Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Homemade Sauerkraut - Lacto Fermented, No Vinegar!

Dear Folks,

I have posted about making good old fashioned fermented sauerkraut before.  Recently I was visiting with family and I don't remember the reason but I mentioned I make my own sauerkraut and I got a request to bring some Thanksgiving for the family gathering!  Well, why not!

Sauerkraut is not just for hot dogs or Polish foods (my mother's side of the family was all about Polish foods).  Use sauerkraut in any dish or recipe that calls for pickles.  The fermented product is healthy and good for you.

Fermenting (also called lacto fermentation) is just putting vegetables in a strong brine and letting the natural yeast in the air convert the raw cabbage to a nice tasty but not vinegar tangy sauerkraut.  If will keep for a very long time in the refrigerator.

Start by rinsing your cabbage (do not wash or use any cleaning solutions), pull off any damaged outer leaves.  I did something different this time and set aside 1 nice looking leaf - I will explain below.  You will need a large bowl - NOT metal.

Cut the head in half and remove the core.  You may find it works best to half the halves and begin shredding.  You can make the shredded pieces as thick or thin as you like.

For a typical head of cabbage you will need about 5 tablespoons of kosher salt.  More if you have a very large head.  You have the option of adding a tablespoon of whey from yogurt when you assemble the cabbage in the jar.  This can kick start the fermenting but is not necessary.  I use only organic yogurt.  Even with Greek yogurt you can pour off a bit of the whey for this use.

Shred sections of the cabbage, place some in a bowl and sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of salt.  Continue adding to the bowl alternating layers of cabbage, sprinkling with salt and finish with salt.  Smooth the cabbage out to make a flat surface and use a plate with a weight to press the bulk down.  Set aside for 2-5 hours.  The cabbage will weep liquid.  This is what you want to happen.

Meanwhile make up your brine.  I now keep a bottle of brine handy if I want to do small batches (I've used this same brine to pickle my caper berries), so I made a quart of brine and used about half of it for this batch.

2 teaspoons of kosher salt for each cup of hot water.   Stir well to dissolve.  The liquid will be cool enough when you are ready to jar up the cabbage for the fermenting.

Use a half gallon or larger glass container. You will also need a pint glass jar as a weight and a light cover to keep dust off.  Many people use dedicated ceramic crocks designed for pickling vegetables, but I like to watch and make sure everything is doing okay.  Sometimes, if the vegetables are not held under the liquid at all times mold may grow on the top.  You can usually just scrape off and discard unless the mold is any other color than white or smells - then you need to dump and start over.

The jars must be sterile or run under very hot water.

The liquid from pressing - will be added to jar.
Start packing the cabbage in the gallon jar, pressing all the while.  Pour liquid from the bowl into the jar.  Then start adding some of the brine.  Remember that extra uncut leaf?  Place over the cabbage inside the jar.  This will help keep the pieces of cabbage from floating up.  Add brine to cover about 1-2 inches over the shredded cabbage.  At this point you can add the whey if you choose to use it.

Small pint jar inside gallon jar to weight down cabbage.
Fill the pint jar about half with cool water and place inside the big jar to act as a weight and keep the cabbage always covered with liquid.  Lightly cover with a plastic cap {looks like a shower cap*), a loose piece of syran wrap or a lint free towel.  The covering is only to keep the dust off.  The fermenting cabbage will produce CO2 and you will see bubbles forming within a few hours.  Place the jar on the counter in a draft free area where the temperature stays constant.  Changes in temperature can impact how long the fermentation takes, with cooler temperatures slowing down the process.

Once or twice a day lightly press down on the inside jar to release the gas.  When there are little or no bubbles - after anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks - your sauerkraut is done and can be capped and refrigerated.  Some people like to taste during the fermenting process.  If you do want taste periodically during the fermenting, use a plastic or wood fork to pull some out.  Metal is a no-no with a brine solution.

The cabbage gradually changes from green to a light yellow color over time, most of the color change occurs after you put in the frig.

