Tag Archives: Harsch Steinzeug

BRINED ROOT VEGETABLES AND CAULIFLOWER

Here’s my take on the brinded vegetables served at Bar Tartine. Even though mine are not nearly as good as those at the restaurant, they have turned out ok.

This exercise began at the farmers market. One of the vendors we especially like had some freshly-dug parsnips. That got me to thinking about brining some root vegetables, and I found some turnips and carrots at the grocery store. I couldn’t find anything green – I guess broccoli would have worked – so I settled on a mix of the four.

Then, of course, I had to drag out my Harsch Steinzeug sauerkraut crock. The task also gave me the opportunity to try out my copy of “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. My daughter, Carol, had given me the book as a gift, and I was so pleased because it has become a classic and the “standard” on the topic in just the short two years since it has been published. The only other things I needed were some Kosher salt and water.

My crock is 5 liters, which is just the right size for me, but it comes in larger and smaller sizes as well. If you haven’t seen a Harsch Steinzeur crock, it is a thing of beauty with a gleaming brown glaze, shaped handles, and a straight-sided lid with a stylish knob on top. It is also an example of German ingenuity and practical design. During my childhood, my grandmother made crocks and crocks of sauerkraut. The process was tedious and odoriferous. As well, skimming the scum off the top of the crocks took lots of attention for weeks.

My crock overcomes all of those problems. Inside are two half-moon weights that fit tightly together to keep whatever you are brining submerged. There are notches in the rim to provide escape for carbon dioxide, and there is a shallow trough around the lip that you fill with water to form an air-tight seal. That cuts down on the smell of fermenting vegetables. Once you have your system set up, and the vegetables start to ferment, you will hear an occasional “frog croak” as a burp of carbon dioxide escapes. That’s reassurance that things are going alright.

Some briners are careful to weigh out the salt and to balance it with enough water to make a brine of specific concentration, but you don’t need to do that so long as you make sure to add enough salt to make a good brine. Even though I peeled the vegetables, you don’t have to do that either, but I thought they would be more attractive with their peelings gone – especially the turnips and rutabegas.

I harvested my vegetables after about ten days of brining. They were still crisp with a briny, slightly pickled taste. If you want a stronger pickle, you can brine them longer, and you can check from time to time to see if the vegetables are to your liking. Just remember when you repack the crock to charge it with more salt and water and to seal the lid with water as you did at the beginning of the process.

So here’s what I did:

RECIPE

Brined Root Vegetables and Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 rutabagas, peeled and cut into eighths, lengthwise
  • 3 turnips, peeled and cut into discs
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Kosher salt
  • water

Method

  1. Prepare the vegetables
  2. Arrange a single layer of mixed vegetables on the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Repeat the process, layer by layer, until you have used all of the vegetables
  4. Arrange the half-moon weights so that they fit together and the vegetables are covered.
  5. Add water to cover the weights with at least two inches
  6. Place the lid on top of the crock, and move to a cool place out of the way of your cooking.
  7. When the crock is in place pour water into the groove around the lid and go about your business
  8. Check the level of water around the lid on a daily basis. Fill with more water if needed
  9. After about 4 4 days listen for the “burp”
  10. You should probably plan on at least 10 days before you check the vegetables. That will be a good time to remove any scum that might have formed on the weights, although there will probably be none or very little because of the air-lock system. If you want to brine the vegetables longer, sprinkle the top of the vegetables with more salt, adjust the water level, and replace the weights. Refill the watereseal around the lid and let the process work for another week.
  11. Remove and serve the vegetables whenever they suit your taste.
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MAKING SAUERKRAUT

When I was a little boy, we lived next to my grandparents. It was the Second World War, so everyone had a Victory Garden. We were no exceptions, and we even had a chicken coop where I collected eggs each morning. My grandparents, though, were serious about feeding themselves. In addition to a big garden, they had a small barn and a pond complete with ducks and a hissing goose.  Both grandparents had grown up on farms in the Dakotas, so they were used to putting up quarts and quarts of tomatoes, pickles, string beans, peas, cherries, and peaches beginning in the early spring and continuing until the first frost in the autumn.  

Harsch Steinzeug crock

My grandmother, though, had even more preserving to do when the rest of the harvest was over. She came from a large German family who had immigrated to North Dakota from Russia in the 1880s. German farmers had lived in Russia since the days of Catherine the Great, but when the Russians made it uncomfortable for them, the emigrated by the thousands to the Great Plains – especially to North Dakota. There they continued their German ways, including the production of huge quantities of sauerkraut to see them through the long winter.  

