Monday, December 14, 2009

Sauerkraut (german), choucrout (french) or zuurkool (dutch)...

So we live here in the desert of Baja California Sur in Mexico; it’s steaming hot and we’re having some beers and some fantasies. We’re also fantasizing how great it would be to have a cool down party, an air conditioned room with cold showers and an industrial fan running..., or, a pool with freezing cold water, ice cubes floating...

Anything to escape the heat... and eat winter food, but there’s no winter in the desert. We do have good friends who travel a lot. Their place has an air conditioning and a little pool though, meaning that our first problem is solved and our fantasy can become reality...

Now... what’s typical winter food..., soups or casseroles or..., of course! Sauerkraut, zuurkool, choucrout... Good old home made European stuff; fermented white cabbage. Home made? Home made... In the desert? Oh yes! Does it work? Who knows, we’ll see and find out and tell you in a couple of months... What we did?

First of all get our tools together; the cabbage has to be under liquids, so a plate and a stone for the pressure in a pot (always starting with the stuff that is easiest to get...). In Europe they use these special ceramic pots to ferment the cabbage. We’re in Mexico, if you can afford to travel direct, about 20 hours away. We cannot pay even the cheapest, so we have to be clever and thus we use a bucket with an airtight lid. Fermenting needs an opening to make sure that the gasses are able to go out, without the outside air coming in. Mexican cleverness makes us choose a water lock; gasses bubble out without letting the air go in! Then we need time, for preparing everything and for shopping in the city. Time we have more than enough! We need some money for petrol and cabbage (we robbed our grandma, but promised to cut her in on the profits!). To cut and slice we need a knife and a cheese cutter and we also need a wooden stick to stamp the cabbage.

Second, we need ingredients, so we go shopping and grandma buys us about 6 kg (13 pounds) of white organic cabbage, so with no poisons but with worms and other bugs; beggars can’t be choosers! We need some salt, peppercorns, parsley, nutmeg, raisins, garlic, bay leaves and dill and some bandages... Further some nice white wine, a present from some friends of ours who know their stuff. They say it’s a very good wine, but we can use it for the sauerkraut, for we are beer drinkers.

Then it’s time to get to work, hunting the bugs down, cutting the heart out of the cabbage and slice it thinly with the cheese cutter, a hell of a job, but hey, it’s for choucrout, so it’s worth it... Quite a bit of time and several cuts later (grandma was having a great time watching us cut and get hurt...) we’ve got a job well done; a bit over 5 kilos of finely cut cabbage bug and poison free, ready for some salt (about 1,5%, we put 77 grams), pepper and fine herbs.

Now, some more work to be done; we have to beat the living daylight out of it... Really? Yes, the sliced cabbage has to go into the bucket, with all the fine hand selected herbs and must be stamped with a wooden stick or stumper, until it drowns in its own liquids. It’s unbelievable that out of this dry cabbage comes that much liquid and it also takes a severe muscle ache to beat the wetness out of the vegetables... Hope it is not wasted effort, and the sauerkraut is going to be very extremely good.

When it is all liquidy and splashing (by the way, it’s also very smelly and nobody told us about that before!) add the white wine, not a loss for, as said, we drink beer, preferably Belgian beers. We mean the brown monks beer (Trapist, double fermented) with lots of alcohol and taste that you drink with cheese and nuts on the side. Impossible to get in the desert of Mexico... German beer (for instance Weissen, a white murky beer) is also very good, less alcohol, so you need more of it, but also, unavailable over here.

Okay, back to where we were. When everything is soaking in the bucket, you put the plate on top of the zuurkool-to-be and put the heavy stone to pressurize it. Like this the veggies will stay under the liquids, out of direct contact with air (it would just rot, and that’s not what we want, unless the project doesn’t work. Then the choucrout can rot where ever it wants and we have to hide from grandma!). We put the lid on the bucket and of course fill the water lock...

The fermenting will take place in our bucket in 6 – 8 weeks: the first few days in room temperature and the next weeks in low temperature (around 10ºC or 50ºF). Now again that is a problem on the tropic of cancer, where a temperature of 30ºC (90ºF) is normal. We are cooling our bucket down with ice cubes and hope for the best. Of course it does mean less ice in the pool, but we’re not too sure anymore about that cold freezing water idea anyway... Whose idea was that anyway after all?

During these months of waiting, we every now and then have to open the bucket to clean the foam off, in case it gets on the sauerkraut. We’ve worked very clean, apparently, ‘cause after two weeks, still no foam or mould, but what a smell, yarghhhh... only grandma likes the odour...

Of course we had to test it, but didn’t really dare; suppose it’s poisoned, or it would just make you sick and vomit or so... Thus, we prepared the first serving for grandma, being the gunny pick. Guess what? Grandma, she just loved it !!! Man, did we score some major brownies there, just before Xmas (told you we’re poor, so we think ‘presents’...).


Bon apetit, smakelijk eten, buen probeche...

1 comment:

Giana said...

And in Korea, it's called kimchee- I just had some last night!
A happy shout out to you and Pilu from Oakland- Gina and Jerry