A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe and Instructions

It's sauerkraut season here in North Dakota.  We forgot to plant cabbages in the garden this year, but that's OK since cabbages are cheap and plentiful at the local Farmer's Market.  Let's make some kraut! This is truly one of the easiest dishes to make, you know, assuming you like sauerkraut and all.  Little more than cabbages, salt, a crock, and a couple of hours of elbow grease will have you up to your chin in kraut for months. 
This is a three gallon ceramic crock for fermenting the sauerkraut along with one of the two cabbages I purchased at the Farmer's Market in town.  The cabbage weighs about 4 pounds and cost me $3.  So for $6 and the cost of salt, I'm gonna have months of delicious chock-full-of-probiotics sauerkraut.

If you don't have a crock already, these are pretty easy to come by here in the Upper Midwest. Our In-Laws picked this up at a garage sale for $5 (I think) and gave it to us.  If you don't have access to used crocks like this, you may have to get one from Amazon or elsewhere online.  They're not too expensive and last for a long time.  And sauerkraut can also be made in any non-reactive container, like a glass jar. 
The key to sauerkraut is finely slicing the cabbage, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and try for consistency.  We have a mandolin slicer, but the cabbage was too unwieldy and I just wound up cutting it by hand.
After you've finely sliced the cabbage, you're going to want to physically damage the leaves in order to coax out the cabbage juices that will ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut.  You're going to do this by beating the heck out of the cabbage.  My tool of choice is an old-school hand potato masher.

I did one round of squishing the cabbage (in the white plastic bowl in the picture above) and continued mashing them in the crock.  It helps at this point of the process to angrily yell "HULK SMASH!", or something of the sort.  Not only will this help your sauerkraut taste better, but it will also likely have the added benefit of forcing your significant other to shout "What the hell is going on in there?!?!" from the other room.

At this stage you're going to add salt to your cabbage mixture.  The general rule is 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage mixture.  You want the mixture to taste like you've added salt, but not oppressively salty.  After an hour or so after you've started smashing and adding salt, you should notice a decent amount of liquid in the crock. 
Continue with your potato masher and press the cabbage mixture to the bottom.  Your goal is to get every last bit of cabbage underneath the surface of the liquid.  I then took a plate and set it on top of the cabbage mixture in the crock, then added this one gallon jar filled with water to weigh it down to push the cabbage below the liquid.  The plate is turquoise colored, thus the odd bluish hue.

Again, the goal is to keep the cabbage mixture below the surface of the liquid.  Most people use a plate or a bowl and then have a weight on top to push the cabbage down and make sure the liquid remains above the cabbage. 
This is the ghost on our kitchen counter.  The crock is going to sit here at room temperature for 2-3 days, then I'll take it down to the basement where it's a little cooler.  I'll check it in a week, and weekly thereafter.  Usually at the three week mark, it has the right level of spicy/sour/crunchy for my taste.  You may want more or less fermentation time depending on the temperature and your personal taste preference. 

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, you have a decision to make.  You have the option of canning it, which will make it shelf safe, but also eliminate most/all of the good probiotic bacteria, or you can store it in the refrigerator.  The sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate.  I store it in the refrigerator in a one gallon glass jar, and it's usually good for several months.

That's how you make sauerkraut.  A minimal investment for the cost of the cabbage, and few hours of work and you've got months of kraut for side dishes and toppings.  What about you awesome reader?  Do you make sauerkraut?  Do you pickle or ferment anything else? 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Deaf Dogs on Squirrel and Rabbit Patrol

The squirrel and rabbit vigil never stops around here.  Whatever vantage point is available, it is generally used to guard against the ceaseless squirrel onslaught, and to a lesser extent, the bunny menace.
Shadowfax spent half the day today on her front porch lookout post, patrolling the area for any manner of varmint.
Once the varmint was spotted, a proper barking spasm (this one of her few offensive weapons) ensued. Tearing around the house and yard barking eventually led her back to her perch at a high rate of speed and she knocked the pillow off. We probably replace that pillow a dozen times a day.  
Shaak Ti is probably more anti-squirrel/bunny than Shadowfax, but her efforts are more focused when she's outside, usually on our walks.  Every once in a while she'll patrol from an indoor perch, but for the most part she yields the indoor security functions to Shadowfax. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's hot out, why not snuggle?