Red cabbage and red onions

Grandma continued that tradition in her back yard, so in the early fall bushels of giant cabbage heads would magically appear between her garden and the garage door. That would then become the place for an organized production line. A big wooden kraut slicer would be hauled down from storage in the garage. Big 25 gallon crocks would be brought up from the basement to be scrubbed clean. Boxes of salt would be brought from the kitchen. A kitchen chair was moved out to sit in front of a huge bowl where the cabbages would be shredded into heaping mounds. Then the packing began: shredded cabbage was layered into the crocks, salt was sprinkled on top, and the process was repeated until the crocks were completely full. Then the crocks would be lined up along a cool wall in the garage, covered with cheesecloth and big plates. Bricks would be placed on the plates for weights, and the real process began.  

Various utensils for slicing slaw

Fermenting the cabbage went on for weeks, and it was my job to check the crocks daily, skim off any scum, and add water if they looked too dry. During those days the garage was not a good place to spend much time because the dense smell of fermenting cabbage hung in the air. Finally, my grandmother pronounced the process done. At that point all of the women fired up their canning equipment and filled dozens of quart jars with the fragrant kraut until the crocks had been emptied.  

Slaw and salt ready to go in the crock

To my dismay, the supply of sauerkraut lasted all winter, and at least once a week we had the same meal for supper – sauerkraut, bland mashed potatoes, and a big sausage.  As much as I dreaded that menu, it left a lasting impression and surprisingly fond memories.  

The finished sauerkraut

For that reason, I decided to make some sauerkraut in the butler’s pantry in our home in Shreveport. All of the children were school age, and all of them regularly brought home their friends who wanted to know what was in the crock sitting on the counter.  When the children announced that it was sauerkraut their dad was making, there came a long pause and shoulder shrugs. The episode also became the basis for a favorite family story – one in which Dad gets a lot of laughs.

A bowl of sauerkraut ready to serve

I have never made sauerkraut again, so I was surprised when my Christmas gift from Susan was a beautiful had-crafted sauerkraut crock made by Harsch Steinzeug in Germany along with instructions for how to make sauerkraut. My crock is the five-liter size. You can get them up to 50 liter, but unless you have a big German family and eat sauerkraut every day, the 5-liter size seems perfect for home use.  

Once again, I am making sauerkraut. I have adapted the recipe that came with the crock into the one that follows. 

RECIPE

Ingredients

2 medium heads, red cabbage

2 medium red onions

10 grams coarse kosher salt for each kg of sliced cabbage + 15 grams for brine

water

 

  1.  Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages, quarter, and remove the core.
  2. Shred the quartered cabbage as thinly as possible. You may use an authentic wooden slaw cutter, a French-style mandoline, a plastic mandoline, or a very sharp chef’s knife. Each implement has distinct advantages and disadvantages. The wooden cutter is the most authentic, but the blade must be sharp, and it requires a lot of muscle. The French-style mandoline works very well and is adjustable, but with all of its parts it needs a lot of cleanup afterward. The plastic mandoline is inexpensive and usually not adjustable, but the slices are fine, and the blade is very sharp.  Cleanup is easy. The knife must be very sharp, and it is hard to get the cabbage shreds as thin as you would like. I prefer the plastic mandoline.
  3. Shred the red onion and combine with the cabbage.
  4. Weigh the shredded cabbage and onion. Weigh separately 10 grams of salt for each kg of cabbage and onion.
  5. Arrange a layer of shredded cabbage and onions in the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle with salt. Continue the process, alternating cabbage and onions with salt until you have filled the crock no more than four-fifths full. This is important. Otherwise you will not be able to fit the weight stones into the pot.
  6. Press down so that liquid is released and rises an inch or so above the weight stones. If it does not, pour in brine prepared by boiling then cooling 15 grams of salt in 1 liter of water.
  7. Cover the crock with the lid, Seal the lid by pouring water in the groove to that it is above the notches in the sides of the lid, and set in a cool place.
  8. In 2 or 3 days you should hear bubbling as the kraut begins to ferment. This will continue for a week or so. Do not open the crock, but continue to make sure to keep the water seal refreshed.
  9. After three weeks or so, open the crock, remove the weight stones, and dish out your first sauerkraut. Replace the weight stones and reseal to use again at another time. 

Red cabbage sauerkraut, bratwurst, German-fried potatoes, and fresh bread

Around my grandmother’s table, we had sauerkraut, sausage, and mashed potatoes at least once a week. With my first batch of kraut, I tried to reproduce that meal, substituting German-fried potatoes for the mashers. The crispy red sauerkraut was much better than that of my memories, the freshly made bratwurst from the butcher was flavorful, and the meal turned out to be a big success with everyone.

 

 

 

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