Step-by-step: making sauerkraut

It’s been cold, wet and raining for the past while (with snow, in some areas!!), which meant it was the perfect time to stay indoors and finally make sauerkraut.

While I remember my mother making sauerkraut when I was a child, and I know I helped at least a little, I have never made it myself before. In fact, it was my mother’s sauerkraut that had me believing I didn’t like the stuff at all. She made incredibly strong kraut, and it was many, many years before I tasted any other and found it… okay. LOL Then one evening, while we were hosting a home schooling historical pot luck set in a pioneer theme, one of the families brought a fresh jar of sauerkraut. Fresh as in, just made that day and no fermentation. I was surprised by how good it tasted.

Cabbage, however, was one of those things I just didn’t tend to buy. In fact, it wasn’t until we moved here that we started to pick it up regularly.

I have an old friend from high school that has shared on social media about the sauerkraut she has been making, and with all the food preservation stuff I’ve been getting more and more into, I found myself wanting to try my hand at it. I did some research and found that it is incredibly basic – but it didn’t sound like what she was making. So I messaged her and got her recipe. It’s more like fermented vegetables, with added probiotics, than sauerkraut.

I decided to do both.

This post will be on the basic sauerkraut I made first.

Here are the ingredients.

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Things with crab apples: jelly, three ways

Once we got our crab apple cider vinegar made up and set aside to ferment, it was time to turn to the rest of the crab apples!

The apples had been cleaned and left to soak in cold water with vinegar overnight. The extra time allows for any damage and bruising to the apples to be easier to see.

The next steps were to remove the stems, then cut the apples. These crab apples are small enough that I just cut them in half.

This was the time to cut out any damaged bits – or remove some apples completely.

There were quite a few that looked fine on the outside, only to be bad in the middles. The above photo is what I removed from the apples, including the small batch I used for the apple cider vinegar.

Just a little something for the compost pile. ๐Ÿ™‚

As I have some of our choke cherries and sour cherries in the freezer, I decided to make several small batches, including spiced jelly. Some of the recipes I saw said to cook and strain the apples first, cook the juices with the other additions, strain them again, then make the jelly.

I had no interest in cooking and straining these twice, and saw no reason to. Instead, I divided the cut up apples into three pots. I had two medium sized pots plus my smaller stock pot, so after I filled the two smaller ones, any left over apples went into the bigger pot. My smaller pots each held about 6 cups of chopped apples, and the bigger pot had about 7 cups of apples.

I then made my additions.

The spiced batch got a couple of cinnamon sticks, 2 pieces of star anise and about a tablespoon of whole cloves. The others got about 1 cup of frozen fruit added.

Next, water was added until the fruit was just covered. They were then brought to a boil, covered and left to simmer until soft.

The pot the choke cherries were in turned out to be just a touch too small, and I had to transfer it to my other stock pot to prevent it from over flowing.

After about 20 minutes or so, I stirred them down to break up the fruit a bit; I had to use a potato masher on the spiced apples, as the pot was too full to stir properly!

I continued to cook them until the fruit was quite soft.

This is the sour cherry batch on the left, choke cherry batch on the right. I forgot to get a picture of the spiced batch before I put it up to strain.

While the apples were cooking, I prepped for straining.

I currently have only one jelly bag, so I lined colanders set over large bowls with cheese cloth.

I used the jelly bag for the spiced mixture and hung it up in my usual spot. By then, I already had over a litre of juice strained out!

I had to get creative to hang the other two. I used one of those wire frames made to hold bags open, like for leaf bags. Thoroughly cleaned, of course. I set it up on the dining table and hung the tied off cheese cloth bags of apple pulp on the frame, with their bowls of juice set up under them and the colanders removed. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the set up, though.

I then left the bags to drain overnight, though we did cover the various bowls with whatever we had on hand. One got a piece of cheese cloth stretched over it, another bowl was the perfect size for our mesh frying pan splash screen, and the big measuring cup got covered by a large mesh sieve. These all allowed the juices to keep dripping in, while keeping out any dust, cat hair, insects or whatever else might be floating about.