While Shaak Ti isn't big on snuggling with Shadowfax, for some reason she consented to it this afternoon even though it's pretty warm out.
Hope you have someone or something to snuggle with today. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shaak Ti on the Couch

We could probably have our own dedicated "Shaak Ti is Strange" section of this blog.  While there are plenty of examples to pick from, creating yet another page seems like a lot of work.  We'll have to settle for regular photos of Shaak Ti being the odd little deaf dog that she is.
The more squished the better.  Due to my allergies and other reasons, we don't allow the dogs on the furniture in the house.  This is my old couch that we moved to the covered front porch, so it's now not an inside couch, and is a very special exception to the "no dogs on the furniture" rule. 
What a perfect spot for napping.  Shaak Ti loves nothing more than wedging into a nice cozy spot and having a nap.  The fact that it's 80 degrees out doesn't bother her a bit. 
Luckily this doesn't prevent Alycia from getting any work done, she soldiers on bravely with her computing. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Apple Tree Lost to the Wind

Earlier this week we had some strong thunderstorms roll through the area.  There wasn't a tornado or anything, but some very strong straight-line winds brought a few tree limbs down.  The storm didn't last long, about an hour, but there was a decent amount of storm related carnage in our yard and throughout the neighborhood.
One of our apple trees was snapped off right at the base.  The winds that came through were in the 50 to 60 miles per hour range, pretty significant winds.  This was a Honeycrisp Apple that was in its' fourth year and was just starting to produce apples, so it was a big bummer for me.
The good news is that this is not a grafted tree, so the shoots that come up should be true Honeycrisp Apple shoots, and should (eventually and in theory) become a regular tree again and produce apples.

So I'll throw out some questions to you knowledgeable readers:  Is it worth the 3-4 years it will take for this to grow back, or should I just replace the tree?  As a non-grafted apple tree, can a sucker grow up, be trained into a main leader and indeed eventually produce apples? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Clematis Blooms and Garden Helpers

After three years, our clematis vines are finally blooming.  We have three of them; one is blooming profusely, one is blooming a little, and one is lagging.  I really like clematis and would enjoy getting even more of them, but I want to experiment with the locations that we have now to see what works in our yard. 
This is the clematis jackmanii, which is planted on the east side of the house, near our blueberry area.  It gets sun light until early afternoon and is on our visual path as we walk into the house.  It's a really pleasant pick-me-up to see the lovely purple blooms when we walk into the back door. 
Our garden helpers are always out with us in the yard "helping".  And by helping I mean getting in the way at every available opportunity and sticking their noses into the dirt.  Shaak Ti has a tendency to stand right where you want to pull weeds. 
Shadowfax inspects the new metal butterfly garden sculpture we received from Alycia's parents.  They purchased two of them at a recent Gardening Day event here in town and placed them superstitiously in our backyard while we were on vacation.  They're sneaky like that. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Puffins and Other Birds in Newfoundland, Canada

This is our last post in a three part series with pictures and stories from our trip to Newfoundland, Candaa.  You've already ready had the pleasure of seeing the incredible sights of the City of St John's, Newfoundland and some of the National Parks and other cool stuff.  Now we're going to don our bird nerd caps and show some pictures of the birds we saw in Newfoundland. 
On our hike around Signal Hill we saw signs indicating that it was a bald eagle nesting area, and after coming to a small clearing, we saw the nest below.  We see bald eagles regularly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and we've seen a nest before.  But we've never seen a bald eagle nest from above, let alone with two chicks in it.  It was a very unusual vantage that was pretty darn cool. 
We drove to Elliston, "The Root Cellar Capital of the World", not just for the root cellars, but also for the puffins.  There was supposed to be a puffin viewing area.  This sweet puffin painted pawn chair marked the spot of the puffin viewing area. 
The puffin viewing area was a hike to a narrow grassy cliff, and across a small chasm was the large rock that the puffins were nesting on.  There were a good number of puffins, but also some gulls, kittiewakes, and a few black guillemots.
Puffins nest on large rocks that are separated from the mainland so as to avoid land predators like foxes.  But they also create burrows a few feet underground to lay their eggs, so they need a large rock with some topsoil on top of for nesting, it's a pretty specific set of site requirements.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

National Parks and Cool Stuff in Newfoundland, Canada

If you missed the first installment of pictures and stories from St. John's, Newfoundland, you can find part one here.  Alycia and I arrived in Newfoundland and had a few days before her conference started, so we ventured out to see as much of the island as we could. 
We took a day trip to see the next peninsula to the West over from St. John's, which included the town of Elliston, the self-proclaimed "Root Cellar Capital of the World".  Here John poses with one of the root cellars, many of which looked to have been used for many years.  To their credit, yes there were a lot of root cellars, but I'm not sure that slogan is going to attract hordes of tourists. 
This is a fish flake, a traditional wooden stand used for drying and preserving fish.  They aren't used much anymore in modern times, but some some fish flakes in the small towns and hamlets were left intact to demonstrate how fishing was conducted for generations in Newfoundland
Alycia is posing here on the road to Bonavista, where John Cabot is supposed to have first landed in North America.  If you look closely on the horizon you can see white specks floating on the water.  These are icebergs!  They calve off glaciers in Greenland and can take years to work their way down the Eastern Coast of Newfoundland into Iceberg Alley (along the Eastern Coast of Canada and the US) before eventually melting.