Sunday Afternoon With Sauerkraut

A chilly Sunday morning, as on every winter morning, means lighting the fire as soon as I get out of bed. An armful of eucalyptus bark and dry leaves makes it roar before adding some more sedate and calming logs. Making porridge on top of the fire as I do each morning. Today I stir in blackberries that I picked from a friend's hedgerow in the autumn. I'm nearly out of frozen blackberries. Note to self: pick more blackberries next autumn.

Purple porridge! In the background are the leeks I bought at the markets yesterday. Today they will turn magically into soup. It will be like stone soup, except with leeks..

First, a list. I know that traditionally Sunday is a day of rest, but I have had a lot of days recently where I have felt too unwell to really get on and do things, but now I am feeling in fine fettle and ready to tackle anything. Hence, the list. It got longer as the day went on.

Now the soup. From the garden I collected mustard greens, kale, parsley and two delicious carrots. I am going to add the carrot tops to the soup as well, as per Madeleine's advice. Apparently they are healthy and delicious!

This is one of my old favourites, leek and lentil soup. I have been making this for over twenty years, usually without extra veg and with the addition of bacon. But this is the new healthy me! I even bought a daikon radish from the market. Mops up cholesterol and does all sorts of good things, so I am told. For leek and lentil soup, saute three leeks and assorted veg if you want to be super healthy, or bacon if you are healthy enough. Add 5 cups water or stock or both (may need to ad more liquid, but that will become clear as you go on) and two cups pf lentils. I added red, because that's what i have. Simmer away for about three quarters of an hour. It will thicken up towards the end and look like gravy.

 Add the greens, if you are doing the healthy version. Look at all that vibrant green!

While the soup is cooking, it's time to do the washing. It has been two? Three? weeks since anyone did the washing around here. We are disgraceful housekeepers. I think it must be two weeks. I am pretty sure I don't own twenty one pairs of undies.

Ok, Madeleine, if you are reading this, just look away for a minute.. Red made waffles for lunch. Waffles made by one's child are an important part of any healthy diet. I ate mine with cherry jam, also made by Red during the summer. As my dad says, "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first."

After waffle time the soup is ready. This is not a pretty soup, but it is very hearty and filling, and healthy with all those extra vegies. It also follows waffles very well.

Now that the soup is done it is sauerkraut time. Two weeks ago I bought a cabbage to make sauerkraut. I will admit that sauerkraut is better made with a fresh, crisp cabbage, but we can't always have what is better, sometimes we have what we have, which is floppy, elderly cabbage. I know how it feels. Fortunately there is a work-around for floppy cabbage sauerkraut.  So, first, we take the outer leaves from the cabbage and put them carefully aside. We will be using them later.

Then, chop the cabbage finely, or in small chunks, which is how mine turned out. I used to shred it in the food processor but I worked out that it is quicker to slice it by hand when you figure in the time it takes to wash the food processor. Add one tablespoon of good salt for every kilogram of cabbage. Turn the salt into the cabbage evenly with your hands, then leave it for an hour so the salt can draw the liquid out of the cabbage. I also add a heap of fennel seeds which I have bashed about in the mortar and pestle. Smells divine.

This is a good time to walk the dog. No photos, but there will be a gratuitous photo of the dog later, I promise. While I am still in my outdoor boots and coat I chop some wood and do another glamorous chore - I fetch a bucket and trowel and the gardening gloves and pick up cat poop out of the garden. Polly is a prolific pooper. Mercifully no photos of that either.

Now after a thorough hand-washing it is time to plunge my hands into the chopped, salted cabbage and squeeze and squeeze. How much liquid can I squeeze out? Answer, not that much due to the elderly nature of the cabbage. But never fear, I am used to making up for the shortfalls of my life of procrastination - I make a brine solution with one teaspoon of salt to one cup of warm, unchlorinated water. It is important that the water is unchlorinated as chlorine may kill the good bugs that we need for the fermentation process. You can unchlorinate water by leaving it out in an open container for twenty four hours.

Now pack the mixture into jars. Or a jar. It doesn't need to be airtight, so this coffee jar is fine. Pour the liquid from the bottom of the bowl over the shredded cabbage. Add extra brine if there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage completely. Fold the reserved cabbage leaves on top of the shredded cabbage like a lid. This will stop bits of shredded cabbage floating to the top of the brine and going mouldy. Push a weight down on top of the cabbage lid to hold it under the liquid. I use a drinking glass and pop the  jar lid on top to hold everything down. Now leave it for a week or two or three between 15 and 20 C (60 and 70F). When it tastes tangy and good and just like your favourite sauerkraut, pop it in the fridge to slow down further fermentation. Take the lid off the jar every day to 'burp' it. It is alive and bubbling in there! I priced organic sauerkraut at $13/jar the other day. Home made saves a mint..

