Our cooking instructor, Eva Sziegti, encourages us to take a gardener’s approach to the changing of the season, and shares a delicious sauerkraut recipe that is also zero-waste!
It is fall. It is harvest time. For a gardener, the stage is set for the finale. It is the time of fulfillment, maturity, and abundance. Fall in the garden is gratifying. It is the time of ripening and receiving the gifts of nature, and of our yearlong labor. In October, we enjoy the last autumn flowers, and we tend to cherish them even more than the fresh blooms of spring, because of their impending death.
Harvest time brings baskets full of produce, but also withered leaves, bald brown stalks, half empty beds, and decay. The painstakingly cultivated order is turning into chaos. Luckily, Garden Time is a cyclical time. Decay and death might take over, but we know that this phase is only temporary. The life that seems to disappear will in fact reemerge again in the spring.
Although we acknowledge the cycle of the seasons and try to live in harmony with it, our lives unfold in time that we perceive as linear. However, when facing stress or loss of inner equilibrium, we can all benefit from time spent in the garden, on Garden Time.
Garden Time with Children
Children, especially, thrive on Garden Time. Away from technology and engaged in hands-on tasks, their patience, perseverance, and sense of achievement (without instant gratification) are nourished. Especially if a child has their own garden bed or row to work on, they will learn to make decisions, solve problems, and take responsibility. The garden gives a sense of consistency, a sense of purpose.
And in the fall, there is plenty they can help with. Who wouldn’t like to pick the last peppers and tomatoes of the season, dig up some potatoes, carry a large squash to the kitchen, collect seeds of all shapes and sizes, or make seed packets from paper destined for the recycling bin? Children can get some exercise pulling up weeds and dead plants, covering the beds with blankets of straw, raking, or “driving” the wheelbarrow to the compost pile.
Into the Kitchen
Children also tend to be willing to eat vegetables that they have grown themselves. Of course, the taste of homegrown veggies is on another level versus those from the supermarket. In the camp’s garden, we see the same scenario play out: a child tastes a freshly picked vegetable and exclaims something along the lines: “I didn’t know I liked cucumbers (or tomatoes, peppers etc.)!”
Speaking of eating—there is certainly a lot that needs to be done in the kitchen during this season as well. Kitchen Time has its own rhythm. Children usually enjoy cooking, especially if they like the food being prepared. They can be our helpers when we preserve the gifts of the garden. Ambitious cooks can engage their children in canning vegetables, making jams, jellies and preserves during this season. Other preserving projects, such as making applesauce, herb salt, or sauerkraut are simple enough to be rewarding even for an inexperienced cook and their family.
So, as we enjoy the last warm days of the fall, harvest the bounty from the garden, save the surplus for the winter, and prepare the garden for the next season, let us feel reassured that the circle of the seasons will go around once again.
Making sauerkraut is easy. We don’t even have to do too much. Bacteria, fungi, and time will transform the raw cabbage into sauerkraut—full of beneficial probiotics. All we need is cabbage, salt, a glass or ceramic vessel to hold the fermenting cabbage, and patience.
1 gallon wide-mouth glass jar (or ceramic crock)
about 5 pounds of cabbage (white or red), finely chopped
3 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons whole caraway seed (optional)
2 bay leaves (optional)
Put the chopped cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Let the salted cabbage sit for at least 20 minutes. The salt will start to pull water out of the cabbage. Take cabbage by the hand-full and squeeze more juice out. The liquid should be squeezed back into the bowl, this will be the brine for the cabbage. Add caraway seeds and bay leaves. Put a bit of the cabbage into the glass jar. Using your fist, tamp it down. This will force more water out of the cabbage. Continue adding small amounts of cabbage and packing it down. When full, put the jar on a plate or on a shallow bowl. (Some of the liquid will spill out onto this plate as the cabbage starts to ferment.) Cover the filled jar with another clean smaller jar or glass (close in diameter to the mouth of the fermentation jar) filled with water (or crystals or stones). This will serve as a weight, keeping the fermenting cabbage submerged. Cover the whole thing with a piece cheesecloth to keep flies out.
Keep the jar in the kitchen or in a cooler room for slower fermentation. Occasionally, press down the weight to assure that the level of brine rises and the kraut is safely submerged (our goal is an anaerobic fermentation). Sometimes when the cabbage is not too fresh, it may not release enough liquid. If after 24 hours the kraut isn’t submerged, add some salted water to the jar (mix one cup of water with one tablespoon of salt). Leave to ferment. Check your jar every day. If at any time the kraut is not submerged in liquid, add more salted water. As the process of fermentation starts, grey scum will develop. This is normal. Skim what you can off. Wash the jar used as a weight and put it back.
After few days, start checking on the taste of the kraut. It will start to get tangy. In my kitchen, it usually reaches the right tangy-ness in about a week. If you ferment the kraut in a cooler room the process will be longer. Don’t leave the kraut to ferment for too long or it will become unpleasantly soft. When you are happy with your sauerkraut, take off the jar used as a weight. Cover the kraut jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator.