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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sausage & Kraut

I have a dear friend whose family has made and cured sauerkraut for many years.  They do it the old fashioned way, even  referring to the Farmer's Almanac for the optimum time to make sauerkraut.  There is a three day window in every month when the moon's cycle dictates when the time is right.  Sauerkraut can be made year-round during this cycle.  However,  the ultimate time for this three day window is during the month of July when farm grown cabbage is at it's peak of freshness for harvest.  This is what his family has practiced for years.  I have sampled this sauerkraut many times over the years and my adoration of it prompted my  friend to invite me to join them in the process.

It was fascinating.  And quite a process.  The garage was full of sterilized Mason jars and lids.  I was instructed to bring my own, which I did.  There were bushels and bushels of Casey County cabbage everywhere.  My friend, his father, grandfather, and grandmother, and I took turns shredding the cabbage, stuffing it into the jars, salting the cabbage, filling the jars with hot boiling water, and finally sealing the jars.  It was fun.  These were genuine honest people. This was important work and they allowed me to be a part of it..... even said I did a good job.  I was honored.

I found the actual cabbage shredding tool to be the most interesting thing.  It was like an old turn-of-the-century Japanese mandoline.  Aged & worn old wood with sharp blades to be weary of.  This shredder had endured many  moon-blessed sauerkraut  productions, I could tell.  A beloved tool of the family.

We finished.  Was told to store the take in a cool dry place away from the house.  Garage or basement was  ideal.  Apparently, major fermentation happens in those jars. Breakage & aromas are common.  Garage.
Six weeks of curing.  Sauerkraut.  Delicious sauerkraut. 

It is with this sauerkraut that I made a humble version of Choucroute Garnie; The kraut, un-drained, simply braised in stock & beer with carrots, celery, and onions for  sweetness.  Caraway seeds and brown sugar added for depth. Braised and simmered until the vegetables were tender and the kraut had mellowed.

Served it with  a pool of dijon to dip and toasted rye to sop.

Thank you, my Casey County family.  Thank you, Tony for sharing them

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