Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cran-Apple Kraut


There's a new beer and sausage place in Oakland, Brotzeit Lokal. It's right on the San Francisco Bay, and serves up cold German beer and housemade sausages, fries, pickles, kraut, mustard, and mayo. You can sit outside, watch the sailboats bobbing on the water, and have a tasty lunch.


Have you visited Germany? They're serious about their beer gardens.There are lots of little wooded foot paths throughout the parks, and sometimes you round a bend and you've arrived at a biergarten. They appear out of nowhere like Hansel and Gretl's candy house. But for grown ups! They are a community gathering place where families can spend an afternoon, visit with friends and neighbors, the grown-ups can enjoy adult beverages, the kids can play together and eat sausages, and everyone leaves feeling satisfied and nourished. A beer garden is such a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon in Germany; I'm glad they're starting to sprout up in the states. This particular one, Brotzeit Lokal, is one of the things I miss about California.



We were eating there one sunny day, my husband, my son, and I, enjoying the food and the beer, planning our move to the Northwest, and imagining the restaurant we might open someday. Germany's climate is similar to ours, here in Washington State. We can learn a lot from their way of eating. With a short growing season, we must preserve our veggies to eat in the winter. This area of Washington is known for producing lots of cabbage, beets, and potatoes. And so, I'm learning to make sauerkraut.




Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation (affiliate link) is a great introduction to making your own fermented foods. You might also want to read up about the many health benefits of eating fermented foods.


Cabbage is so fresh. I love the crisp, icy sound it makes as you slice it with a sharp knife, like walking over snow or skiing down a mountain. As you slice, that heavenly green cabbage scent is released. Breathe in. Now is a good time to be in this moment.


Cran-Apple Kraut
Serves many. Keeps for weeks.

1 large head cabbage, shredded
3-4 apples, cored and grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt (about 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage)
16 oz fresh cranberries

You need a large ceramic crock or some large mason jars in which to store the kraut as it ferments. I love these half-gallon mason jars (affiliate link). You also need something to fit inside the jar or crock to weigh down the cabbage and keep it beneath the brine. I use a bendy plastic lid. You can also use a scrubbed and boiled rock, a ziplock bag filled with water... be creative.  

Finely shred the cabbage. Place it in a large bowl and layer with salt as you go. (Go easy on the salt at first; you can always add more later.) Toss and massage the cabbage occasionally. Add the grated apples, sprinkle with lemon juice, add the fresh cranberries and toss again. Taste the mixture for salt. It should be quite salty, but not unpleasant, like well-salted broth or miso soup. 

Using your hands and a big wooden spoon, pack the kraut tightly in the crock. Use the spoon like a muddler (affiliate link) to pack and bruise the cabbage as you go. This will help the salt to draw the water out of the cabbage and apples to create a brine. When the jar is full, or you run out of room, put the lid and the weight on top. 

Cover the jar with a clean kitchen towel and place on the counter in an out-of-the-way place in the kitchen. Over the next 24 hours or so, check the kraut frequently. Press down on the lid to extract more water from the cabbage. If the kraut is not covered in brine after 24 hours, mix some up (1 teaspoon salt to 1 pint water) and add to the jar to cover. 

Allow to ferment at room temperature for one week or more. I like to taste it every couple of days to see how it changes. When it is done is up to you; I like mine still quite crisp. When the cran-apple kraut is done to your liking, remove the weight, cover the jar with a lid, and refrigerate.
 



We like to eat this with sausages, beer, and homemade mustard. It's a pleasing, quick, easy, and nutritious winter meal. 



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