets for Thanksgiving the last few years.

cooked

Here are some things we noticed about our fresh turkey:

  • Fresh turkey did not have as much of that turkey funk (one of the reasons, turkey is not my favorite meat).  Usually, raw store bought turkeys have a really unpleasant smell to them, I don’t want to know what it is but I am glad that this one did not!  It also smelled significantly better while it was cooked
  • It was not wet or slippery/slimy as a store bought turkey
  • The breast was not as unproportionately large as the factory hens’

Overall, the experience was very positive.  Turkey has historically been one of my least favorite kinds of meat. But it was impossible not to enjoy and truly appreciate one that got to spend it’s life in the loving care of our friends. If the Van Erem farms will raise our bird next year, we will never buy a store bought turkey again.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

It’s getting real on the homestead

The holidays have come and gone, the relaxing season is officially over! Time to get down to business and start getting our hands dirty. Here is a quick update and what is to come. We started our year with a very much needed deep cleanse of our home!

We have a full house. Kids, animals and A LOT of stuff. Children come with loads of clothing and toy and dogs tend to create a mess no matter what. Two weeks ago, I was cleaning up after the children went to bed and got very frustrated. It seems that all of our spare time (Paul’s and mine) is spent on “tidying up”. I feel like all we do is clean and the kicker is, our house is still messy (70% of the time). I do realize that having three kids and their toys scattered is my new norm, but things are getting out of hand here.

Usually, before Santa makes his yearly trip over to our homestead, we go through old toys and get rid of as many unused/useless things as we can. Now that the kids are getting older, the task is more difficult as both are hesitant to let anything go. This year, we all got sick before and during the holidays–this task got placed on hold and I haven’t been able to tackle it. So in lieu of such events, I decided to simplify our living and do a deep cleanse of our stuff. I have been going through small baby clothing and baby gear that is no longer of use; toys, dishes, adult clothing and whatever else has not been touched in six months–gifting most of it away on a Buy Nothing groups on Facebook or trying to sell a few things to make a little extra cash. The goal is to get rid of 100 items in one week.

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The experiment started on Sunday with a productive 20 items on the list.  I got rid of  a few things right away and sorted the others into appropriate boxes: Donation, for Sale, garbage, recycle and boxes of small kids clothing that will be given to friends.  By Tuesday, I only added six additional items.  So it was time to hustle.  I went through kids toys, clothing, kitchen gadgets, arts and crafts stuff and whatever else happened to be in my sight.  I did this the remainder of the week and by Sunday evening, I still had 16 items to go.  With a little help from Paul, by 11:46, I was done.  100 items given away (or on their way out).  I still have a few things that are pending pick up and drop off but they are on the list and will be gone this weekend.

This was a fun challenge.  Rewarding in the sense of getting rid of useless junk, gifting items to people who actually need them and decluttering our lives–a house cleanse if you may!  I highly encourage everyone to participate.  People who came to pick up their items were inspired to do the same, I wonder if any of them will follow through?  I wish I could say that my house is looking less cluttered but it is still work in progress. We will surely get there soon.

Last spring, on his way home from his second to last day of a permaculture design course, Paul picked up 22 blueberry bushes from a guy with a home nursery we found on Craigslist. We bought them with all the excitement of spring behind us, planning to plant them “as soon as we got the chance.” We are happy to say that, almost a year later, they are in the ground. We kept them in the shade, and watered through the hot days summer, and have been bringing them in to the garage during the, thankfully, few freezes we have had this winter. The weekend before last, Paul finally was able to dig a new bed and get these poor plants in the ground. We have had such a mild winter that some of the varieties are already putting on new leaves, even though they have been in the dark of our garage. And last weekend he started moving some of the huge pile of woodchips we have in our driveway to make paths in between the raspberry and new blueberry beds. We plan to mulch the tops of these beds with chicken litter/manure to help keep the weeds down and provide fertility for our new plants. We never got around to this last year, and it turned into a huge bed of beautiful, lush weeds.

blueberries

A few months prior to the holidays, we moved our chicken girls into their new run–they seem to enjoy it and appreciate the new territory to scratch and forage.  They are depleting their resources fast, so I  have been getting vegetable trimmings from a local grocery store and will potentially start collecting vegetable scraps from work to supplement them.

chicken3 chicken

In an attempt to organize our efforts for the year, we came up with a spreadsheet, with the help of one of Paul’s favorite podcasts. The idea is that by rating the projects by categories, we can tackle the ones that are either cheap/free and low effort or the ones that need to get done sooner, first, and then systematically tackle projects as we have time. We will see how it works. The list seems very reasonable now, but from prior experience, it will be a major victory if we get everything on this list accomplished by the end of the year.

Homestead Projects List

Wish us luck and thanks for reading.