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Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Regina wrote to me and asked how to make sauerkraut.  Since it is a bit complicated, I thought I'd write a post on it.  Now, I know most of you won't be interested in how to make it, but if you scroll down to the end of the post, I share a recipe for a delicious Alsatian-style pork roast that uses sauerkraut.  Perfect for Octoberfest!

Step 1:  Wash and scald a large crock or a large food safe plastic bucket.  Wash your cabbages and cut out the cores.  Remove the thick outer leaves.

Step 2:  Shred and salt the cabbage 5 pounds at a time.  You do not need to go to all the expense of buying a special kraut cutter.  Just use a very sharp knife and cut in very thin strips.  Use 3 1/2 tablespoons of canning salt per 5 pounds of cabbage.  Make certain the salt is evenly distributed or the cabbage may turn pink.  (This is caused by certain kinds of yeast.)  We use a large Ziploc  bag to mix the salt and cabbage together. 

Step 3:  Repeat the shredding and salting until the crock is filled to within  5 inches from the top.  Tamp the cabbage down firmly to extract the juice.  If there is not enough juice to cover the cabbage make a brine of 1 quart of water and 1 1/2  teaspoons of salt.  The brine should cover the cabbage.

Step 4:  Fit a clean scalded plate or lid that fits just inside the crock.  Weigh it down with a sterilized  quart jar that is filled with water.  The cabbage must be completely submerged in the brine.  Cover the crock with a clean towel and place in a dark place.The  best temperatures for fermenting is 70 degrees.  Warmer temperatures may cause the kraut to spoil.  Cold temperatures take longer.

Step 5:  In a few days you will see  bubbles starting to appear.  That means the cabbage is fermenting.  Check the kraut daily and remove the film as it appears.  Remove the lid and remove any film or mold on it.  Wash and scald it and place it back on the cabbage.

Step 6:  When the bubbling stops (usually in 2-4 weeks depending upon the temperature) tap the side of the crock.  If no bubbles appear, it means the fermenting has ended.

Step 7:  Now you can eat your sauerkraut or you can can it.  To can it, heat the sauerkraut but do not boil.  Pack into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/2 headspace.  Remove the air bubbles.  Process in a boiling water bath for  15 minutes for pints or 20 minutes for quarts.

Now you have the sauerkraut, here's a wonderful meal that's perfect for an October day:

Alsatian Pork Roast

In a large Dutch oven, brown 2 large onions, roughly chopped in a couple tablespoons of oil.  Sprinkle a pork loin roast with a spice mixture of 1 tsp. salt and  1 tsp. pepper, 2 tsp. sage, 1 tsp. rosemary,  1 tsp. thyme and 1 tsp. dry mustard.  Brown the roast in the oil.  Pour a pint of sauerkraut over top of the roast.  (If using store bought, use a good quality kraut, not the cheap stuff that you can buy in a can.) Combine 2 tbsp. each of  ketchup and brown sugar.  Stir into the sauerkraut.  Add clean whole potatoes (or cut up if the potatoes are large) as many as needed for your family and an equal amount of coarsely chopped carrots.  Cover the Dutch oven and simmer on top of the stove until the internal temperature of the roast  reaches 170 degrees.  About 30-35 minutes per pound.  The meat should be falling apart.   Check from time to time to make sure all the liquid hasn't boiled out and that the roast isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Add a bit of water if needed.

 Place the roast on a pretty platter and arrange the potatoes and carrots around it.  Serve the sauerkraut on the side.With the leftovers, you can chop up the roast and and add it to the sauerkraut,  adding  some Italian or Polish sausages to it stretches the leftovers for a few extra days.  Are you ready for October now?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


There always comes a day in September when we pull ourselves away from all the busyness of summer to take notice that the world is tinged in a golden glow.  That is when we know it is time to make a journey to the cider mill.  So we head out past the coastline of the endless blue inland sea, past the dark forests, to the country lane that winds its way around a tranquil and meandering river. Here we feast our eyes upon bucolic farms, giving us peace as we are reminded that "The Lord is our Shepherd.". I send up a short prayer of gratitude. A magnificent bull grazing in a meadow makes us pause.