Sauerkraut is not just for hot dogs or Polish foods (my mother's side of the family was all about Polish foods).  Use sauerkraut in any dish or recipe that calls for pickles.  The fermented product is healthy and good for you.

My sauerkraut is usually ready in about 10-13 days, in time for Thanksgiving and my family member who requested it. :-)

You can choose to leave the sauerkraut working on the counter for weeks, as long as you ensure there is enough brine to always have all the cabbage covered in liquid.

Like Asian pickled vegetables you can add other things such as spices like caraway seed to the cabbage.  Do some searching on the internet for ideas to come up with your preferred mix.  Have fun.  Once you master sauerkraut you can move on to something like old fashioned pickle barrel dill/garlic pickles - made the same way, without vinegar. The link to my blog post on my fermented pickles is here Fermented Pickle Recipe. It was part of blog post over the holidays on dill.

Cabbage.  On facebook the other day I saw a great recipe for "Baked Cabbage Steaks".  I always try to find the author of any recipe etc. I post but all I found were multiple versions with differing oven temps and how thick you cut the slices.  If anyone finds the original author, I would appreciate it.

Meanwhile give this delicious and healthy side dish a try.

Baked cabbage steaks.  Preheat oven 400 wash and remove outer leaves trim stem off, cut 1 to 1 1/2 inch steaks brush both sides with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper both sides bake 30 to 40 minutes I like mine at 40 min [author note] so edges start to brown. has a similar version. 

I hope you enjoy making your own sauerkraut!

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen.

*  The plastic cap which looks like a shower cap is an old fashioned way to cover food bowls. NOT for use in microwaves.  They are available in many places on the internet including Amazon.  I tried to find ones made in the US but could not.  I highly recommend them.  I have had my box of them for years and simply rinse with soapy water and let air dry in the dish rack.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Homemade Eggplant Ketchup!

Dear Folks,

Yep, you read that correctly "Eggplant Ketchup."

On my facebook page and elsewhere I shared one of my favorite youtube channels, "Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc." which is all about 18th Century reenacting and cooking.  The recipes are illustrated from cookbooks written approximately 1730s to about 1800.

Ketchup as we know it today is red, made from tomatoes and depending on the brand a good tasting condiment or incipient - little more than tomato flavored thickened water.

But ketchup back in the 18th Century was a sauce or spread made from a variety of foods like  mushrooms and other common ingredients, used to add flavor to otherwise bland meals.

I first became familiar with non-tomato ketchups from my mother's favorite cook book "The American Woman's Cook Book."  Called "Catchup" in the books.  Editions were published from the 1930s into the 1970s.  I have copies from 1939 and 1947.  In the books are recipes for Cranberry, Grape, Green Tomato (called Old Virginia Catchup), Cold (Red) Catchup and Mushroom.  These books are a treasurer trove of wonderful old fashioned, sometimes odd-sounding recipes which the cooks of the household held dear.  As an aside, I learned the term "Made Over" in these books means using left overs.  Very little was wasted in those days.

So after watching the video (link below) on making a form of Mushroom Ketchup I decided when I had enough of my Casper (white) eggplant I would try to make an eggplant version of the Mushroom recipe.  The reason is, my Deane is severely allergic to mushrooms, sadly as he once could enjoy them, but no more.

Eggplant has the same "meaty" quality as mushrooms and I have made a great marinaded eggplant to add to meals.  See link here.

There are some similarities between my new Eggplant Ketchup recipe and the Marinaded Eggplant, but they go in different finished taste directions.  Both delicious!

So I had to adapt the recipe because I did not have or did not want to use a few of the recommended ingredients.  I did not have horseradish so I used mustard powder.  I did not have an onion on hand so I harvested a young leek and one of my recently planted garlic (green garlic - you use it just like a scallion), and substituted paprika for the cheyenne pepper.

Also the original recipe calls for 2 pounds of cut up mushrooms.  That equals about 10 cups and I only had 2 cups of eggplant so keep that in mind when you see my recipe.  Also I would cut the salt in half and adjust to taste after cooking.  My Eggplant Ketchup ended up really, really tasty but could have used less salt.