Note: they don’t need to be left overnight, but the pulp should be given at least a couple of hours to drain. Some recipes suggest to squeeze the pulp to extract more juice. This will result in a cloudy jelly, so that’s up to you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

That was all done yesterday. Today, it was time to cook things down!

I did each batch one at a time, rather than all at once, starting with the juice that was already in the measuring cup.

This is the spiced apple pulp from the jelly bag. The pulp all went to the compost pile.

I ended up with almost exactly 5 cups of juice from the spiced apple and the choke cherry batches, and almost exactly 8 cups of the sour cherry batch. For each cup of juice, I added a 3/4 cup of sugar.

Which felt like an insane amount of sugar, but that’s how it works!

Each batch was boiled to the gel stage.

Before I started cooking any of them, though, I started sanitizing my canning jars. With how much juice I ended up with, I knew my dozen 250ml (1 cup) sized jars would not be enough. I decided to use one 500ml (2 cup) for each batch, then use however many of the smaller jars I needed to empty the pot. The larger jars will be for our own use, and the smaller jars can be given out as gifts, if we want.

I also made a discovery.

We have not been able to replace our damaged hot water tank yet, which means it’s still heating the water to extremely high temperatures. I figured I would take advantage of that and use it to sanitize my jars and implements.

I was able to set up all the jars in a large container on the counter near the stove. I was also going to use my candy thermometer, so I dug that out, washed it, then put it into one of the jars to scald. Shortly after, I pulled the candy thermometer out. The whole set up with the water had been sitting for about 5-7 minutes since I added the hot tap water, so I had to do a double take when I saw the thermometer.

It was at almost 100C.

That’s 212F.

The instructions I was following said to cook the juice and sugar mixture to 210F to reach gel state. My tap water was already hotter than that!!

The juices reached beyond 210F very quickly, so there was no way temperature alone was enough to reach gel stage, so I kept boiling it. After the first testing, I went to wash the thermometer and discovered there was water in it.

???

Looking closer, I discovered that the glass covering the bulb of the thermometer was gone! For all I know, this is damage from our move. I very rarely use the candy thermometer.

So I threw that out.

Which meant I was checking for the gel state using the *spoon test.

Each batch took me at least half an hour of boiling before it reached the gel stage.

Once each batch was ready, I filled some jars – I added cinnamon sticks to the jars with the spiced jelly – covered them, then set them aside to cool while I washed everything before starting the next batch.

My 8 cups of sour cherry juice mix, and 5 cups of spiced juice mix, each gave me the same number of cups of jelly, but for some reason the 5 cups of chokecherry juice mix resulted in only 4 cups of jelly!

I still don’t have the tools to do a hot water bath, so these are not shelf stable, and will need to be stored in the fridge.

I absolutely love the colours in these!

After they had a chance to cool, my daughters used some when making supper this evening. They made grilled cheese sandwiches with some of the sour cherry jelly spread in with the cheese. It was really good!

The Re-Farmer

Homemade Crab apple jelly, with flavour variations

Items needed:

  • cheese cloth or jelly bag
  • bowl to drain juices into
  • if using cheese cloth, a colander that fits in the bowl
  • canning jars, jar funnel and lids, sanitized
  • place to hang pulp bag over the bowl
  • large saucepan or stock pot with lid

Ingredients:

  • crab apples, washed, stemmed and chopped. (no need to peel or core)
  • sugar

Optional flavour additions

  • about a cup of fruit or berries per 6 cups of chopped crab apples.
  • any combination of whole, not ground, spices, including cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, star anise, etc. to taste.
  1. Place cleaned and chopped apple pieces into a large pot.
  2. Add any flavour options desired.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until apples are very soft. Stir the fruit every few minutes.
  5. Mash the mixture with a large spoon or potato masher. Cook for a few more minutes.
  6. While the mixture is cooking, dampen a jelly bag and ready a bowl to catch juices, or line a colander placed in a bowl with cheese cloth (in 4 layers) and prepare a place to hang the pulp over the bowl.
  7. When the fruit is cooked until completely soft, spoon the mixture into the jelly bag over a bowl, or into the prepared cheese cloth. Tie off the bag and hang over the bowl to drain for at least a few hours, or overnight. (After draining, pulp can be composted.)
  8. Prepare canning jars and sterilize implements.
  9. Measure the juice extracted and place into a large saucepan or stock pot. Add 3/4 cup sugar per 1 cup of juice.
  10. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches gel stage*. This will take about 20-40 minutes, depending on how much juice there is.
  11. Pour hot jelly into heated canning jars. Skim off foam, seal and set aside to cool.
  12. Process in hot water bath or store in refrigerator.

