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Sauerkraut

So.  Do you like sauerkraut?  I mean — have you given homemade sauerkraut a chance in your adult life?

I was reintroduced to the stuff when I lived with a roommate in Boston who was, according to a friend, “like a Level 10 vegan.”  Vegan roommate, an excellent cook, used to pack red cabbage in jars and let them ferment in a cabinet, adding the finished product to sandwiches and rice dinners and other things.  It was good sauerkraut, not creepy like the unmonitored vats at a hot dog stand, and I could see that it was very easy to make.  (It is easy on the level of doing your own laundry.)

Not long after I found a terrific fanzine called Wild Fermentation that teaches one how to make their own sauerkraut.  It also teaches one how to make cheese, or tempeh, or tej or yogurt or pickles and other fermented foods.  It has since been turned into a book but you can still find the stunningly simple recipe for sauerkraut here. Thank you, Sandor Ellix Katz, a.k.a. Sandor Kraut, for making your passion so accessible to us.

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So this is a very nice wintry soup to make, where the grilled flavor enriches the dish a great deal in my opinion. Also, miso is involved as a salting agent. I have thought about acquiring a little hibachi to fire up in the evenings — an activity one can do rather painlessly in this city during the present season — but in the meantime, a grill pan works quite well, and is what I used in this case.

You will need:
1 small head or 1/2 large head cabbage
1 medium-sized Japanese sweet potato
1/2 large onion
4 or more cloves of garlic
2 cups cooked beans
6 cups stock
Ghee or olive oil
Salt
2-3 tablespoons shiromiso (white miso)

Chop the cabbage in half and remove the core. Shred or slice as fine as you would like to eat with a soup spoon. Heat your grill pan, and once it is hot, apply the cabbage. Let it get browned and a little burned, moving it around every so often. Swap out batches of cabbage to get the whole quantity grilled. While you are doing this, mince the onion and smash the garlic. Peel the sweet potato and chop into cubes. I say cubes the size of sugar cubes, but you may say something else.

At this point, your cabbage will probably be done grilling and should be put to wait in a bowl. Scoop some ghee or pour some oil into your soup pot and let it get warm. Add a pinch of salt to the fat and stir. Add onion & garlic and saute until slightly translucent. Add the potatoes and stir a bit more. It’s fine if things get a little browned.

Pour in your stock and add your beans. I have used black beans and white beans and navy beans and each version has been equally delicious, though aesthetically different. (Same goes for cabbage varieties. Red? White? Napa?) I will say that there is a structural difference between canned and cooked dry beans; the latter tends to hold up better in soups, but you should not fuss over this.

Bring everything up to a simmering state and taste. Depending your stock, you may need more flavor. This is when you add the miso, spoonful by spoonful, until the flavor is to your liking. Now add the cabbage and cook until tender. Then ladle into bowls and eat.

This is a wonderful soup with crusty bread and butter on the side, then yogurt & jam for dessert. And tea. And then, naptime.

6 servings

1 large head cabbage, human head sized, chopped
2 carrots, grated
Bunch red radishes, chopped
2 Serrano chilies, minced
2/3 cup cilantro, minced
1 1/2 cups Mexican mayonnaise
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Cut up the stuff. (A Cuisinart is good for the cabbage. So is one of those handheld cabbage choppers.) Put all the vegetal things except the chilies in a big bowl. In another bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, chilies, milk, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and what ever else you think tastes good. Incorporate with the veggies. Stick the slaw in the fridge, and put a note about it on the kitchen mirror for your roommates to see.

10 servings, give or take

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