As an aspiring or wannabe homesteader, I found that summer and early fall kept me plenty busy with gardening, preserving and a host of other outdoor projects. It was definitely eye opening. Usually, I’d have a bit more time while we’re on break from homeschooling to tackle some projects or hobbies around the house, but since we’ve moved from our little tiny city lot, to a larger outdoor space, growing and harvesting season took priority. And I jumped in with both feet.
Now that the weather is cold, wet and often snowy, it’s time to shift my focus indoors. There’s some skills I really want to learn and I plan on working on a few different projects this winter.
Our first project was simple, and one that we were already pretty familiar with. The family recipe for traditional sauerkraut.
My husband’s family is from a German background. And they take their sauerkraut pretty seriously. Like giant-cauldron-of-fermenting-cabbage seriously. They make one gigantic batch every year, and then water bath can it so they can keep it on the shelf.
The recipe is perfect. If you’re not a fan of sauerkraut, I wonder if you’ve ever had the real stuff. Cause those cans in the supermarket aren’t it. Those are brined with vinegar and mushy and not my favorite. Our method is just cabbage, salt and time. It’s one of those miracles of lacto fermentation and at the end you have still crisp kraut that is just sour enough, just salty enough and full of beneficial bacteria for your gut.
I pick up a few huge heads of cabbage from a local produce shop every fall (or when we run out), slice it thin, and hubby mixes in the salt and pounds it down. Since we do a much smaller batch, we don’t can it, preserving the good bacteria for better digestion. It will keep in the frig or cool storage for months.
Here’s the how to:
- 2 TB salt (kosher, pickling, or sea salt work fine–do not used iodized salt)
- 5 lbs cabbage
- large crock or non-reactive vessel
- sturdy muddler for pounding (you can improvise here)
1. Peel off a few nice, whole leaves before slicing
You’ll use these to cover the kraut when you’re done.
2. Thinly slice and weigh the cabbage
If you don’t have exactly 5 lbs.–just use some fractions to figure out your ratio of salt and cabbage. I easily get 5 lbs. out of 3 good sized heads.
3. Alternate sliced cabbage and salt
You don’t want to dump the salt in all at once. We do about a pound of cabbage, a sprinkle of salt and so on. My husband pounds as he goes. It’s a back and forth method to get the salt evenly distributed and the cabbage well bruised.
4. Pound the cabbage as you go to release the natural juices
Our method doesn’t call for any extra water (there is one exception to this, which I’ll address later). You just pound and pound and the addition of the salt to the bruised cabbage helps it release it’s natural juices.
Don’t you just love our high tech pounder? A wooden muddler wrapped in a plastic bag just to keep any splinters out. I’m guessing you might be able to use a really sturdy potato masher for this too.
5. Work it until the juices are even with the top
Once all the cabbage and salt have been added to your crock, keep on pounding until the juices have released enough that they come to the top of your cabbage. It will look like this.
6. Cover and weight down
Now you’ll take those leaves you pulled off at the beginning and cover the cabbage with them. (Don’t worry if they tore a bit. Just layer them on.)
Then we use a small glass plate that’s a pretty close fit with the crock and press that on top of the leaves. Next, comes some sort of weight to keep it all submerged. Ours is a tuperware container filled with water or sometimes even rocks. And the entire thing is covered with a towel to keep dust out. You could rubberband the towel around the edges if you’re worried about critters. Experiment and use what works for you. I know there are all sorts of fancy fermenting containers and such out there you can buy, but we just use what we have on hand.
There’s a clear glass plate under all those juices.
7. Wait, check, repeat
This is the easy part. Place your crock of cabbage in a dry spot that is relatively cool. Not cold. We use a shelf in the mud room. I’ve used the pantry before. Someplace where it won’t be disturbed. Wait a few days to a week and check on it to make sure everything is nicely submerged (you may have a few floaters–that’s okay).
Check again a few days later. If during one of your check-ins, you notice mold growing on top, simply skim it off thoroughly. That’s not uncommon from what I hear, though we don’t generally have trouble with it.
Water level. Sometimes, if the air is very dry, you might begin to experience some evaporation of the juices. It’s important to keep your kraut good and submerged. If you notice the water level getting low, and the cabbage isn’t done fermenting yet, you can drizzle in a little distilled water at any point in the process.
8. So when’s it done?
When your cabbage has changed from white opaque, to a little yellowed, you can call it done. It will also taste sour now instead of the salty cabbage you started with. The flavor will continue to develop a bit even in cold storage.
I can’t give you an exact time, because it depends on how warm conditions are, how much cabbage you used, and the type of container. This batch took about 4 weeks. Three to four is normal for us in the winter. Summer is much shorter.
We scoop ours into sterilized jars, distributing the juices evenly, and pop them in the frig.
That’s it! Small batch sauerkraut making at it’s simplest. Now we have a few jars of beneficial enzymes and bacteria to accompany our meals. (And the taste is WAY better than what you get at the store!)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Except for when it’s not. Chances are you know someone who may be having a hard time this Christmas season. They’re trying to keep up a brave front. But if they were honest, maybe they’d tell you that these weeks are a huge struggle for them.
