Today I travel nearly four hours round-trip for the latest food adventure: picking up the 90+ pounds of meat that my sister and I bought as a hogshare from Clark Summit Farm.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but as you might imagine, buying half a hog (or half of any large animal, for that matter) does require an up-front investment and it’s taken me a while to set aside the funds to get started.  Thanks, sis, for helping to make it possible!

Clark Summit Farm maintains the kind of farming practices that I want to back – animals treated well throughout their life, given the chance to express their “pigness” as Joel Salatin has coined the term, and harvested humanely and respectfully.  Buying a share directly from them rather than through a store means they get to keep 100% of what we’ll pay them, and they can also cut us a good deal.  I love the chance to directly support a farmer who I can trust.  Who I can meet and talk to pretty much anytime I want.  Whose farm I could probably visit just about any day of the week.  As I’ve discussed before, that kind of transparency is important to me, and vital to a healthy food system.

While my sister and I will get a wide range of cuts, I am particularly looking forward to the sausages.  Oooooh, the sausages.  In preparation I made up a batch of sauerkraut over the weekend.  Because what goes better with sausages than a nice tangy side of sauerkraut?

It’s about the simplest ferment out there: all you need is cabbage, salt, and if you want to be traditional, a sprinkling of caraway seeds for flavor.  I used the recipe from my kitchen bible, Nourishing Traditions using the non-whey ferment option; alternately, you can use 1 Tbsp sea salt instead of two, and add 4 Tbsp fresh whey.  (See my note at the bottom of this post; I’ll probably use the whey ferment next time.)

See that beautiful pink sea salt, full of minerals?  A prized souvenir from my trip to the Austrian Alps last fall.  I’ll be so sad when it’s gone!

SAUERKRAUT

Ingredients:
2 small-to-medium heads of cabbage (I used one head each green and Savoy)
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp sea salt
filtered water

 

1. Core and shred cabbage.  (I did this in my food processor; later I read that this can release too many juices in the shredding process rather than in the pounding process.  Hm.)

2. Turn out cabbage into a flat-bottomed bowl or pot.  Add salt and caraway seeds and stir thoroughly to mix.

 

3. Using a wooden hammer or meat pounder, pound cabbage for about 10 minutes, until cabbage has released a good amount of juice.

 

4. Pack into a quart-sized Mason jar and continue to pound until juices cover cabbage.  (I topped mine off with a little bit of water – maybe necessary because I didn’t chop by hand?  Hm.)

5. Cover tightly and leave on your countertop at room temperature for three days before storing in refrigerator or root cellar.  (I also read that it should stay at room temperature for a week or more.  Hm.)

Apparently, making sauerkraut the old-fashioned way is not an exact science.  I tried this batch tonight, after three days on the counter.  It is a bit too salty and not vinegary, like the modern quick-fermented kind we’re accustomed to, but it has a crisp, fresh flavor that will probably mature over time – it can keep at least 6 months, and the flavor should be quite different by then.  To take the salty edge off, I filled the rest of the jar with water and stirred it up.  I also put it back on the counter to ferment for another 3-4 days; maybe it will develop more acidity by then?  It’s a mystery!  I’ll report back with results.

Speaking of results, I also tried the gingered carrots tonight and they are delicious!  Such an interesting blend of flavors; I wonder what to serve it with first.  The recipe netted me just over a quart, which I divided into three jars – two pint and one half-pint.  Just to experiment, I’m going to put one jar in the fridge tonight, leave a second one out for two more days, and a third one out for another two days after that.  We’ll see how the flavors change.

Over at The Nesting Place, risk is the word of the day and it’s what I think of as I write this post.  I like to take risks in all areas of my life, and they don’t always work out as planned but they always bring opportunities for learning and unexpected surprises.  So take a risk!  Try something new.  And let me know how it goes!

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