Gut-Loving Homemade Sauerkraut

Gut-Loving Homemade Sauerkraut

Fermenting your food is one of the healthiest ways to preserve your produce and what better way to start your fermenting journey than with a classic sauerkraut. It literally means ‘sour cabbage’ and after cabbage sits in its own salty water, this is exactly what it becomes. Traditionally made with green cabbage, purple cabbage adds extra benefits with its antioxidant power. It’s tart, sour, crunchy and delicious, teeming with probiotics.  

You want to start with an organic or homegrown cabbage. Non-organic cabbages will have been sprayed with pesticides which will slow down your ferment and pesticides are obviously also not good for you. An organic cabbage will bring a whole bunch of good-fermenting-activating bacteria to the party!

Then once you have your cabbage, strip off the outer leaves and put these on the side for later.

Then remove the cabbage hearts (the hard white bit in the middle) and chop up your cabbage. As fine or as chunky as you like, bearing in mind that the finer you chop it the faster it will ferment.

In winter, for every 1kg of cabbage, I add in 1 tablespoon of salt.  If I make this in summer, I add 1 and 1/4 tablespoon of salt.

Why different salt amounts depending on the season?

The hotter the temperature, the faster the cabbage will ferment and sometimes spoil. Adding a little extra salt in summer will help inhibit that. In winter, the cooler temperature slows down the ferment so a little less salt will counteract that. This is according to temperatures in New Zealand. If you live in a hot country, adding 1 and 1/4 tablespoon of salt per kg is a good idea.

If your cabbage does start to grow mould or scum on the top, you can skim it off as long as it hasn’t been on there for more than 24 hours as then it could affect your sauerkraut taste. Mould growing on salt fermented vegetables is unlikely to be dangerous.

When you have added the salt it’s time to massage it into the cabbage. about 10-15 of minutes of working the salt into the cabbage.* The salt draws out the water from the cabbage and it’s this water that will act as the ‘brine’. 

*If you have no time to massage the cabbage, mix the salt and cabbage together briefly then place a plate over the top of the cabbage and salt in the bowl with a weight on it and let it sit for about 30-40 minutes. This will also draw the moisture out of the cabbage.

Now you can add extra flavorings such as fennel seeds, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, celery seeds or whatever spices you like. If you’re using green cabbage, some fresh or dried turmeric is great too.

It’s now time to add your cabbage to sterilised jars. Squish it right down into the jar, to squeeze as much in is you can and force the liquid to come up above the cabbage. Cover with any remaining cabbage juice. It’s now important to keep that cabbage submerged as this fermenting is an anaerobic process (meaning without oxygen.) You can use a couple of the large outer cabbage leaves you initially saved to hold the cabbage under.

If it’s not staying submerged enough you can add a weight on top such as a steralised jar or ziplock bag filled with water. Cover loosely with a lid, so that the gases made in the ferment can escape. If you choose to seal your jar, ‘burp’ it daily to release built up gases.

Keep the sauerkraut sitting on your bench or in a cupboard out of direct sunlight for 1-3 weeks, tasting after 1 to see if it is fermented to your liking. Once it’s how you like it, you can rinse the sauerkraut first to get rid of any excess salt, then store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator and use within a month. If you’re not rinsing it, it can store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Potato and Herb Gnocchi

Potato and Herb Gnocchi

It’s pouring rain outside and I have the heater on full blast. This weather calls for comfort food and right now I couldn’t imagine a meal more comforting than gnocchi.

Little soft pillows of dough. Tiny cushion dumplings. Small potato clouds… how many ways can you describe gnocchi?

But let’s put textures aside for a second. Obviously the melt in the mouth quality of gnocchi is critical, but let’s not forget the other aspect of what makes gnocchi so great: it’s a wonderful vessel for sauce. A rich tomato sauce, a creamy mushroom sauce or a simple browned butter, the possibilities are endless.

One of my favourites, which is what is featured in this recipe is a butter sauce with thyme, lemon and garlic. The simplicity of these three ingredients is sensational, and coupled with a fluffy gnocchi, it’s perfection on a plate. Before we can get there however, it’s important to understand what makes a good gnocchi (and what doesn’t!)

A gnocchi is a dumpling of dough. The dough can be made with a variety of ingredients such as semolina, wheat flour, cornmeal, potatoes, cheese or pumpkin. Whatever the dough ingredients, the idea behind them is the same: you want the gnocchi to be as light as possible.

Little dough bricks are a no-no.

This means the the dough needs to be worked as little as possible. Overworking gnocchi dough makes it tough and dense. This recipe uses potatoes as the main ingredients and potatoes too can be overworked. When mashing the potatoes, this needs to be done as briskly as possible, enough to get a rid of the lumps but not too much that you end up with potato glue. Using a potato ricer is a great way to get smooth mash effienctly without overworking.

If you don’t have one of those, I find pushing the potato through a sieve works too.

The potatoes that are ideal for gnocchi are the varieties that are fluffy and dry, a good baking potato. Varieties such as Agria (which I have used) Ilam hardy and Red Rascal. When you have boiled and drained your potatoes, return them to the pot and place it back on the still hot (but turned off) element to evaporate any left over moisture. Let your potatoes cool before mashing.

