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By Laura Stec

Cloistered Cooking – Insider Tips for Folks Stuck in the House

Uploaded: Apr 9, 2020

My heart jumped this week when Fresh Air with Terry Gross announced their Cooking during Covid-19 radio program, featuring former New York Times food editor Sam Sifton. Have they been reading The Food Party! and our new feature – Insider Tips? Uh oh – we’re in competition with the New York Times.

“I can’t think of anyone better to turn to for help, other than Sam,” announced show host Dave Davies, but after hearing the program – I can! Sorry Sam, it’s pretty apparent you didn’t think that deeply about the interview; with ideas limited to canned fish, you lost me early on.

You won’t get canned fish recipes* here at the Food Party! - we like to featured more plant-forward options. Feeling no pressure, Insider Tips continues weekly throughout the sequester. Hopefully readers will send in quick meals of their owning making.

And maybe @nprFreshAir will feature us next?

Insider Tips last week used up that block of tofu you bought a few weeks ago when there was no boneless, skinless chicken breast left in the store. This week – it’s cabbage. Up in Portola Valley, we have been receiving a big, ol’ head each week in our Safe Farmers Market bag. You probably have some waiting in your crisper as the vegetable is in-season, and lasts for weeks in the fridge.

Using regular items around your house – today’s assignment is High Vibe Sauerkraut, guaranteed to put a hitch in your get along, while fighting nasty viruses with super hero bacteria.

We Food Partied! sauerkraut in 2018 during the fires.

You can use a variety of containers such as a pickling crock, salad press

Or even a wide-mouth bowl or mason jar for the storage container.

For the weight system, use a dinner plate, mason jar lid, or a wooden pickling lid (otoshibuta),

along with something heavy such as a sterilized jar filled with water, rocks cleaned in the dishwasher, or if you don’t have a dishwasher, a rock in a new plastic bag, to keep the cabbage submerged.

The biggest takeaway is kraut needs to be covered by liquid within 24 hours to prevent spoilage. The more you squeeze the cabbage at the outset – the more liquid will be released. If you have arthritis in your hands like I do, consider purchasing a salad press, where the force comes from the pressure of the locked-down lid.

Fermenting with water is easier, because it creates a quick brine, but the addition of water means less-crunchy cabbage, so I prefer massaging the cabbage as best I can, and then letting the weight do the rest of the work.

Insider Tips
EZ Sauerkraut – with water

1 head of cabbage

Rinse and remove outer layer of cabbage. Cut into 4-6 wedges, or smaller pieces. Mix 6-7 cups filtered water to ¼ cup kosher salt. (filtered water removes chlorine, kosher salt has no iodine).

Put cabbage in a clean, dried jar or crock. Pour over liquid. Place a plate, or a wooden lid over the top, and a sterilized jar of water, rocks put through the dishwasher, or just something heavy in a new plastic bag, as weights to keep the cabbage submerged. Cover everything with cloth. Let sit in a cool-ish place 5-8 days. Check for scum every day or so and skim off any you see. Remove and transfer to glass container or Tupperware, add back a little of the brine and store in the refrigerator. Keeps over a month, and gets better in the fridge. Also, the left over brine is good to drink. It's alive.

EZ Sauerkraut – no water

1 head of cabbage

Rinse and remove outer layer of cabbage, slice in small pieces.

Add to a bowl with 1.5 – 2 tablespoons of kosher or pickling salt and mix well with your hands till liquid begins to emerge. Put into a crock, jar or salad press and weigh it down. Cover with a cloth.

Within 24 hours, the cabbage should be submerged in its own liquid. If not, dissolve 1½ tablespoons pickling salt in 1 quart water and pour over as much as you need to cover the cabbage. Check for scum every couple days and remove.

Start tasting after 2 weeks. It should be fully fermented in 2-4 weeks at 70° - 75°F, or in 5-6 weeks at 60°F. Store in refrigerator. If you don’t like the smell, store in fridge after a few days. It will continue to ferment in the fridge, just at a slowed rate.

Optional add ins:
1) Cucumbers, garlic, dill, sea salt
2) Horseradish, leeks, carrots, sea salt
3) Onions, carrots, daikon radishes, jalapeño peppers, sea salt

Best to add flavor and spices at end of pickling process.

What’s the difference between pickling and kosher salt?
Pickling salt contains more sodium than kosher salt because kosher has larger grains – so use less pickling salt than kosher.

Also, pickling salt contains no additives and it’s fine grain dissolves easily in water. Kosher salt is also without additives, but the coarser grain prefers heating the water to dissolve into a brine.

* although, we do appreciate the umami-building qualities of anchovy and other small fish as a flavor-agent.

photos by LSIC