Friday, February 4, 2011

Skunk and Skunked Cabbage

Two exciting things to write about today.  At first I thought they were unrelated, but now that I think of it, perhaps they actually are!

First:  Skunk Cabbage.

As in the race.

That I've decided to run.  On April 10th.

If you're from the Ithaca area, I'm sure you know about it. It's the annual spring race at Cornell, just in time for the bloom of the local Skunk Cabbage plant. I've never done it before, so you'll have to wait until after I finish (and oh yes, I will finish!!) to find out if I'll actually see/smell any of the stuff while on the course, but I'm excited to have decided to run it.  I hope it will keep me motivated to get out and run more often.  I have to admit, I'm a little nervous about getting up to 6.2 miles between now and then, but hey - it's good to have goals, right?!

Second:  Skunked Cabbage.

As in sauerkraut.

That I started fermenting today.

Like running the Skunk Cabbage, I've never made sauerkraut either, so I will have to just let you know how it goes as things progress. I found a head of local cabbage at the market this weekend, and had been wanting to try to make some of this fermeted goodness for a while now.  Well... I hope it's good, anyway!

Here's what I did.  It's a mix of recipe's from
1) my mother's Aunt Edie (hand written notes dated 1970)
2) Jill at Garlic Pig
3) The Joy of Cooking
  • I started with a bundle (supposedly 1 pound per 5 pounds of shredded cabbage, but I just used about... oh... 20 or 25 grapes or so) of green grapes, packaged in cheesecloth and squished in the bottom of my one gallon glass gar.
  • Then came the cabbage - roughly 3 pounds in this case, shredded using a mandoline (thanks for the Christmas present, Mom!) set on 1/16".
  • To the cabbage, I added two Tablespoons of salt (I used kosher), and 5 Tablespoons of whey (in this case, drained off my home-made yogurt).
  • At this point I actually had the shredded cabbage in a big metal bowl, and did my pounding there as I didn't have a tool appropriate to fit in my glass gar. I discovered my potato masher worked just fine for this.
  • Then I mashed it.  And mashed it more (see pictures below). And then added it to the glass jar. And then mashed that down again until the water was over the top of the cabbage.
  • I topped it with a ziplock back filled with salt water, covered it with a cloth and loosly with the lid, and we'll see how it goes over the next few weeks. Hopefully sour. 

Cabbage before pounding.

Cabbage after pounding.  It really did release water!

What did I learn / How local was I?
  • First and foremost:  shredding cabbage is not a tidy process.  I think I will be picking up the tiny remnants from the vicinity of our kitchen for the next umpteen days. 
  • As much as I like the idea, I'm not sure the mandoline was the best way to go for the shredding tool. It's hard to hold onto the layers of cabbage and run it over that blade without: a) the cabbage falling totally apart on the wrong side of the cutting surface so you end up cutting it with a knife anyway, b) spreading cabbage near and wide (see note above) and c) fearing for your fingertips.  Maybe just using the food processor would have been the way to go?
  • I wanted this to be a local foods item, but without even thinking about it, I put in the grapes. Doh.  Next time...
  • Cabbage really really shrinks down after you pound on it for ten minutes.  I had no idea. The head that looked so huge in the refrigerator these last few days ended up barely half way filling my gallon jar.  I think that will be plenty of kraut for us, but it's good to keep in mind if we end up liking this and making it more often (as in: grow our own cabbage!).
Supposedly in the next few days I should be able to see it working/bubbling/fermenting.  I'll let you know how it goes!
The finished product (sans water bag).  It LOOKS like sauerkraut - a good first step!!


  1. Hi there! I've never used grapes in sauerkraut, do you know why they're added in your recipe? I've always used just cabbage and salt (and maybe water if the cabbage doesn't release enough liquid on its own). I hope your kraut turns out well!

  2. Hi Libby! From what I could gleam from my mother's memory on the subject, the grapes are to help get the pH in the right ballpark for fermentation. I wondered if they didn't add just a little sugar to help fermentation along also? We tasted the kraut the other day - it's coming along, but not quite done yet! I saw on your webpage you have some experience with this - any other tips? How do you preserve yours once it's ready to eat? My batch is small, but I'm not sure what I'll do with it all if we don't eat it on Saint Patty's day?!


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