* Sheet test for gel
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread.ย  Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops.ย  When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to โ€œsheetโ€, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.

Chokecherries, ready to freeze

The chokecherries I picked this morning are all done for now.

Nice to see my colander so full of berries! All clean and ready to pick over.

I got all the stems (of course, I found one I missed after I took this photo!) and the ones that were damages or whatever. I filled two 9×13 jelly roll pans with berries when I was done.

They are now in the deep freeze, to be transferred to freezer bags when they are frozen solid. After that, they can wait until we decide how we want to use them this year. ๐Ÿ™‚ The freezing will help them release their juices later, too.

So… what shall we make? More chokecherry vinegar? Or try a jam or jelly this year?

The Re-Farmer

Bitty Baby Gooseberry

While picking chokecherries, I also checked out one of the gooseberry bushes.

This is the biggest of the gooseberry bushes, and the one that got the most water over the summer, since I had the sprinkler going on the raspberry transplants. It has a fair few berries on it, while the others have either no berries at all, or almost none. The really dark berries I am holding are “ripe”, but so small, they’re practically inedible.

Note for future: transplant the gooseberries out from under other trees, and put them somewhere where they will get both sun and rain!

The Re-Farmer

Chokecherries

This morning, I grabbed a bucket and checked out the chokecherry trees.

After my last visit with them, I thought I might be too late for the one tree; either they would be over ripe, or the birds would have got them by now.

Happily, there were plenty of perfectly ripe (very dusty!) berries!

I was even able to pull branches down and get lots from the top.

This is how much I got, from just the one tree – minus the many that went flying or rolling out of my hands onto the ground! ๐Ÿ˜€

Which is quite noticeably better than last year.

20180802.bucket.of.chokecherries

That was all what I was able to pick from both trees near the road, last year.

This year, that second tree is not doing as well.

There were very few berries, they were really small, and not consistently ripening.

I left this tree alone.

Then I went for the tree closer to the house. The berries there were much plumper, but the berries were also mostly out of reach. The lower branches don’t get anywhere near as much light, so there were fewer berries and they were redder. My daughter was able to come out and help by pulling the upper branches down so I could reach to pick them.

Check them out!

While there were a fewer berries, they had almost as much volume as the berries from the other tree.

Yes, they are also a lot more red and not as ripe. This is okay, as the less ripe berries have more natural pectin.

As I write this, the chokecherries are sitting in cold water to get rid of any critters that might have come along for the ride, and get the bulk of the dust from the gravel road off. Later, I will give them a thorough wash in cold water, then pick them over to get rid of stems and any messed up berries.

Last year, we made chokecherry vinegar, to use mostly as a drink mix, with our berries. I have not yet decided if we will do the same thing this year. I’ll go through some ideas with my daughters later. I rather like the idea of making a jelly, but that vinegar was really good!

At the very least, we’ll set some aside to freeze and use to make chokecherry mead at some point. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Crispy rice patties

I had a birthday recently, and my awesome daughters treated me to Chinese food. We ordered a bunch of mostly protein dishes to pick up in town, while my older daughter cooked scallop noodles, coconut sticky rice and plain white rice at home to go with it.

On unpacking the order, we discovered they had thrown in a couple of free orders of white rice and chicken fried rice.

Which left us with a pot of plain white rice that ended up in the fridge, untouched.

Not a problem at all! I used it to make these crispy, pan fried patties. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice, though tasty enough to be worth making a bunch of rice, just for this!

