Tonight for dinner we made a soup with canned tomatoes from our garden, chick peas, penne pasta and rosemary, along with homemade whole wheat baguette bread and it was delicious.
Sounds like meaningless Facebook chatter. What’s the point of this post?
Well, by growing and canning our own tomatoes we were able to use them several months later in the dead of winter and they still tasted pretty much like they were freshly picked. We didn’t have to pay jacked up prices for inferior tomatoes grown halfway around the world. The soup tasted better than if it were made with tomatoes from the store or a can, it was healthier and more environmentally sound due to the fact that the packaging (the jar and reusable lids) was reusable, they were grown using sustainable methods and it did not take fossil fuels to transport them.
The actual cost of the tomatoes was next to nothing, compared to the $1.50-$3.00 a pound they charge at the grocery store for non-organic tomatoes right now or even the cost of canned tomatoes. I put more work into growing and canning the tomatoes than I would’ve compared to simply throwing some tomatoes into a shopping cart, but it wasn’t all THAT much work and it actually provided some sort of enjoyment – at least more enjoyment than my job does. Watching things grow can be fun and there’s a lot of satisfaction from knowing you did it yourself. I can’t accurately figure up the numbers right now, but I’d figure that the actual cost associated with producing the jar of tomatoes (my time, the water, the plants, a percentage of reusable gardening and canning supplies, etc) is lower than what it would cost to purchase a few pounds of tomatoes of anywhere near comparable quality from the store. That’s the benefit of having productive hobbies.
Sometimes doing more with less yields some great results.
I can’t say I’ve ever imagined myself owning a 20 liter fermenting crock, but we ordered one from Harvest Essentials last week with the weight stones which arrived on our doorstep Wednesday. First, let me say that this thing appears to be built like a tank. It was made in Boleslawiec, Poland and I know that the jokes make them more famous for things like screen door submarines and helicopter ejector seats, but the craftsmanship on this thing is definitely noteworthy. This looks like something that could be in the family for generations and certainly many fermenting crocks have survived the test of time – in fact, my mother showed us one tonight that she had from my grandparents. It looks sturdy enough to take some abuse and I also have to say that it’s not a bad looking piece of ceramic either.
Since it will be a while before we have cabbage in our garden (seeds aren’t even started yet), I went out last night and picked up four or five heads of cabbage, which came up to about 13.5 lbs. I figured we might as well get some use out of it now and make sure we know what we’re doing so we’re ready when our homegrown cabbage is ready.
There’s all kinds of recipes for sauerkraut out there, but Adena insisted on a basic cabbage, salt and water recipe which was probably a smart idea for our first time. Using a food processor it didn’t take long to strip the outer layers, cut out the hearts, wash the cabbage, chop them into smaller pieces and then shred. Once we finished that, we put some of the cabbage in the crock, pressed it down with the stones, added some salt and then repeated the process a few more times with more layers of cabbage. The recipe stated that if you didn’t have liquid from pressing the cabbage, you should add boiled (and then cooled) salt water to give it a liquid layer. Our cabbage was dry, so we had to do that. The crock was about half full (or half empty if it turns out bad) with 13.5 lbs of cabbage. We’re unsure if we have to skim the top layer off every now and then (as I’ve heard before), but the recipe that came with the crock said that isn’t necessary with the crock. It has a ring around the lid that you fill with water which allows gases to escape but limits air coming in. All we have to do is leave it alone for a couple of days and then move it to a slightly cooler spot for several weeks. I’m a little skeptical of this, but if we have problems I’d rather we work them out now rather than on the cabbage we’ll surely put our heart and soul into.
I guess there are some good health benefits to eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods, as well as a ton of other things that can be fermented. Honestly, my annual sauerkraut consumption is low but I’m sure we would eat more of it if we made it ourselves. If it turns out alright, I’m sure we won’t have any problems giving/bartering our surplus away.
UPDATE – Two weeks later and everything seems to be going fine. We can hear the water bubbling every now and then. So far no significant smell either, which is a plus.