And while it is indeed good to send your gifts to your sponsor child overseas, or donate to local charities, there is another opportunity for us to bless others–some of those closest to us. It doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or fancy. I think most of the time, folks just want to know that someone recognizes their need. Sometimes even a simple gesture can help lighten the load.
I have to admit that gifts are not exactly my “gift.” But here’s some ideas to get you started…
- Take them a meal. When life is overwhelming, dinner is the last thing you want to do. Make a few freezer meals they can eat on when they need it most. Or drop off a simple pot of nourishing soup.
- Gift cards for take out. If cooking isn’t your gift, a gift card for take out can be the next best thing.
- Shower them with notes and cards of encouragement. If you can get a few others together to help with this–even better.
- Offer baby sitting. Maybe your friend needs a quite afternoon. Or a chance to get some things done. Offer to give them a few hours if they need some time to themselves.
- Christmas cookies or the fixings to make their own. I’m thinking about homemade sugar cookie dough, some sprinkles and Christmas shaped cookie cutters.
- Help with housework. Lots of folks won’t let you help clean their toilet or fold their laundry. But it never hurts to ask.
- Help them decorate. One particularly tough Christmas season, the last thing I wanted to do was decorate the house. I just didn’t care. So my mom came over and did it for me. And it really did help. Maybe there is someone you know that could use a little decorating help to lift their spirits.
No matter how small the gesture, it can really make a difference for someone in need. Let’s pray and ask God to show us those struggling or in need around us this Christmas. Let’s pour out some encouragement on those near us.
The Christ child came with messages of peace and hope for all people. And we can spread some of that ourselves.
What practical ideas do you have for reaching out this year?
Once upon a time, I had the
stupid romantic notion that all gifts from my husband should be of the lovely, completely frivolous variety. The practical and useful were off limits. Especially kitchen related gifts.
But there was one problem. Me. I’m not into scrapbooking or crafting, gizmos or electronics, antiques or art. I cook. Bake. ALL THE TIME. It just so happens that my favorite hobby also feeds the family. And I LOVE all things kitchen related. So one day, much to my husband’s delight, I lifted the ban.
Is there a foodie in your life to buy for?
If you or someone you love are frequently covered in flour, can chop an onion in seconds, lingers in the baking aisle for much too long, or has about 20 food blogs bookmarked, then you too can go for the kitchen gifts.
So I thought I’d share what I’d consider the top 10 gifts for the real food cook. Some are rather inexpensive. Some are definitely an investment. In my opinion, all of them are worth it.
1. A Good Knife
2. Several Cutting Boards
When you’re cooking from scratch, you’re chopping and slicing all the time. So you need a few boards to go with that great knife. I like to have wood for onion and garlic especially. And I save the plastic boards for raw meat or fruit (not at the same time!).
I just recently got one of these for my birthday. I don’t know how I lived without it. It grates parmesan cheese and ginger and garlic like it’s butter. I think I use it almost every day.
4. Cast Iron Pans
A good cast iron pan will last forever. If seasoned properly, it’s practically non-stick, sears like nothing else and is incredibly durable. I have several sizes from a small griddle to a dutch oven and a large skillet.
5. Big Old Stock Pot
A must have. Good for pasta and soups and stock. I also use mine to heat my jars of milk to make yogurt in a water bath. You can even water bath can in one in a pinch.
6. Large Crock Pot
Go for 6 or 7 quarts. A must for busy cooks. You can make stock, cook a frozen chicken all day while you’re away, cook your dried, soaked beans and a least a thousand other things in it.
7. A Nice Enameled Dutch Oven
If you’re looking for a gift that’s a little nicer than a set of wooden spoons (always good stocking stuffers) but not as expensive as a major appliance, why not consider a pretty enameled dutch oven (this one is a great price on Amazon). All the heavy duty properties of cast iron, but enameled to make clean up a little easier. Plus it can handle more acidic foods without eating at the iron.
I LOVE mine. It easily goes straight from stovetop to oven. Great for searing and braising a pork roast or cooking up a pot of chili or stew.
8. Immersion Blender
Okay, not a necessity. But it can puree a soup or whip some cream like nobody’s business. Quick and easy. I’m actually planning on getting another so I can dedicate my current one to soap making chores. This is the one on my wishlist. Love that it has two speeds.
9. A Serious Food Processor
Okay, now we’re getting into the big ticket items. Not all food processors are created equal. (I know this cause I may or may not have killed the cheap-ish one I bought for my mom…trying to shred cheese. Cheese, people. It’s not all that difficult.)
Many moons ago, when I lifted the ban on kitchen gifts, this beauty became mine.
I’ve had it longer than my first born and it’s still grinding almonds and chopping veggies and–yes–shredding mammoth blocks of cheese like a pro. It is well loved and used. (See? I didn’t even bother cleaning it up for you.)