After the soup gets tucked away in the fridge for the week's lunches, the dog gets to do the dishes. Everyone has chores around here.

No, really, I did wash it myself afterwards with hot water and soap. Really. Honest. What? Come back, dinner's nearly ready..


Anonymous said…
Yes, our dogs lick the plates in the dishwasher to pre-clean them:-)

I am adding "make sauerkraut" to my list this week as I also have a sad cabbage half in the fridge. Your soup sounds so nourishing. I made dhal for the first time last week and it was super delicious and healthy.

Love reading about your days. And yay for more energy. I find it useful to speak kindly to myself and be reminded that I have my 'low energy' days and rest, and make the most of the 'high energy days' and get $hit done!! Loretta xx
Treaders said…
I love red lentil and bacon soup. I've never put leeks in it but it definitely sounds good. I also add a little chili pepper and cumin and think it's probably my favourite soup. I've never made sauerkraut though so thanks for the recipe!
simplelife said…
Yay for being well enough to do life again.
All those things sounded like a perfectly lovely way to spend Sunday, well except the cat poop bit, but hey that's life. Gotta take the crap with the good bits.
I love soup. Sadly the family are less keen. Silly people.
Have a lovely week
Cheers Kate
Jo said…
Loretta, dhal, yes of course, had completely forgotten that i used to make a lot of that as well. Thanks for the reminder!
And I am slowly learning to be at least as kind to myself as i am to other people. It is a surprisingly hard row to hoe..

Anna, i am thinking that cumin would be a great addition to this soup. I will try it in the next batch. Cumin is a wonder spice, isn't it? Makes so many things better:)

Kate, yep, cat poop happens.. and as for the soup, well, Red has never liked soup but over the last few weeks they have been making it to their own recipes. Turns out they just didn't like my soup!
Anonymous said…
Jo, this post was hilarious from start to finish! As for the waffles, I believe that it's what we do 95% of the time that counts for our health. Waffles made with love, and with homemade jam, count as healthy food in my book. I'm so glad you are feeling well enough to enjoy them :-)

Organic sauerkraut is nearly $18 a jar here. You have made my favourite type with fennel. Note to self: buy a cabbage (the ones in the garden aren't ready yet) and make sauerkraut again. It's really not that hard so I don't know why I put it off...

Anonymous said…
I loved your cheerful post! I also love soup, but I'm not a very adventurous soup maker. The soup of my life is the one my mother used to make all the time - made with a bacon hock and all the vegetables I can find in the fridge and garden, thickened with ordinary dried soup mix. Other favourites are a really thick pumpkin soup, which I have made for 50 years using an old Margaret Fulton recipe, and delicious tomato soup, which I make and freeze every year during the annual tomato glut. I love that the recipe was called "Two Aunties Tomato Soup", which I think speaks for itself.
I wish I had a Benson to do the dishes!
Linda in NZ
Anonymous said…
Glad you are feeling better! Delightful post, had me smiling from beginning to end! Will try making sauerkraut this week. It's been on my list to make for years as has other fermented food.One of those things I want to learn to do and incorporate in my diet and yet...
Being kind to oneself is key, and yet, it seems to be a skill we must all learn to do. I am getting better at it.
Have a good week my friend.
Jo said…
Madeleine, that sounds just like me - I am always putting off perfectly straightforward things. I wonder why?

Linda, Two Aunties Soup sounds slightly sinister.. :) If times get hard I am thinking of hiring out Benny to wash dishes..

Patricia, all the best with the sauerkraut. For anyone who wants to try it and has any questions, do post them in the comments and I will be happy to troubleshoot, and no doubt there are others here that can also help x
gretchenjoanna said…
Satisfying post even for me, to read about your satisfaction and joy in accomplishing these little tasks that still are too big to do when one is sick.

I am getting back to some of mine, too, after a month of child-related stuff that kept me from everything else. Each job finished feels like a miracle to rejoice over.

Thank you for sharing your joy.
Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, I feel your joy on those small tasks accomplished. It really does feel good, doesn't it?
Mary said…
Sounds like a lovely and busy Sunday! Your father is a wise man:) I never liked sauerkraut until the first time I made some (years and years ago). I loved it and still don't eat the store-bought kind. I do lists, too. They work well for a day or two, then fall out of favor for a while, until I'm feeling overwhelmed again and need to compose a little structure in my time to catch up on neglected but, alas, necessary tasks.
Jo said…
Mary, I hear you on the lists. I resort to them mainly when the thought of everything that needs to be done is so overwhelming that I have to get it all out of my head and on to paper. Once it is there in front of me I look for something small and doable and do it and tick it off. Oh, the relief! Then I can keep going:)

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