Saturday, June 22, 2013

collard kraut, y'all

Well, will you look at this? After two months of saying, "we should make sauerkraut with those collards, they are amazing and prolific," I am making sauerkraut with those amazing and prolific collard greens! I know, right? These ladies have been putting out for a year and a half now, with no visible end in the picture, and if you belong to the sort of household that owns a book by Sandor Katz - even if that book is not locatable when it's needed, ever - you know you need to kraut those bitches.

collard kraut

a mess of collard greens, as they say in Tennessee
sea salt
caraway seeds


a gallon-sized ceramic crock or glass jar
a plate to fit inside the crock or jar
a weight - a milk jug filled with water, a stack of canned tomatoes, or a cleaned and boiled rock
a cloth and string or rubber band to secure it over the crock or jar

Pick your greens, plunge them into a sink of cold water to wash them, and then begin the laborious task of stemming those babies. 
One giant basketful from four plants equals a gallon of tightly packed sauerkrauts.

My process goes like this: I pile a few leaves on my cutting board, then one-by-one fold each leaf in half lengthwise and run my knife blade along its spine - it's faster than you think, even for an overloaded sinkful of collards. As I de-spine, I stack the still-folded leaves in a little pile that I move to a fresh sink of water while I de-spine the next stack... until all the leaves are naked.
Collard spines. Tough, but still tasty. If you have a good collard-spine recipe, post that darling.

When all the stem/spines are relegated to the compost bowl, you can slice your leaves into whatever shape you like for kraut. I like them sliced into thin strips, so I take a stack of leaves, shake the water out of them, and roll them into a thick bundle to slice on the cutting board. You guys do it how yeh like it.
See how my big ol' knife slices through fresh collards like butter? It's not butter, though, it's collards.

As you slice/grate/chop your greens, layer them in a giant steel or glass bowl and sprinkle each layer with salt. I'm just doing what Sandor told me to do. I wonder how ginger would fare in this baby.
What we have here is a giant bowl of collard strips layered with sea salt, a compost bowl of dang ol' collard spines, and a compressed layer of collards in a crock, that's fixin' to get sprankled with caraway seeds. I like to say sprankled when I'm talking about collards. It's more southern.

Once everything's sliced/grated/chopped, layer the greens into a very clean ceramic crock or gallon-sized glass jar. As you put in each handful, punch the greens down to squeeze out air and water and make a tight pack. Sprinkle on a dab of caraway seeds, and then pile in another handful, pack it down, and lay in some more seeds until the crock/jar is full.
Oh my goodness, isn't this pretty?

Top the whole deal off with a little plate, maybe a tiny saucer that your sister gave you, or a kids' tea-set saucer from IKEA. Whatever you use, it needs to press down on the greens while supporting the jar of water or big boiled rock that you're going to set on top. 
My friend Norma gave me this crock a whole lotta years ago and I used to make beeswax candles in it. What? You didn't know I could make candles, too? Please. I made kimchi in it once, but it wasn't a nice story.

Yeah, man, I said rock! I boiled a rock! This is awesome to me because when I was a kid, Stone Soup was my favorite book. Still, though I should have known I would totally dig cooking as an adult based on my love of Stone Soup as a kid, I never anticipated the actual boiling of a rock in my kitchen. Well. that rock is super clean now, and it's sitting on top of a pretty brown saucer my sister gave me, weighing down some damn collard kraut! 
Look at that dang rock! Do you like rocks as much as I do?

Cover the whole shebang with a cloth. I use the little bird hankie that my brother gave me, because I don't have too many colds, but I like to use that hankie.

I keep my crocks of fermenting stuff on a shelf in my kitchen. I would like to say that no oranges ever fall onto the crocks of fermenting stuff, but that's only because I like to tell stories.
Press down on the rock occasionally, to squeeze enough water out of the greens that it covers the little plate. Sandor says this should take 24 hours, and if it doesn't happen, mix up some saltwater and pour it in there. You know where to find out what Sandor says.

Let the kraut ferment at room temp until it tastes krautish. I'm going to have to let you guys know about this part, because my kraut's still just a bunch of green collards in a crock layered with salt... 
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