At last we arrive at the cider mill.  The spicy scent of apples  and that tantalizing smell of doughnuts frying, envelopes  the air.  We are so happy to find a bushel of one of our favorite apples, Wolf River and cider in real glass jugs.  Glass jugs appeal to the romantic in me.  We linger here, not wanting to break the spell of a enchanted ordinary day, sipping cider and nibbling on a doughnut.  It is the type of day I call a benediction day.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

~Numbers 6: 24-26~

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's not what you don't have, it's what you do with what you do have.
~Kitty Bartholomew~

The thought occurred to me the other day as I was preparing bread pudding, that the thrifty life is so much like making one.  It's doubtful that very many people would choose bread pudding as their favorite sweet, given all the ooey goooey goodies that are out there.  No, a bread pudding is one of those things you bake to use up the bread that's going stale, the milk that's nearing its expiration date, too many eggs.  But once you taste it warm from the oven (hopefully with a dollop of cream), you realize how deeply satisfying and good it is.  How rewarding it was to take a combination of ingredients that by themselves didn't amount to much, and making something delectable from them.  How much fun it was to  use your creativity.

And that pretty much sums up the thrifty lifestyle.  Rather than being resentful that you can't afford things, you discover that it's fun and rewarding to use the old noggin to figure out a solution.  For instance, this cottage was really ugly when we bought it.  And when I say ugly, I mean ugggggly!  Everyone thought we were crazy when we bought it.  But the location was right, the size was right  and most importantly the price was right.  Was it the perfect little gray shingled cottage on Nantucket Island? No.  But we knew we'd never be able to afford that and we didn't want to be a slave to the mortgage company anyhow.  So we tackled the task of making this place into something closer to our heart's desire.  Planting flowers started from seed to make beautiful gardens.  Figuring out that with the addition of shutters  and a flower box,the little kitchen window looked more in balance with the larger picture window on the left.  Removing some of the ugly cabinets and painting the rest white in the kitchen made it look a lot more cheerful.  Painting the ugly turquoise metal garage and putting on new doors (the old ones were as thin as rice paper) made such an improvement.  Little by little, with very little money, we made a silk purse from a sow's ear. And because we were frugal, we managed to pay off the mortgage in less than five years too.  Which allowed us to save up for the new siding that will be gray shingled, so we will soon have the house we envisioned.

Looking back, I've been doing this my entire life. As a girl, when we couldn't afford a new winter coat, I would remove the collar and add a "new" fur one found at the thrift store and change the button outs.  Jeans that met with an unfortunate encounter with the bleach bottle were dyed  back to a nice deep indigo. The little black dress that had to be trotted out for another season, was given a new look with the addition of a pretty scarf or brooch. When we moved into a house with an ugly turquoise bathtub, we applied a cheerful complimentary wallpaper to the walls (found at a discount store) to make it look like the color was chosen on purpose.  We had Cath Kidston style before Cath Kidston! And you know what?  It was fun!  I actually feel sorry for people with unlimited resources.  How dull life must be!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Sorry about the long stretches between posts.  I have been busy doing this:

I was thinking that I'm almost through with the canning for the year, then I started listing what I have left; eggplants, pumpkins, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, pears,one more bushel of tomatoes, some peppers, more blackberries and let's not forget sauerkraut.  Well!   Let's just say I'm two-thirds through the canning season.  Going to need some more shelves!

I do not live on a farm, just a regular sized city lot.  Just goes to show you  what you can do with a little bit of gumption.  The other day I was talking to a relative who was unemployed.  She was making herself sick with worry about how to make ends meet.  The whole time I was wondering  why she didn't put in a garden as she lives on several acres out in the country (even volunteered to help her get it started).  I read a statistic that one in seven Americans receive food stamps.  That means that some of the people I know are using them, but when I tell friends and neighbors to just come and pick whatever they want or need,  they rarely take me up on the offer.  Now, the very same people will gladly accept produce if I pick and clean it and present it to them in a nice plastic bag, but it is too much work for them to do those couple steps themselves.  They'd much rather go to the grocers and buy it that way.  I stopped offering.  If a person cannot bend their back and use a bit of effort to help themselves,  then I surmise that they are not truly needy.

Well, enough of that rant!  Just had to get it out.  We've had cool weather the last couple of days.  One day it was in the nineties and the next  the high temperature was fifty-one!  It was as though nature said, "Labor Day has come, summer is over, let's get on to autumn!".  It would be nice to have an extended fall season.  Usually it gets smooshed between a too long summer and a too soon winter.

It smells wonderful outside.  The Concord grapes are ripening,  Looks like a bumper crop this year!  This is the first year we are getting more than one apple on the trees we planted five years ago.  We planted my favorite "pie" apples;  Rhode Island Greening, Wolf River, and Smokehouse.  Old antique varieties.  Also, just for eating, the delectable Snow or Fameuse apple.  The neighbor also allows us to pick the pears and apples in her orchard. Lori is such a nice neighbor!   While I was writing this,  it reminded me that grape juice is also on my list of things to can.  The work never ends.  But it is a joy.  Next time I post something, I'll have a more informative article.  Just dropped in to say hello, and say I'm still here on Earth.  Just buried under garden produce!