As I’m slicing through the firm, green flesh of a winter cabbage, making
ribbons with my stainles-steel knife, the cabbage makes a crunching sound with each motion of the blade. Occassionally I’ll grab a piece of the cuttings, enjoying the mild peppery flavor, thinking about the next step in making sauerkraut.The task of making homemade sauerkraut is a process, not necessarilly a difficult one, but it does require a bit of research and understanding of one’s environment. Much like the process of homesteading.
With the head of cabbage in thin slices, I’m adding it to large bowls and sprinkling it with sea salt. And I gently begin to massage the cabbage breaking down the cell walls of the hardy vegetable.
Thinking back to my first experiment with fermenting cabbage, I look at some of the mistakes I made along the way. Too much salt, not working the water out of the fresh cabbage well enough. And I say to myself, man, this homesteading thing is way more difficult than I thought. But post learning curve, I’m on the right path.
Success! Osmosis is beginning, water is exiting the cabbage, soon to be the brine of this batch of kraut. Opening a cabinet drawer, I shuffle around some kitchen gadgets looking for the potato masher. Here it is. I begin to really work the cabbage now, tamping it down, the brine sloshing around the bowl.
Where would I be were it not for my first batch of kraut. As insignificant as it may be, it was a journey in homesteading, part of the process. Part of my process. Thanks to that first batch I wouldn’t have an understanding of fermentation, And the fact that it will not take place if the temperature is too low. I guess I won’t be using my unheated back entryway again. In gaining skills and ideas for future batches of kraut, I realized the first was no failure, I just took home some great ideas for the future.
The cool brine is flowing up to my wrist as I pack down the soon to be kraut into a half-gallon jar. This time I’ve added a little crushed red pepper and cumin to the cabbage. It has a slight tint to it and looks magnificent to me. Finishing up I place a weight on top and set it my office with the thin window shade closed, topped with a paper bag to keep out any debris. And there it will wait.
Another experiment. Another experience. Another labor of love in the process of homesteading.
What’s your homesteading experience been like?