Cabbage and Sauerkraut

Just as the cauliflower harvest brought great yields this garden season, so did the cabbage here on the farm. After slowly recovering from our recent loss of Ida Mae, we've spent the last few weeks harvesting, eating and preserving the enormous cabbage crop. 

Wonder Woman and Alice joined me for the morning pick.

Wonder Woman and Alice joined me for the morning pick.

A typical year of cauliflower brings fresh cabbage salad, coleslaw, fish tacos and cabbage rolls for a few weeks over the early summer months. As quickly as those yummy dishes arrive, it seams that they in turn quickly disappear. This year I wanted to preserve the harvest beyond a 2-3 week window and I set out to make sauerkraut. 

 Both Wonder Woman (my inspiration and bracelet wearing alter ego) and my dedicated companion Alice helped make the initial harvest a bit easier. I had to move fairly quickly on the harvest too, as Little Bunny Foo Foo was enjoying late night snacks on different heads of cabbage in the garden. The culprit couldn't even commit to which cabbage head to sample, so I had various cabbage heads decorated with small nibbles here and there. 

I pulled about 23 heads of cabbage from both gardens by the time it was all said and done. The dreaded cabbage moth had made her mark on a few of the heads and other garden friends sampled along the growing season too. Even after all of that, I had an ENORMOUS bounty to tackle. 

Farm girls get dirty- 

Farm girls get dirty- 

To get a little perspective about what I was taking on the next several days, I asked our kids to come outside when they woke up and sit with the cabbage. They are getting good at smiling by produce these days!

My Cabbage Patch Kids

My Cabbage Patch Kids

As I mentioned earlier, the process of making sauerkraut took several days. A day for picking, sorting and washing, a day for prepping the canner, jars and supplies and a day of cutting and actual canning. Exhausting right? 

I went online to find recipes for making sauerkraut and found lots of resources. As with all canning, you want to be sure to follow directions specifically and practice good food handling practices. I pinned several recipes to my "Summer Bounty" Pinterest board if you are interested.

We ended up making two kinds of sauerkraut this year. In a nutshell, the sauerkraut process is the same for all types until a given point. You can preserve it for long term use using a water bath (see picture above) or you can ferment it in a crock/jar for 21+ days and then keep it in the refrigerator. The difference between the two is the probiotic benefit of the refrigerated type. Once the kraut is cooked and sealed, it loses that perk. The taste is the same, but the benefits are different. Probiotics+short term storage or sauerkraut+ months of eating. You get to decide.

Sauerkraut "cooking" in the cool/dark pantry for the next several weeks.

Sauerkraut "cooking" in the cool/dark pantry for the next several weeks.

If you don't count the time it took to plant, care for and grow the actual cabbage, the sauerkraut creation process took about three days. Sixty three plus pounds of cabbage heads passed through the kitchen on those days and they are now settled in on the shelves of the pantry. It is fun to look a the variegated colors and think about the dishes we can make from them. I will note that there is NO WAY we will be able to eat all of these jars! Christmas is just around the corner and I like nothing more than handing out a homemade gift. 

Grandma Norma's Rhubarb

I've always been one to love history, ancestry and anything old and worn. I have a love for antiques, old houses and relics from the past. For me, things that are dated conjure up countless possibilities for a good story. If only they could tell the tale!  The rhubarb I just harvested from our garden has it's own little history and I am so happy to be a part of it. Our rhubarb plant came from a cutting from Eric's sweet grandmother Norma's plant. Harvesting from it this year felt like connecting with her over the rainbow bridge. 

Harvesting rhubarb can feel a bit scary at first... only the stems are edible. Some gardeners advise wearing gloves as you work through the pile of leaves and stems for fear of making contact with the massive foliage. I didn't do this, but I made sure to wash my hands as soon as I finished and I carefully discarded the leaves into the trash to ensure our free range chickens didn't have the chance to "sample" them. 

When I began tackling this first harvest, I didn't realize just how MUCH rhubarb was actually there. Last year was the first full year for the rhubarb in the garden, so I didn't harvest any of it and allowed it to flower and to go to seed. I read that this would make the plant stronger and it surely felt strong as I clipped and clipped the stalks. 

Once I had the rhubarb inside, I had to decide what to do with it. I had some strawberries in the fridge, so I made a double batch of strawberry rhubarb oatmeal bars. Yummy! The recipe can be found on my Pinterest board under the category called "Summer Bounty." The rest of the harvest was washed, cut, frozen and divided for use later during the year. 

After the individual pieces had time to freeze, I measured out two cup portions and put them into freezer bags. Most recipes I use call for at least two cups, so this makes life a bit easier when I am tackling a recipe. Freezing it also keeps the individual pieces from sticking together in the event that you need to adjust the portion size being used. I asked our daughter to help mark the bag for me in hopes of making a tiny memory. It is my hope that both of our children remember the work that comes with harvest and preservation. The taste that comes from what we have a hand in is powerful. Perhaps the next time she helps with a rhubarb based treat she will not only savor the flavor that goes with it, but will recount the hours of work it takes to preserve nature's bounty for later in the year. 

The freezer has 10 cups of delicious rhubarb thanks to the plant that originated in Grandma Norma's garden. Each time our family dives into a dish that calls for it, we can pause and give thanks to her memory and the taste of early summer that goes with it. 

Strawberry Rhubarb "Dump Cake"

Tis the season for strawberries and rhubarb. Here is an easy recipe that consistently proves to appease the pickiest of palates. A bonus feature, it is so easy to make.

1. Ingredients:

* 1 cup of chopped rhubarb                     * 1 cup of freshly sliced strawberries                               * 1 stick of butter (cut in cubes)               * 1 box of yellow cake mix

2. "Dump" these ingredients in a greased glass baking dish in this order: fruit, cake mix, butter

3. Bake @ 350 degrees for 1 hour, cool and enjoy. 

May I suggest a little ice cream to go with this?