NOTE:  In the original recipe the volume (2 pounds) of mushrooms and vinegar produced quite a bit of liquid.  In my reduced recipe there was virtually no liquid left after cooking so I simply used my bullet to grind all together (AFTER removing the bay leaves) to make the finished ketchup. The original recipe's liquid was the sauce and the strained remainder was dried for a ground seasoning.  With no liquid left over in this batch I just blended all together.  I could easily dry some of the spread for long term storage, but since I only wound up with about 1 cup, I am just keeping for use in the frig.

My Homemade Eggplant Ketchup

2 cups chopped eggplant
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 small bay leaves.

Mix eggplant, salt and bay leaves together, cover and leave on counter over night.  The eggplant will weep.

1/4 onion chopped (or 2 scallions Or 1 scallion and 1 green garlic or clove)
zest of lemon (I used one of my large limequats)
1 teaspoon of mustard powder
1/16 teaspoon of ground cloves 
1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/16 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

In a non-reactive pot add eggplant, bay leaf mixture and resulting liquid along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir periodically.  Cool, remove bay leaves and blend.  I had to add about 3 tablespoons of water to get the blender going well.  The extra water did not diminish the wonderful flavor.

I hope you will try this recipe with your own eggplant and let me know what you think of it.

These ketchups or catchups are simply forms of relish, spread, or sauce.  They all have some form of acid, usually cider vinegar to brighten and bring a zip to the flavor profile.

What vegetable or fruit would you substitute to make your own ketchup and what would you use it with? Or would you use a nut or seed in place of the mushroom/eggplant?  Many Vegans use cashews in place of other ingredients, so maybe a cashew ketchup?

Here is the basic recipe for Mushroom Ketchup I adapted to eggplant.

18th Century Mushroom Ketchup


2lbs fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and broken or cut into small pieces.
2T Kosher or Sea Salt
2 -3 Bay Leaves
1 Large Onion, chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
1T Grated Horseradish
1/4t Ground Clove
1/2t Ground Allspice
Pinch of Cayenne
1/2c Cider Vinegar


Combine the mushrooms, salt, and bay leaves in a non-metallic pot or bowl. Cover and let set overnight.

Transfer mushroom mixture to a cooking pot and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low to simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. (Optional: you could simmer the mixture longer, stirring all the while, to reduce the liquid to about half for a more concentrated flavor.)

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain out all the solids through a piece of cloth, squeezing or wringing the cloth to remove as much liquid as possible. Bottle and cork.

PLEASE NOTE! Don’t throw away the wrung-out mushroom mixture! Spread it out on a baking sheet and dry it thoroughly in a 200-degree (F) oven. Remove the mushrooms when they are completely dry and hard. This can be ground into a powder and stored in a tin for seasoning or left in its original form to be added to soups and stews. This mushroom seasoning is absolutely delicious!

Link to article all about "ketchup" and recipe. 

Link to video showing how to make the mushroom ketchup

Have a great day with the bounty from your gardens!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Update on Dried and Drying Roselle

Dear Folks,

Back on October 26th, I posted about sun drying my Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa).  I started with 4 trays and it took a couple of days and they were not quite finished drying when I left for my trip so they finished drying inside the house.  Turned out just great.

This is what they look like completely dried. I got a little less than a quart from the 4 trays.

The dried petals can be used for beverages, of course, like tea, but I also used them to top some turkey soup I made which imparted a lemony flavor to the soup.

You can use the dried petals dry, or reconstitute for use in salads and other fresh/raw foods.

You can add the Roselle to or replace lemon, lime or cranberry with Roselle petals.  Give it a try and you will be pleased with this Vitamin C rich addition to your ingredient options.

I started trays of the whole calyx and it is going to take longer to dry them, but I was trying to save my back a little.  I will see if the short cut is worth it :-)

. . .

I have been playing more with my food :-)  so watch for my next post on a great tasting condiment to add to your cooking enjoyment.  Straight from the garden!

Don't forget my 2017 month-by-month gardening calendar for yourself and holiday or birthday gifts.  You can use November and December NOW for garden sowing/planting information, maintenance and gardening tips.

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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