Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good Choices

I've been reading a book this week that I want to send to everyone in this country. I especially recommend it to all of you bread-baking, tomato sauce-canning, home brewers. It is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I tried to read The Poisonwood Bible once but I just couldn't get into it. This is way better. She and her family moved to Appalachia and lived for one year (and beyond) on local food, mostly what they grew themselves. The one caveat I have is DO NOT read this on an empty stomach or with an empty larder. It may also induce a desire to run out and buy canning equipment and get thoughts about where one could build a bread oven.
It is also part of an interesting synergy I've experienced in the past two weeks.
It began with the sauerkraut. Shortly after I started my batch I decided that it would be great to join a CSA (community supported agriculture). There is one in my neighborhood but the shares are large, much too large for one person. Also, the pick-up is on a weekday between 4 and 7. I could not be certain of getting there on time every week. But the internet was there for me and I found a CSA directory. Turns out there are more than a dozen CSA's in New York City. There is one right by my work. It has smaller shares and is also organic. I found out about it just in time to take advantage of the early bird price. Now I began to think that what I needed was some other fermentation recipes. This led me to a book called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. He lives on a commune in Tennessee. The book has not only pickling but recipes for miso, tempeh, cheese, wine, cider, beer, and lots of other things. All the wonderful stuff made by happy microbes. This in turn led me to another book, this one on home cheese making by Ricki Carroll. Some cheeses require extra equipment like a press but soft cheeses like mozzarella and mascarpone just need some extra ingredients. While I was happily imagining home made mozzarella and mead I got an email from the CSA. It was a notice of a workshop on fermentation given by - of course- Sandor Katz. And the very next day I reached a chapter in the Kingsolver book on her cheese making which she learned from Ricki Carroll's book. I have taken all of this to be a sign that I am headed in the right direction, at least food-wise. It would be nice to have a garden too but I must proceed one step at time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's a Crock

It has come to my attention that it's been 21 days since I last posted. I did not mean this to happen, really. It's not that I didn't know that December is almost half over, I think I just thought I had posted since November 23rd. You would think that at the very least I would have wanted to tell you about my lovely Thanksgivings (I had two, one on the day and one on Saturday). I made pumpkin cheesecake for the first one and some pear bruschetta for the second. But that ship has clearly sailed. Time to move on.

What have I been doing that has been so distracting? Well, I must say I haven't really been doing very much. Mostly I've been looking forward to my upcoming vacation. I'm taking Christmas week off. That hasn't happened since I was in college. The whole week of Christmas. It makes me feel beatific just thinking of it. I can bake in a leisurely manner rather than cramming it all into one weekend. I can go to the Cloisters and see the Christmas display they have there. I can decorate my apartment and finish the holiday knitting. Have I mentioned that I cannot wait until next Friday? I can't. And yet there are several loose ends I must tie up at work before then. But I won't think about that now, I'll think about that tomorrow.

I've also been making sauerkraut. Really. From purple cabbage. I won't bore you with the process that led me to buy a Harsch Crock. (If you have interest in pickling your own veggies I suggest googling it.) It wasn't strictly necessary, you can make sauerkraut in a plastic bucket, but it appealed to me both aesthetically and practically.

Here is the crock. It's kind of big and kind of heavy but it is admirably suited to its job.

And here is the kraut.

Kind of mild this time. I think I will add some spices next batch. Or just leave it fermenting for longer. I'm also going to do a whole head, ungrated. There is a Yugoslav dish called Sarma. It involves wrapping some beef and or lamb with onions and some other things in sour cabbage leaves and then braising. I haven't had it in forever since you cannot find whole sour cabbage leaves. My grandmother always made her own. Now I can too. Then I might do some pickled beets.