By LYNNE IRONS
I don’t believe in nearly 40 years of vegetable gardening I ever have grown such beautiful cabbages. The cool rainy June was a big factor. Also the white cabbage moth was the only late pest arrival. The Mexican bean beetle, squash bug and Colorado potato beetle certainly did early and impressive damage. I picked Early Jersey Wakefield several times a week. They were small enough to polish off in one meal. I was hesitant to pull the Danish Ballhead as they were so beautiful — picture-perfect, really. I know where the cabbage rose got its name. They looked like enormous blue-green roses.
Last Saturday morning was one of those light rainy days the Irish call soft. I noticed a couple of the cabbages had begun to split. They were simply outgrowing themselves. I could be called the queen of superlatives but honestly a couple were as big as basketballs. I picked a bushel basket full and headed for the kitchen. It has been several years since I made sauerkraut. I rummaged around in the pantry for my crock. Luckily I have two as we’re talking cabbage here. Huge stoneware crocks of sauerkraut were a common sight in springhouses and cellars on farms in the past. It was an important winter source of vitamin C and was used as a cure for scurvy on long sea voyages. It also contain the beneficial lactic acid.
I washed, quartered and cored the heads and piled them onto a couple of beach towels on the kitchen table to dry for several hours. I hauled out the Cuinsinart. I forgot to use that appliance so it was rather dusty. I shredded for some time and was surrounded by bowls of product. I guesstimated the recipe from Stocking Up. I mixed three tablespoons plus two teaspoons of kosher salt with each 10 quarts of shredded cabbage. No water is necessary to coax the brine out of the cabbage. After stirring and pressing for a while eventually the brine covers the kraut. A clean cloth is placed over it with a plate and jug of water for weight. The cloth will need rinsing daily for two weeks. After that the fermentation process should be complete. I will probably water bath pints of kraut as I lack a cool springhouse. My dad tells about the springhouse on the Fitzgerald farm. It was in Sargent, Pa., but we always called it Down Home. This was the home of my grandma Kate. She was one of 15 Fitzgerald children. I digress.
Thanks for the call from Lynn Weber. She answered my question about Brazilian eggplant. It is called Jiló and I actually got my plants from her last spring at the homegrown seed and plant exchange. She informed me that they are ready for the table while still green and that they will eventually ripen to a bright red when the seeds can be saved until next year. We also talked about some of the delicio us foods our Brazilian neighbors are adding to our community. Recently I had a side dish at the Scottish Bakehouse of taioba. It is a large green leaf to be eaten like spinach or kale. It was delicious — velvety in texture with more nutrients than kale. I saw it for sale at down-Island Cronig’s but did not know about it. I’m on the search to grow it next summer. Lou Dobbs would disapprove.
Since I was late seeding tomatoes I am just beginning to get some decent amounts. Last column I mentioned the Squeezo Strainer. I saved several quarts from the canner and made a wonderful tomato soup. I sauteed a batch of onions and then simmered them in a bit of red cooking wine, added the tomato juice and a dollop of red miso. I added milk when served. My granddaughter asked for seconds, which is just about the highest food compliment possible.
Back to cabbage briefly. Saute in olive oil, add a splash of red cooking wine and balsamic vinegar and serve with pork. Yummy!
I am hopelessly obsessed with the news. I cannot stop watching the coverage of the 9/12 groups and the “tea party” organized rallies. My jaw is continually on the floor. I love ideological dissent and heated discourse but what are these people talking about? It can’t possibly be fear of Medicare for the entire population. Oh wait! I get it! President Obama is different. Some of the rhetoric is downright frightening, not to mention crazy and ignorant of some basic facts. For example, Glen Beck says the President hates white people. Does that mean his mother? My favorite was the woman calling Barney Frank (a gay Jew) a Nazi. Should we have a national lecture about socialism, fascism, capitalism and maybe some simple historical facts?
At any rate, I’m headed out to purchase True Compass. Way to go, Teddy!