Frost came to the garden this week, icing the grass, stiffening the puddles, and freezing the chicken water despite indignant looks from more than one hen who tried drinking the ice. (We quickly put it right. The things you learn raising animals!)
All day long the sun hangs low in the sky now–illuminating the greenhouse as the only place in the garden with winter light. Thankfully that’s in the right place. Inside, the lately-sowed mesclun is doing its best, striving to grow despite the roller coaster weather under plastic (below zero at night, like a summer afternoon during the day). Still the pressure is on to put up what’s left, glean the hangers-on in the squash patch, and come up with one-hundred ways to preserve green tomatoes. (The last of the red ones are disappearing from their line-up on the counter. How I will miss them!)
Amazed by the tenacity of turnips (fall crop, still growing sans sunshine) and tender greens (forgot to put them uncover and still they grow), we didn’t leave the cabbage to chance. Two years ago we lost an entire row when a hard frost followed fall rains. Wearing gloves to protect frozen fingers, we twisted the last of the red cabbage from its stalks and stared for a moment at all that purple. (Why do they call them “red” anyway?). They keep very well in the fridge, but we don’t have the room. Freezer space is also at a premium, so our minds turned to sauerkraut.
The word sauerkraut used to terrify me as a child–eat what? That sour, stringy stuff? But as an adult, I’ve started appreciating its complex flavors and vibrant colors. Homemade sauerkraut never looks as dull and lifeless as the store-bought variety–precisely because it’s bubbling with life.
Previously I’ve only made sauerkraut from green cabbage, but this time, red cabbage fit the bill. I used this simple recipe and enjoyed the contemplative action of massaging salt into cabbage, followed by filling jars and leaving them to work their magic. After four days, fermentation was complete. The taste is tangy with a hint of sweet. Just right for a fall day.