Sunday, November 29, 2009


Part 1

I've been seeing these gigantic heads of cabbage at the farmers market lately. I'd have an image of making sauerkraut, but pass it over in favor of some more colorful harvest food. But the cornucopia of produce has been dwindling as we get into the leaner months of winter, and today Jean and I passed some pale green gigantors for $.63/lb and decided today was the day to try it out. We got a thirteen pounder as big as a watermelon, for about $9.

I've hesitated to ferment anything in my house because it's so small. Where would I put it? I am afraid of little bugs laying their eggs in the room temperature stewy liquid, or a mishap resulting in a pool of kraut to wade through, or even just the smell. In my dream house, I'd have a root cellar or a pantry to store food and keep various microbiological food projects safe and out of the way of my tender nose. But... that might be years from now, so carpe diem.

Brine Fermented Kraut
adapted from here

13 lb shredded cabbage

3 sliced yellow onions

12 tbs salt

handful of caraway seeds

smaller handful yellow mustard seeds

It was a task to shred all this cabbage. Jean hacked it into pieces that would fit in the food processor which I had fitted with the slicer attachment. We did it in two batches because I have no bowl or pot which would hold the entire shredded mass. By the end of the project, there was cabbage absolutely everywhere from my kitchen to my dining room.

Added the salt and seeds and onions to the cabbage in the biggest pot I have. We took shifts mashing the mixture for about ten minutes with a wooden spoon to release all the juices and dissolve the salt.

We had two one gallon jars Jean used to make kombucha in and these were just the right size for this amount. Three handfuls at a time, I stuffed the mixture into the jars, pressing down each layer very firmly before adding more. My hands are pretty parched from handling all the brine.

We put a yogurt container lid to the top of the kraut and a small jar on top of that to keep the cabbage weighed down. Then we covered it with four layers of cheesecloth, and it's sitting on top of the fridge, fermenting at room temperature. We're going to skim any white froth that forms at the top, and daily pick out the bits that turn brown. It's going to ferment for three weeks before transferring it to 1 quart jars and putting in the fridge, where the flavor will intensify. It can be eaten ten days after this, or after a few months for a very aged flavor.

I'm excited....


Made onigiri with Sagey when I went home over Thanksgiving break. I love them and have wanted to learn how to make them for a while. Got the general idea from this very helpful website. They're really easy to make, and with more practice I think I'll get even better at making them. Since they are so portable, I think they'd be perfect for both of us to bring as school lunches. Making them reminded me of tamales, in a way, since it's a starchy blank slate with an intense filling. There seems to be a lot of room for innovation as far as fillings go.... we made some with just plain umeboshi plums, and a made up one with some smoked salmon and pickled ginger muddled together.

2 1/4 c water


umeboshi plums/other yummy things

3 or 4 nori sheets

In strainer, rinse rice thoroughly until the water runs clear. Soak in a bowl with the 2 1/4 water for about 30 minutes. Bring to a boil in a medium sauce pan, then turn down and simmer and cook till water has evaporated. The rice is very glutenous, so don't stir too much or it'll turn into a giant mushy glob. Let it cool for a while, until it is safe to handle.

Clean your hands very well and leave them damp with cool water. Sprinkle salt on your palms and grab a handful of rice (amount depending on how big you want your rice ball to eventually be) and cup it in your palm. Make a round little well in the center and add an umeboshi plum or a tablespoon of filling. Add another little bit of rice on top of the filling and begin forming the onigiri by pressing and turning the rice ball around in your hands. The traditional shape is triangular, and to achieve this I first formed a sphere and held it at the bottom of one palm and pinched two sides at the top, then pressed this shape gently with my palms flat.

Then wrap the nori however you like. Jean tells me that you can put the nori on later, just before eating, so it doesn't get soggy. But I kind of liked it a little chewy.

We used a rice mold my mom bought at Uwajimaya in Seattle to make the funny shaped ones, and they were cute but kind of a hassle. I liked the tactile experience of pressing the warm rice with salty palms.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

West Side Dinner Club

The second official meeting of the West Side Dinner Club.

It rotates between our West Side homes, we meet on Sundays at dinner time. We only make good food. It might get pretty fancy, it might get pretty big. We've added a new member or two each week we've existed. It's really wonderful to cook good food for your friends, and wonderfuller when it's reciprocated.

This week, in the spirit of cold weather, we made traditional beef stew baked with parsnips, glazed carrots with balsamic vinegar, and spaghetti squash with so much butter and garlic. Kate brought some gluten free (luv) Spite & Malice cookies for dessert, made with foraged oregon grapes and dark chocolate, they were wicked.