Friday, June 27, 2008

Home alone..... fermenting...

I went to New York City for a few days with my mom and sister on a celebratory girls trip. It was a first time there for my mom and sister, and my second visit. New York feels like a potential second home to me. However, much like some of my other favorite cities, the cost of living seems so outrageous compared to the midwest, that it just seems more sensible to live here and then go on visits as often as possible.

While I was gone, my urn of sauerkraut was happily bubbling away. What? You made sauerkraut, you say? Well, not yet. Sauerkraut is cabbage that has fermented in a brine. Much like a pickle. I guess it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the cabbage to fully ferment to its fully gasous self. Being a good irish girl like I am, I came rather late to the sauerkraut game, but my german husband (and this highly german town that I live in) loves the stuff. And I like it too. It seemed natural to try to preserve it myself.

I secured 3 cabbages (15 pounds) at the farmers market the previous weekend. (on a side note, my new market bag worked fabuously - it was like having 3 ginormous... well, for lack of a better analogy, testicles popping out of this bag). Sliced them thin, and sprinked them with salt. 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of cabbage. Let it wilt from the salt. Pack the cabbage into the urn tightly. Hopefully, the liquid from the cabbage will cover the cabbage, but if it does not (and I have yet to have the water extruded actually cover it), you can make a simple brine to supplement it.

At first my sauerkraut bubbled like crazy and almost immediately started eminating that "Dear god, what has died in our kitchen" (to quote my husband). I shuffled the enormous crock of kraut down to the basement for fear that the hot weather was encouraging too fast of fermentation.

Then, after a week down in the basement, I think it was too cold. The fermentation seemed to cease.

Thank you to the Harvest forum at Gardenweb - a group of experts on such preservation who advised me to bring it back up into warmer environment.

It's been going for 2 weeks now. The kraut is not bubbling as much as I think it should, but it is definitely starting to smell and taste sour.

I'll update later...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Market bag...

Originally uploaded by estraub
I tried ever so vigilently to save paper or plastic bags for re-use the next time I went to the grocery store, but I would always forget to bring them. I tried to leave them in my car, but again, would forget to take them inside. Not anymore. Not with this baby.

Here is my first cotton market bag. I love, love, love it. I love whipping it out. It stretches in ways I could not comprehend.

I put 15 pounds of cabbage in it. Along with cucumbers, and it didn't even groan. And it popped back to the original shape. (this picture was taken post-cabbage).

Love it. Making more as soon as I can.

Strawberry Harvest...

You know it's bad when your spouse, who reads your blog about once a month, comments on your lack of posting.

I do have about 4 drafted posts, just waiting for me to complete them. I get started, ramble a lot, and then something pulls me away. The post is banished to neverland. I promise to get them out there. Go toward the white light little posts! Anyway....

We are coming up on the end of strawberry season for this part of the woods. So far, I have made about 20 jars of jam, a huge vat of strawberry vodka which needs to soak for the next 3 weeks, and today I am making strawberry leather (aka fruit rollups). I'm hoping that Saturday's farmers market does not leave me hanging, as I would like to get about one more round of strawberry stuff. We'll see...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Salmon Candy

Mr. H is running in his first triathalon this weekend. He is one of those people who doesn't have to work out regularly to still be able to run a 7 minute mile. For 10 miles. Hell, probably for 20 miles. I, on the other hand, while I can run for a long time (if I so chose), at a dispairingly slow pace. My occasional trainer swears to me that I could become faster, but I remember even in high school, when I played field hockey, I was a solid 9 minute mile girl. So it's not surprising to me that in the *cough*15 or so *cough* years since then that I can't keep that pace. I still run, probably around 15 miles a week, but not that fast. (I do have something going for me, I am not wracked with leg cramps or back spasms like he is.)

Anyway, the whole family is piling into the car at an ungodly hour of the morning this weekend to be in that overrated city (although I still like it) by 6 am. Seriously. I'm going to bring my lounge chair and try to catch a nap.

As Mr. H is away on business tonight, I decided to work on a small protein present for him. Two batches of beef jerky, one of which I'm going to try to smoke on my smoker tomorrow, rather than just using the dehydrator. In addition, I'm experimenting with a batch of salmon candy.

Candied salmon is salmon that has been marinated/brined in a sweet brine, then hot smoked. Or at least, I believe that is what it is. We have been buying it from Whole Foods for as long as it was open. Miss Thing loves it. The only problem is the price, at $18 to $20 per pound, it is an expensive treat. Especially when the 5 year old would eat a pound of it herself. On our recent trip home, we bought a little stash of the stuff, but it just left me longing for more.

I decided to try my own version of candied salmon. Turns out, there are many recipes for the brine. Duh, I guess I just had to look for it.

I decided to use a recipe that included a lot of sugar and maple syrup. The recipe contained (what I thought to be) an awful lot of salt, but since this was my first time, I figured I should stick to the recipe. The brine makes a lot - much more than my 3 pounds of salmon needed.

I brined the chunks of salmon for about 24 hours, and then smoked them over hickory chips for about 3 hours. I still don't think I have the timing for the salmon right - I'm still not quite accustomed to deciding when a chunk is done. But for the most part, I think it turned out well. The fish was sweet, with a nice texture, and a good smokey flavor. Personally, I thought it was too salty, and next time I will not use so much salt. I apologize for not having a picture of the fish but I will get one as soon as I can.

On the upside of this adventure though, I made 3 pounds of candied salmon for about 18 dollars, rather than 19.99 a pound at that store! In addition, I threw the leftover brine with some of the beef that I was using for jerky in an attempt to persuade Miss Thing to like the stuff. I then smoked it. It tasted just like bacon!!!! She loved it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I guess we are in Kansas now, Toto.

The family piled into the family sedan on Thursday to head back to our dear hometown of C-bus (well, it's my hometown at least. But we lived there for 12 years, so I consider it Mr. H's hometown since adulthood). It was the student recognition ceremony, and all the students who had presented something or were awarded a grant had their name read and then got to eat cheese and sip fruit punch. I won a dissertation award, quite shocking, and I was very humbled by the honor.

Anyway, there was an unspoken tension going down there this weekend. While we have been in this rust belt community for about 10 months now, I still considered C-bus "home" and, not to sound snobby, but in some ways superior to our current location.

And there were definitely things I miss about C-bus. It feels clean and new. There are a plethora of the cute and yuppie (for lack of a better word) markets, stores, bakeries, wine shops, restaurants, etc. It is, for the most part, a very educated city, and because of the many high-tech and white collar jobs, there is an air of civilized living. But my god I forgot how much you have to drive to get to all those places. Friday morning, we drove around for over 4 hours, and only ran 5 errands. There was no place we could ride a bike to, even if we wanted to. I went to a yarn store, hoping for something cool and interesting, but realized that everything they had there, I could find at home.

We did get to do some favorite things. Croissiants at La Chatalane at the Saturday Farmers Market. I wanted to get some strawberries for jam, but they weren't there, unfortunately. The Whole Foods there is ginormous, much bigger than the Ann Arbor one, and carries some very specific items that we can't seem to get up here otherwise. We feasted yesterday on candied salmon, our favorite Spanish goat cheese and stocked up on our Indian frozen dinners. I also bought close to 15 pounds of chocolate.

By the end of the weekend, C-bus started to feel like an old boyfriend I had idealized after I had broken up with him. You know, the guy who you clearly broke up with for a reason, but over the years you forgot those reasons, and you spend days pining over all the good points. But then you run into him again, and realize, eh, he's not that great.