Until last fall, I had never tried sauerkraut. I blame my mom. Sauerkraut is one in a long line of foods that she wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole so, of course, neither would I. I entered adulthood knowing for certain that I only liked Chardonnay and Kraft Mac & Cheese, and that anything from water should be promptly gagged at and set aside.
Don’t get me wrong, my mom is the best. Ever. But if I hadn’t been diagnosed with Celiac disease, and then discovered myriad of other food sensitivities, I’d still be having cheese toast and a glass of Kendall Jackson for dinner every night. Limitations force creativity. And lucky for me, my soul found its mate in a chef, and I’ve been eating like a queen for nearly a decade. Last year, my husband and I decided to self-impose a new restriction: to eat entirely from this place. That is, all vegetables, fruits, meats, fats, oils, nuts, seeds, grains, herbs, spices. Everything.
We did it first to figure out if it could be done. (It can.) And secondly, to begin the work of creating a cuisine for this place – a culture of food and eating shaped by this landscape, this climate, and these people.
Which brings me to kraut.
As we researched and planned for our year of eating from this frigid place, I became obsessed with fermentation. No steaming canning baths or botulism warnings needed. Just salt, vegetables, time, and voila: tasty, tasty probiotic-full food ready for the long winter ahead.
After all the reading and planning and excitement, though, I still hesitated to try the first batch. It was covered in scum (which happens). Smelled weird (apparently that’s just how it smells). I finally scraped off the top layer, picked up a shred of cabbage, and after too many moments popped it in. It was weird. And then magic. Sour, salty, crunchy. And once I started I couldn’t stop. I ate it – and am still eating it – on EVERYTHING.
Then we started playing with all different kinds of krauts. Cucumbers, beets, carrots, kale. We pretty much fermented anything and everything last year (and not all to such life-altering success). But my favorite is the chow chow, which has quickly become a high demand product among our farmers and friends.
“Is the chow chow ready yet?” everyone’s been asking. Well, everyone except my mom.
- 10 pounds white cabbage, thinly sliced
- 12-15 carrots, thinly sliced
- 12-15 sweet peppers, thinly sliced
- 6-7 tablespoons saltMix ingredients together in a crock or other large, non-reactive container. Mash it up with your hands, or pound it with a pestle until enough water has been released to cover the vegetables entirely. Place a plate or some other weight on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged. Cover and check daily. After three or four days it should be ready. How will you know when it’s ready? Scrape of the scum and try it.
Join Megan Sheridan and her husband Matt Kappra Mondays at their private dining club, 320 Northeast. Request more information at www.320northeast.com.