Epic Food Hack: Picklekraut!

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Alright folks, here's a weird one for you.  

So, I make pickles.  Not all the time, but a friend taught me how, and they're pretty awesome and they keep forever, so I do it.  "My" (his) pickle recipe is a little weird, but ultra-healthy and also crazy easy.  Hence, there are three pints of them in my fridge right now, just staring at me.  Always happens.  :)

I'm also having a hilariously stupid / awful week, one of the consequences of which is that I've run out of food for me — I can't eat wheat flour, so it can be tough especially to keep things around that survive several busy weeks of limited shopping and cooking — but man, yesterday I was hungry in the morning; I needed *something* in the gap between waking up early and heading off to work, and I'd had my wheat-free hot cereal for dinner (I know.  Last night I had two spoonfuls of peanut butter. >,<  I'm hitting all the requirements calorie, protein, and vitamin-wise, but not in anything like an elegant fashion.)

So, left without other options, I grabbed a jar of pickles and a fork; I was hungry enough to not care much what they tasted like, but to my shock, the sharp scouring sour actually was nice on fuzzy-morning-mouth.  And as soon as they settled into my stomach, where I'd been half-expecting I'd get an upset from eating pickles for freaking breakfast, I instead got a HUGE burst of energy — not a buzz, but a spreading gut-cleanliness, and one of the strongest and most immediate feelings of "this is good for you!" that I've had in a long time.  I ate probably a half-cup of picklekraut and went to work, and felt abnormally great for the next few hours.  I also ate more later, since .5c of veggies, yeast and salt is not a full breakfast! It was probably like 50 calories, heh.  Yet, it was probably 2h before I ate anything again, and I felt full (they're bulky), energized, and clean.  My stomach, which can be iffy obviously (see: wheat thing) was also great yesterday, like, better than usual.

Anyway, yeah, highly recommended!  Pickles as snack but also, as a major component of breakfast!  (Update:  It's two days later and I've had picklekraut for breakfast both days.  I love it silly; it continues to feel absurdly healthy, and my stomach is quite possibly the happiest it's been in months.)

BUT, you may have noticed I said "picklekraut":  That's right; my pickles are special.  Here's the recipe!  — Oh yeah, they're dirt cheap, too.  :D

PICKLEKRAUT!

– 1 red cabbage (the red isn't necessary, but it gives it the cool color.  Also, half a cabbage plus other veggies makes a LOT of pickles, be warned!)
– Other veggies, cut into largish chunks.  I like onions, garlic cloves, radishes and carrots best; my friend puts cucumbers, fennel, and asparagus in his; they're all good.  If you like spicy, grab your hot-peppers and leave the seeds in.  Go light because pickling does not reduce the spiciness — on the contrary, I made some of this with, like, two habaneros to a huge batch, and it almost burned my face off!
– Herbs, if you know how to do the herb or spice thing.  Not necessary, but by all accounts yummy. 
– Salt — about 2-4tbsp per batch.  If possible, you want pickling salt for this, because it's chemical-free, but I've done it with regular salt.
– Brine from previous picklekraut, if you have any.

Chop veggies into bowl.  Big whacko chunks are best, as they'll stay crunchy.

Add salt.  You'll probably add more later, and get an idea for how much you like, taste-wise, but you need at least 2tbsp per gallon or so of water to start.

Add any leftover brine you have from a previous batch, and top off the rest with water so that all of the veggies are covered.  Stir to make sure all the air-bubbles are removed.

Now — this is important — flip a plate, or a lid smaller than the mouth of your bowl, over and lay them on top of the vegetables.  Add a small weight if necessary, to make sure every bit of the veggies is pushed under the fluid — none of it can be touching air.  You need to create an anaerobic environment for the veggies:  You're going to leave them on the counter, not in the fridge (or properly canned) as you would with regular pickles, because we're going to let these ferment.  Given a good anaerobic environment, they'll naturally lacto-ferment with a healthy yeast and bacteria combination that's great for your guts (and lady parts, and everywhere else a healthy flora balance is important).  Given any air, they'll turn greenbluebrown and you will have the gaggingest mess ever to dispose of.  (If you can't tell, I've made this mistake.  >,<)

Cover the whole thing with a real lid, but not an air-tight one; this stuff will bubble a bit and you need it to be able to off-gas (like brewing beer).  Now leave it alone, in a warm place out of direct sunlight, for a week.  Seriously, don't touch it.

After a week, hold your nose and open it up — awww yeah, the smell of in-progress sauerkraut.  Once that clears a bit, taste a pickle.  (It tastes better than it smells, I promise.)  Add salt or adjust seasonings if desired.

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Now you can leave them alone some more, usually for another week — but if you didn't start with any brine, you'll need another 2 or 3 weeks before they're done.  Stir it up every couple days and check how it's doing.  You may see whitish film at the top and sides; we prefer to scrape that off, though it's harmless.  You should not see any green, blue, or brown stuff going on — if you see just a little, like where something was sticking up above the water, it's safe to just remove it; if it doesn't come back or spread, you're ok.  Generally once the yeast and good bacteria take hold, they'll keep other stuff from proliferating as long as their environment is maintained.  

Once they're ready — in other words, they taste like pickles — transfer them to a jar (fill it all the way up with veggies and brine and put a tight lid on) and into the fridge.  This will stop the yeast fermenting, and they'll stay in a nice stasis for a lonnnnnng time.  I have no idea how long, but I've eaten them after several months in the fridge and they're still perfect.

Picklekraut can be eaten in as little as 1 week, but they get stronger and softer as you leave them.  You really don't need more than 2 weeks (4 or so if you started with just salt and water), but I've ahem accidentally left them "cooking" on the counter for 2 months and they only got stronger — creating the variant my family calls PICKLES!!! (you have to yell it).

Besides just being snacks, gifts, and a killer side-dish or appetizer, these are awesome for seasoning things like soup, congee and salad (chop up fine).  Save the brine from the jars (in the refrigerator, in a sealed jar) when you're finished and dump it in your next batch to get the colonies of good bacteria started more quickly.  (Some people say to do this, some say not to.  I do it because my friend does.)

Enjoy!

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the fourth wall).
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