10. My Beloved Kitchen Aid
Oh, I have been blessed with a few other Kitchen Aid brand items. But only this beauty gets the distinction of that title on a regular basis. Probably one of the best Christmas gifts ever. I cried. Seriously. (Is that sad? Oh, well.)
This puppy is my bread maker, potato whipper, meringue whisker and cookie dough blender. Plenty of power for multiple loaves of bread.
I don’t have a red sports car. Got me a shiny red stand mixer.
So there’s my top 10 gift list for the kitchen. A little something for every budget, right? Brighten the day of the kitchen queen or king in your life with a super useful, functional kitchen tool. And something in a pretty color never hurts either :).
What would make your top 10 list?
This post contains affiliate links. Same great deals for you, small commission to support this blog. Thanks!
I don’t come from a church background that includes all the more formal observances of the Christian faith. But the more time I spend in ministry, I’m noticing that more and more folks who were either unchurched as kids, or part of a less liturgical background are reviving some of the traditions that are centuries old. People want to be part of the great story of the church. They want the rhythm of repeated celebrations and sacraments.
Because the repetition is grounding. It gets into your soul. It reminds you that you are a participant in the greatest story–God’s story–and that even today, we are a part of the unfolding of His redemption.
Advent is one of those seasons. I would guess that some just look at Advent as a countdown to Christmas Day. A “how many days to I have left to shop” kind of calendar. But recently, I took a closer look at Advent.
The word itself means to arrive or begin. For the believer, its the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, that we remember. We don’t just wait for Christmas morning. We put ourselves back over 2000 years ago and remember how Israel, how the whole world, was waiting. For deliverance. For hope. For salvation.
We remember with swelling gratitude as each day passes, that if He had not come, born into this world–God in the flesh–God with us–then we would really be lost. There’d be no hope for us.
I dare not forget. I don’t want my children to forget. So while we wrap presents and bake cookies and watch cheesy Christmas movies, we also take time to daily remember.
I can’t claim any of these ideas. They both come from Ann Voskamp at aholyexperience.com.
Our Advent Wreath
This is the same one I showed you at Easter. Only for Christmas, you just use the smaller section and the figure of Mary on the donkey. Twenty-four holes to move your candle along for each day, as Mary gets closer and closer to Bethlehem.
The wreaths are hand made by Ann’s son, Caleb. And a portion of each purchase goes to Compassion International. If you’re interested, here’s the site. (I’m not an affiliate–it’s just an amazing part of our celebration!)
Every night we light the candle. And every morning we move closer to the day.
The Jesse TreeA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.–Isaiah 11:1
I believe there are lots of versions of the Jesse tree. But we also use the ornaments and devotional from Ann’s site. This year, she has a bound book that you can purchase with all the devotionals and ornaments.
We use a little 4 foot artificial tree. Every morning we read the verses and that day’s part of the story. Then the kids put on the ornament for that day. By the end of the month, this little tree will be covered!
My favorite part of this is how it takes us from Genesis in the beginning, tracing the promise of the Messiah all the way through the Old Testament. We get to see that the Bible is not just a random collection of stories, but that it is a journey, and that every step along the way points to Christ.
These daily rituals only take a moment, but they have become such a rich part of our Christmas celebration.
How does your family celebrate Advent?
I keep getting loads of emails and updates of all the great sales going on this weekend and into Cyber Monday. So I though I’d pass them along to you! Cause we all want to save where we can, right?
And I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of internet shopping. There’s nothing like checking off that Christmas list in your favorite comfy pants! So stay home, find a cozy spot on the sofa, and take advantage of these deals.
If you’re trying to figure out what to get the person who has everything, why not an Ebook collection? The Ultimate Heathly Living Bundle that was up for sale a few weeks ago is doing an encore sale over the Black Friday weekend. But this time, there is an extra great incentive to buy. 25% of the proceeds from all the sales will go to benefit 4 different charities, including disaster relief in the Philippines, Compassion International, Hope for Women, and Love146 (the last two deal with rescuing/training women and those trapped in human trafficking.) You can follow this link back to my original post will all the details.
Need some help planning for the holidays? Or other motherhood-related tricks of the trade? Jessica Fisher at Life As Mom is having a sale on all her ebooks this weekend as well. I have purchased both the Organizing Life As Mom and A Simpler Season. Love them both! She’ll be offering $3 off any purchase of $8 or more. Just use the code THANKYOU when you check out.
Vitacost is by far my favorite place to score deals on baking supplies (especially gluten free), herbal teas, supplements and body care. Last year, I gave my grandmothers each a gift that included herbal soaps and lotions and some gourmet teas–all ordered from this great site. And for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, they’ll be offering loads of specials and bonus codes.
And as always, I find that Amazon is my go to Christmas shop in my pj’s place. (affiliate link)
Got any great deals to pass along?This post contains affiliate links. You still get all the great discounts, but I get a little commission to support this site. Thanks and happy shopping!
Praying you and yours are having a very blessed Thanksgiving Holiday! Remember, this day, to give Him an extra measure of thanks.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” –2 Corinthians 9:15