Once you have mashed your potatoes, it’s time for the other ingredients which are salt, herbs, flour and an egg. The herbs and salt add flavour, the egg will bind the mix and the flour helps to add structure. How much flour to use however will depend on your potatoes, how many you have, how much water they have retained and the size of your egg. It’s best to add your flour in slowly, half a cup at a time, until you reach a soft ball of dough. Don’t add too much.

When your dough is mixed, portion it into 5 even pieces and roll them out into long sausages, about 1.5 cm thick. Do this carefully but quickly so again, you’re not overworking your dough.

Lay your sausages out on a lightly floured bench and use a sharp knife to cut each sausages into small 1 cm gnocchi pieces. Place these pieces on a floured plate or tray until ready to cook.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Once it’s boiling, place about 10 gnocchi at a time in the water. If you add too many, the water will cool and your gnocchi will overcook and become gluggy. The gnocchi should cook for about 3-4 minutes and rise to the top when done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain in a colander while the rest cook.

Now that your gnocchi has been cooked, what sauce you choose is up to you.

I’ve chosen a butter sauce and as this is a simple sauce, you can add more flavour by frying the gnocchi a little in the butter and slightly caramelising them.  I also added in chopped thyme, lemon zest and garlic.

Potato and Herb Gnocchi - Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 750g peeled potatoes, chopped into 3cm pieces (a fluffy, baking variety)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (thyme, sage, parsley....etc)

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with cold water and add in your potatoes. Bring to boil and cook the potatoes until a knife slips through very easily.
  2. Drain your potatoes and place them back on the element for a minute to evaporate any left over moisture. Leave them to cool.
  3. Mash the potatoes.
  4. In a bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, the egg, salt and herbs. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough ball is formed. Only add the amount of flour you need.
  5. Roll the dough into 5 sausages, 1.5 cm wide.
  6. Slice each sausage into pieces of about 1 cm, and place on a floured tray.
  7. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  8. Add in the gnocchi, in small increments and cook them until they float (about 3-4 minutes)
  9. Let them drain, then add the sauce of your choice.*
  10. * letting them cooked gnocchi sit in your chosen sauce for a while will add flavour to the gnocchi as they will absorb some of the sauce.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/potato-herb-gnocchi/

Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Today I’m talking two topics: cheese making AND gardening! How? Well, stay tuned!

I love cheese, all cheese but especially ricotta. I can eat a whole tub of it with a spoon. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, some salt and pepper…mmm.

But unfortunately, it’s an expensive habit to have and all those little plastic pots it comes in are no good for the environment. So I wanted to make it myself. I’ve been trying more and more to reduce our plastic waste and homemaking cheese seemed like a good step towards that. Now before you ask, do I get my milk in glass bottles, the answer is unfortunately no. So to get past the plastic bottles milk comes in, I now make my ricotta and yoghurt using milk powder. My local binn inn stocks powdered milk in their bulk bins and you can bring your own reusable container to fill.

The below recipe is for ricotta using fresh milk OR whole powdered milk, whatever you’ve got.

To make this ricotta, use fresh milk or make up your milk powder milk per the instructions it comes with, usually 125g of powder to 230ml of water to make one cup of milk. Heat up milk, then add an acid to split the curds from the whey. Once strained,  you are left with a clump of curds (the ricotta) and an acid whey. This is not the whey you might see advertised in protein shakes, that one is a sweet whey. Sweet whey is the whey byproduct of making hard cheeses like cheddar, and traditionally ricotta is actually made from sweet whey. I, however, am no expert cheese maker and don’t have access to sweet whey so today we are making it the easy way, from milk.

Once the curds split from the whey, you’ll have a whole heap of acid whey and not as much ricotta. This is the bit where people might not think it’s worth homemaking cheese if you’re left with so much acid whey you can’t use! Well, I have good news! You can DEFINITELY use this acid whey as well.

Acid Whey in The Garden (and other uses)

Do you have blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons or strawberries? These are a few acid-loving plants and acid whey makes an ideal liquid fertiliser! Add 10ml of acid whey to a litre of water and pour around the base of your acid-loving plants.

On top of that, acid whey can be added to bread, smoothies, juices and more.

What acid to use

So we have established you can use fresh milk or whole milk powder, what about the acid to split the milk? The good news is that this bit isn’t hugely fussy either. I have made batches using lemon juice, white vinegar and my own homemade Apple Cider Vinegar. The only vinegar types I would really stay away from are ones with a very strong taste or colour such as red wine, malt or balsamic vinegar as they would change the taste and colour too much of the whey and cheese.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese - Makes about 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litres whole milk (powder, or fresh)
  • 4-5 tablespoons acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk until just before simmer. A collection of tiny bubbles will start forming around the sides but the milk should not boil.
  2. Slowly add in the acid, stirring gently. Keep an eye out on the milk as you do so, it should split into white clumps of curd and yellow whey. If it's not splitting, add in a little more acid. Stir in the pinch of salt.
  3. Let the mixture cool, then strain in a cheese cloth, pushing the clumps of curd together gently to form a ball of ricotta.
  4. Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.
  5. The whey can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-ricotta-cheese-from-fresh-milk-or-powder/

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)