Gardening,  Homesteading

Sauerkraut and Blue Corn

After feeling bogged down by potatoes and turnips the past few weeks, I’ve finally been able to turn my attention to some fun food preservation! I picked 3 large heads of red cabbage this past week, and I harvested all of my blue grinding corn. We even pressed our first batch of apple cider! I’m sure I seem weird to my family and friends, but I get so excited about all of the strange or different things I can do by growing my own food!

My last sauerkraut endeavor was the year I sliced the tip of my thumb off. The kraut turned out just fine, but I was always nervous about eating it. Not because of the thumb thing, but because it was my first time doing that kind of fermentation, and I tend to get a little apprehensive about trying something “experimental” like that for the first time. My first attempt at tomato sauce years ago ended up being thrown out because I wasn’t brave enough to try it! Scott had some of the first batch, but we never ate the rest. It was time to try again.

I used 3 heads of cabbage, ran them through the food processor, cut up a big bulb of garlic, and picked a few jalapeƱos from the garden and cut them up. First off, let me just say that using the food processor was a much safer option than the mandolin. I sliced my thumb tip off the last time I did sauerkraut, so I just didn’t feel comfortable using the mandolin with the cabbage. It doesn’t bother me to use it for slicing potatoes, but not for cabbage because of the way it can break apart.

Sauerkraut, fermenting on the counter.

Second, I bought some pickling pipes for mason jars last year. I didn’t get a chance to use them, but this was the day. I also had my glass weights, and so I felt a lot better about how well everything was covered. We used a crock last time, but it was old and had a minor crack, which also left me uncomfortable about the end result.

The process went well this time, no sliced fingers, and relatively little mess compared with my last attempt. Three weeks until we can test the kraut, but we can let it ferment for up to 12 weeks. Today I picked up some fermentation lids with springs to try out for the next batch. I’d still like to get a new crock with the appropriate weight and cover so I can do larger batches. In the mean time, the kraut is happily bubbling away on the counter. The kids are enjoying checking up on things!

On Sunday, we had a co-worker from Scott’s work come over with his daughter, and we pressed a big batch of apple cider. I think they took home about 8 gallons, and we probably walked away with 5. We would have had more, but the boys accidentally knocked the bucket over while spinning the screw down on the press. Oh well. Anyway, the bulk of the apples were not ours anyway, but brought by his co-worker. We harvested two of our trees that morning, but there wasn’t a whole lot of fruit. I think it was partially because Scott thinned the trees so much, but more to do with the fact that the kids have been picking apples nonstop!

Scott and I drove around that morning and asked a few friends and neighbors about collecting apples from their trees in exchange for some cider. We got permission from several people, but nobody had ripe fruit. However, when their fruit is ripe, we’ll be making the rounds and doing a bunch of pressing and preserving in various forms. We do our best to share the end results generously with those who let us collect fruit. After examining some of the trees, it looks like we might be able to collect more in a week or two! In the mean time, I’m happy we have eight 1/2 gallon jars of cider canned and in the pantry.

While the cider pressing was progressing, I got busy removing kernels from my grinding corn. This is my first attempt at growing and grinding my own grinding corn. I picked the corn before it was totally dried because I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up losing the harvest to animals. I husked everything, removed the silk, and stuck it all in the dehydrator. We live in an old farmhouse, so I can’t leave something like that to hang and dry, otherwise the mice will get it.

I’m not sure of the final weight on the dried kernels, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity we harvested. I think I bought 1, maybe 2 packets of seed to plant (I’ll have to check my records), and I ended up with significantly more seed in the end. Just to check the final product, I took out my mortar and pestle and ground up about 30 kernels. It’s a bit of work to grind by hand like that, but it worked better than I expected. I was really surprised at how much of a corn smell it has after grinding. I’ve never used freshly ground corn meal before, so I didn’t know what the end result would be like.

I’ve done a little bit of research on grinding corn before, but I ended up looking the process up again after that little grind. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something from the process. Turns out freshly ground corn does have a different aroma and flavor, because the corn germ is still intact. The stuff you buy at the grocery store has had the corn germ (like wheat germ, but for corn) removed, and the process for harvest is slightly different, so you get little smell and less flavor.

Grinding corn, and making cider and kraut weren’t the only things on my to-do list this week. Yesterday I pulled in a big harvest with the help of the kids. I am seriously delinquent in picking my beans, so most are overgrown. I picked everything from one trellis, just to help promote growth. We’ll save seed from much of this picking. I was still able to can 8 quarts of beans, however. I’m hoping to pick the other trellis of beans tomorrow, and repeat the process of sorting and canning. Then, hopefully, I can stay on top of picking for the remainder of the growing season.

A somewhat blurry picture of my pole beans… these are just some of the ones that were too larger for canning as “green beans.” I’ll be saving seed from a lot of these…

We also went through and picked all of the ripe and almost ripe tomatoes that we could find. I sorted through it all after bringing it in the house, and we put the unripe tomatoes in canning jar boxes on the seed starting shelves in the basement to finish ripening. I’ll keep an eye on them, and when they ripen, they’ll go into bags in the freezer. So far, I have 4.5 gallons of tomatoes in the freezer, and probably 2 more gallons on the shelf. We’re off to a good start! But I do really need to give my plants some attention. I haven’t stayed on top of staking them, and the tomato plants are a bit of a mess.

The hash browns I made over the weekend were finally bagged up. I had them in the freezer on baking sheets, but it was time to make space for more things! I had to do that in order to take care of the tomato harvest. We’re quickly running out of freezer space! We’re going to have to get that big chest freezer pretty soon…

In addition to the tomatoes and beans that I had harvested, I picked a whole wheelbarrow full of sweet corn. It took a few hours to do all of the shucking and kernel removal, but everything is done and either in the canner or waiting to go in the canner. I’ll probably be wrapping up the whole process somewhat late tonight. The canner needs to run at pressure for 85 minutes for quarts of corn. All in all, though… 4 gallons of corn! I had bought a corn kernel remover last year, and never got to use it. Before we started today, I had to run some errands, and I decided to spend the extra $8 to get another one. If it worked well, I could have one of the kids helping, and it would save me a ton of time! Well… it worked like a charm! It still took forever, because it was quite the mountain of corn, but it worked! The kids were able to use it with relative ease. And when I consider the fact that we’ve harvested less than half of our corn… it’s going to pay itself off in no time. In fact, it may have already. That’s $1 spent for every jar of corn.

Tomorrow, my mom is planning to come over to help me with the harvest and preservation. I’m not totally decided on what we’ll work on, but I’m thinking we’ll make more sauerkraut, and we’ll probably try out corn cob jelly and maybe make some corn stock for using in different recipes. If I don’t feel too overheated in the morning, I may try to do a bunch of harvesting before it gets too hot. I still have lots of beans to pick, and I think some of the carrots by the barn garden are ready for harvesting. Plus there are tomatoes I haven’t touched, and there are peas to pull. I need more energy… I need more time in a day!

But as I said recently, it’s all good news. Seeing how much we’ve been able to harvest is really encouraging. This is already our biggest harvest ever, and we still have a good month left to go on it all! I’m going to be putting in a lot of long days in the next week or two. I’m absolutely shot after working on corn all afternoon, but I’m thinking about going outside and doing some harvesting now…

Happy harvesting, from our house to yours!

What’s filling your baskets these days?

Love and Blessings~Danielle

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