Rice Patty Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cooked, cold white rice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded cheese (I used medium cheddar and a fine grater)
  • seasonings to taste (I used bacon salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika and garlic granules)
  • oil and butter for frying

Tip: when your cooked rice is ready to go into the fridge for the night, put it into a large slide-lock freezer bag. You can then more easily break any lumps of chilled rice apart in the bag, before putting it into the mixing bowl.

Note: I used a fine hand grater, normally used to grate Parmesan, for the cheese, as a regular sized grate could make the patties fall apart more. If using a regular size grate, reduce the amount of cheese used. The cheese can be skipped, too, if you wish.

Sauce ingredients:

  • mayonnaise
  • sour cream
  • white wine vinegar
  • dried herbs and seasonings to taste (I used a Mrs. Dash mix, plus a bit of rosemary lemon salt and fresh ground pepper, but feel free to combine whatever herbs you like or have on hand!)

To make the rice patties

  1. add your chilled rice into a medium bowl. Add seasonings to taste.
  2. add eggs and mix well with your hands, breaking up any remaining clumps of rice.
  3. add shredded cheese and mix in. Let rest for a minute or so (this is a good time to make the sauce). Note: if the rice mixture seems too loose to form patties, mix in a small amount of flour, then let rest again to allow the flour to absorb moisture.
  4. prepare a deep frying pan by adding about half an inch of oil (any oil with a higher smoke point, such as canola, sunflower or peanut oil, will work) along with about a tablespoon of butter, at high heat. The butter adds flavour, but it also lowers the smoke point of the oil. It can be skipped, if you wish. Note: it is important that the oil is very hot before adding the patties, so that they will crisp up rather than absorbing the oil.
  5. begin to form patties by taking about 1/4 cup of rice and pressing it into your hands to form a sticky ball. Flatten slightly, then set aside on a plate.
  6. when the oil is very hot, gently add several patties into the pan (I could fit only 3 in my pan). Use a spatula to gently flatten the patties.
  7. cook until the bottoms are crispy and golden. Gently turn the patties to cook the other side until also crisp and golden.
  8. remove patties and drain on a paper towel. Keep warm as you continue cooking patties in batches. If it become necessary to add more oil and butter to the pan, make sure to give it time to get very hot before continuing cooking.
  9. serve with sauce while hot. Garnish, if desired.

To make the sauce:

  1. place equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream into a small bowl or measuring cup. I used about 2 – 3 Tbsp each.
  2. add a splash of white wine vinegar and any dried herbs you wish.
  3. mix well and set aside to let the flavours meld.
  4. drizzle over crispy rice patties just before serving.

Making these is rather messy, and the rice mixture tends to want to fall apart until it starts to get crispy, but it is so worth it!

Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas

Here is a really easy recipe for a healthy snack to satisfy those cravings for something crunchy!

Roasted chickpeas.

Roasted, Seasoned Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • canned chick peas
  • olive oil
  • seasonings to taste

I have found that a 9×13 baking tray fits 2 cans of chickpeas in a single layer very well.

Instructions:

  1. Turn oven to 400F.
  2. Drain the chickpeas into a colander and rinse well. Spread the wet chickpeas onto a baking tray and let the water dry off for a while.
  3. Put the dried chickpeas into a bowl large enough to toss them. Add olive oil and seasonings. (In our last batch, we used Scarborough Fair Garlic Salt and freshly ground pepper. You can use ordinary course salt and pepper, if you wish. It would be great with Rosemary Lemon Salt as well, or if you want to stay away from salt, use your favourite Mrs. Dash mix. )
  4. Toss the chick peas until well coated with olive oil and seasonings.
  5. Return the chick peas to the baking tray and spread into a single layer. Place on centre rack in pre-heated oven.
  6. Roast for about 20 minutes. Take the pan out and give it a shake to turn the chick peas. Return to oven and continue roasting to desired crunchiness, giving the pan another shake every now and then. (We like them extra crisp. With our oven, that takes more than an hour of roasting time. Our oven also has some cold spots, so when we give the chick peas a shake, we also turn the pan, to ensure even roasting. )
  7. When done, remove the pan and allow the chick peas to cool.
  8. Once cool, store in an air tight container.

These make a really excellent and healthy snack, and are downright addictive!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer