Mon Petit Chou(croute)
Homemade sauerkraut from my little pot! It was easy enough to make - I consulted a couple of books, Michael Pollan's "Cooked" and "D.Y.I. Delicious" by Vanessa Barrington, for the basic techniques of fermentation, then ad libbed a bit on both recipes.
I shredded the cabbage and added thin slices of carrot and cauliflower to the brine as Mr. Pollan suggested, and aged the sauerkraut for about two weeks, as Ms. Barrington recommended. You can age it for far longer (in fact, I learned that this dish began as a way to preserve veggies through the winter and even for years, 'way back when), and it gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. Because I am impatient, I used the shorter recommendation.
When I dumped it out into a bowl, the cabbage was still crisp and the carrots still bright. Everything looked good and the taste was very salty and tangy from the fermentation process - it had worked!
I chose Julia Child's recipe for Choucroute Garnie to prepare our dinner, since she introduces the recipe by saying if you don't love the distinct sour and salt of most sauerkraut (and we don't), you will like the French version. The French rinse most of the brine out of the choucroute before cooking it, so it is quite mild. It is rich with white wine and chicken broth, enhanced with browned garlic sausages from Marin Sun Farms, and spiced with juniper berries, bay leaf, caraway seeds, and peppercorns. It simmered and bubbled for about six hours in the oven with the browned sausages added in the last hour. Julia was correct - both My Beloved and I enjoyed it very much.
After that long braising, the cabbage was soft and silky but the carrot slices stayed fairly firm while the cauliflower simply dissolved into the stew. All the melded flavors were distinct but subtle, with none dominating. The cabbage hinted at sour and gave a soupçon of salt, but was overall very mild - only the sausages sang with flavor and a little spicy heat.
This is fine winter fare, hearty enough to fill the belly and warm enough to make wooly socks unnecessary. Served with boiled potatoes, it made a very full meal. It was colorful, aromatic, and mildly tangy. I'd make this again and again - it wasn't difficult, just a little time consuming - and my sauerkraut pot yielded enough for two or three meals. If there is sauerkraut left over, I'm headed to the store for the makings of a Reuben sandwich next.
I'm a little in love with mon petite chou(croute) pot!