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Rachel Armistead and Summer Sauerkraut

July 19, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Rachel Armistead and Summer Sauerkraut

A few weeks ago, when I was in Paris, I checked out Brasserie Lipp, the celebrated Alsatian bistro in Saint Germaine de Pres.  And of course, front and center was their famous choucroutegarni... which is French for fancy sauerkraut.  As it happens, we know a lady  from here in Maryland who is a sauerkraut maven:  Rachel Armistead, from a tiny place called The Sweet Farm in Frederick has started a cottage industry making the tangy stuff.

I had the pleasure of watching Rachel and her staff make Sweet Farm Kraut earlier this spring, and it was a revelation.  It's important to remember that the end product is raw sauerkraut, not the cooked kind you buy in a bag at the store.  This is super crunchy, tangy sauerkraut, and it comes in all manner of flavors.

Here is the basic recipe Rachel uses.

                                    BASIC VEGGIE KRAUT RECIPE

Sauerkraut or veggie ferments are very easy. They just require veggies, salt, and fermentation time. That’s it!

●      5 pounds vegetables. Cabbage is a good base, but you can use almost any veggie you like. Some good options this time of year are cucumbers, fresh onions and garlic, baby root veggies, peppers, green tomatoes, cauliflower or garlic scapes.

●      2-3 tablespoons sea salt (NOT table or iodized salt)

●      Spices to taste (1-2 teaspoons). Some fun ones are caraway, mustard, black pepper, chilies, and seaweed. You can also use finely chopped fresh herbs.

This will make about a gallon of kraut. You can adjust the amounts to make more or less.

If using cabbage, wash and core cabbage. Wash other vegetables. You can peel root veggies if you like, though it is not necessary. Chop or grate cabbage and other vegetables, finely or coarsely, however you like it. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go.

Once all the veggies are chopped and salted, mix and pound with your fists or sturdy utensil like a potato masher or wooden mallet. This releases the juices from the cabbage to create a brine. If there is not enough brine, or if the brine is saltier than you like, add a little bit of water to the mixture.

Once well pounded, pack the mixture tightly into Mason jars or a small food-grade plastic bucket. Make sure the liquid comes above the solids. It is best to weigh the mixture down with a plate or smaller jar filled with water. You want to keep the level of brine above the level of the kraut solids. Put a lid on the kraut (loosely), cover it with a cloth, or place an airlock lid on it. Place your kraut jar in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, where you won’t forget about it!

Check your kraut every few days. Skim off any mold or scum that forms on the top. It the solids have risen above the liquid, press it down again, and add a little bit of water if necessary. Taste the kraut after a week or two. If you like it, eat it! If you want it more sour, let it ferment longer. Some people like a young ferment, and some like an old one, it’s totally up to you. Once it reaches the taste you like, place the kraut in the fridge, and enjoy!

For flavor ideas, books and fermentation supplies, visit www.thesweetfarm.com.

Let us know how your kraut turns out! Send us a photo or tag us at #thesweetfarm or #sauerkrautforstrength, and we’ll repost. Instagram and Twitter: @sweetfarmkraut; Facebook: thesweetfarm.  

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.