Winter is a time when everything seems to slow down, the impulse to hibernate kicks in and we move at a slower pace, the meals are heartier and we linger at the table a little bit longer enjoying a few extra minutes of warmth and restoration.
I love that my friend Anna refers to this as "fat season" a time when we eat everything and get ready to hibernate until the arrival of spring. Instead of fighting against the inertia that inevitably sets in with these colder days, I've decided to embrace it. I accept and celebrate the slow moving and everything that is worth the wait in these short days.
Fermented foods, both simple and slow, are perfect cold-weather projects. My favorite kind of DIY, at-home fermentation rarely involves more than three ingredients and letting nature do its thing.
There's nothing more simple than a basic sauerkraut or choucroute using the ubiquitous winter vegetable, cabbage.
You can embellish this recipe by adding red or chinese cabbage, brussels sprouts, apples, onions, fennel, or other favorite hearty winter veggies, but I think that regular cabbage on its own works just fine. Eat raw or cooked it in its own juices. Serve with seasonal meats or just eat it on its own. Whatever you do, be sure to set aside some of the fermented choucroute juice, which a Polish friend told me is the go-to hangover cure in her home country.
This recipe is adapted from Sandor Katz's excellent book, Wild Fermentation.
You will need:
1 large crock or glass container
Bucket or large jar that fits inside the container
1-2 heads of cabbage
2 tablespoons of sea salt for every 1 head of cabbage
2 tablespoons of dried juniper berries
1. Thoroughly wash your crock or glass container and set aside.
2. Remove any dirty outer leaves of your cabbage, wash and chop into uniform-sized shreds (can be course or fine, however you like).
3. Start layering. Add a few handfuls of cabbage, then sprinkle with salt and juniper berries. Continue until all the ingredients have been added.
4. Place a weight on top of your cabbage mixture. You will need something heavy (like a mason jay filled with coins or rocks) to apply pressure on the mixture, causing the cabbage to release its juices.
5. Throughout the next 1-4 weeks, check on your choucroute and press down on the weight, so that it eventually becomes totally submerged in the juices that it ferments in. After a week, your choucroute is ready, but you can leave it to ferment longer if you prefer a more pronounced taste.