This weekend will be shortened since I am traveling to New York next week and will have to spend some time getting ready… (at least there will be fewer words)
I am going to introduce this weekends activity again by giving the back story. As mentioned in previous posts… I am married to a beautiful french woman… (must say that…she reads this… ). What I didn’t realize when we first met is that she is not an ordinary “frenchy”… She is Alsatian (not to be confused with the dog breed). I had no idea about this peculiar group of people who have a very interesting history, language, and culture. If you have never been to Alsace (pronounced Al’s ass…. which makes me want to tell everyone my wife comes from Alsace… and even after over 15 years I still chuckle)… You must visit this region of France.
My wife is from Strasbourg and it is a beautiful place. While in Alsace (pronounce it correctly and see if you don’t chuckle) you must try Alsatian local dishes… I have never been fond of sauerkraut until I had an “choucroute alsacienne“. The cabbage wasn’t the horrible pickly flavor I had always experienced. I instantly fell in love with this dish… I talked my sweet wife into leaving her family, food, and yes “Alsace”… (chuckle chuckle) and we tried for several years to recreate this beautiful dish using the sauerkraut I find in the US… it sucked… so vinegary… pickly (I know that isn’t a word )… even if we washed it I could not get the fantastic flavor I had learned to love.
SOOO like other things I thought… I wonder if I can make chou de choucroute…(sauerkraut)… And the answer is YES… and it is easy. The best part is that like cheese you let it rot in your basement for about three months and people will eat it. In my experience they will not only eat it but say… (I hate sauerkraut… but I love this…) . The picture for this post is from Christmas time and is the last batch I made…
This weekend I am going to make chou de choucroute and will share with anyone that wants to read further the step by step instructions. Please follow along and then try this… in your own home… basement…or cellar.
- Course Salt
- Black Peppercorn
- Juniper Berries
Very simple huh!!! (we are just making the fermented cabbage in three months I will give the recipe for an authentic choucroute alsacienne… when it is done fermenting)
Other THINGS that you NEED (you can improvise here)
- Ceramic Pot (or container that is water proof and doesn’t let light in… see picture below. I have a german fermentation pot …. Expensive but worth it… I didn’t have one initially but after the second batch overflowed and stunk up my basement… I bought one and it keeps smell in and mold out… )
- Large mandolin.. (or you could just use a knife. cut even and don’t cut your fingers off)
- Cabbage tamper (as cool as it sounds… I don’t have one… I use a wooden rolling pin)
- Cut the cabbage in thin strips with knife or mandoline. I cut just enough for the first layer… about 3 inches (or in my pot 1 cabbage)
- Place cabbage in pot… we will be adding cabbage in layers and tamping it in between layers.
- After putting in about 3 inches of cabbage… sprinkle course salt on top… nice even sprinkle and then add 8 juniper berries and 5 black peppercorns
(the cabbage cutting and putting into the pot can get very messy… or maybe I should say I can’t do it without being very messy… so YOU see here my method. I cut the cabbage in fourths then cut the core out of each and then use the mandoline over the t0p of the pot)
- Once the cabbage layer is in you will start the tamping or “croute pounding”. GUY HINT: you can not speed up the process by tamping “harder”… (I learned this the hard way when I broke the expensive pot) . Be patient tap a lot and be gently on the pot…
- Start process over until all the cabbage is gone or that the pot is 3/4 full… Towards the end you will be surprised how much cabbage you can put in a pot. You will also notice that a liquid should be appearing and probably covering the cabbage. This is what I was trying to “speed” up by tamping hard… (don’t do it)…
- The cabbage should be covered with liquid. (any that isn’t will become very gross as the cabbage ferments) If you find that you don’t get enough liquid from the cabbage you can add some salted water… (not too much… just enough to make sure the cabbage is covered completely with liquid)
- The below picture will show the tamping and layering
- Now the cabbage needs to be weighed down with something (keep it under the liquid so it doesn’t get gross). The fermentation pot has weights that make this easy… Before I owned the pot I had to improvise… (don’t use anything that will rust… that ruins the flavor… even if you put it in a zip lock baggy… YOU can guess how I know)
- Last step is cover the pot and age the cabbage and it will ferment. I continually (once a week or so) check to make sure the water is above the cabbage and if I see any floaty grossness… I remove it… don’t eat it… just remove it.
Warning if you don’t have a fermentation pot (it has a water seal) this can smell… like rotting cabbage. It won’t be horrible unless you don’t like the smell of rotting vegetables. I recommend putting it in the basement… if you have a small apartment… you are going to probably have a stinky apartment. (My brother has made this in his small apartment… and his wife complained a lot)
You will not have a smell or mold problem with the fermentation pot if you keep the water seal always full… and inside the water always above the cabbage.
This batch will be ready in about 3 months. I will wash the cabbage (get rid of the brine, peppercorns, and juniper berries). Then we make the choucroute alsacienne… When it is ready I will share that recipe… (be patient)
Leave a comment if you have any questions… or I would love it if anyone tries this and leaves me a “this was cool… and easy…”. I promise the flavor will surprise and delight… try it… you will be performing MAGIC…