Let me start this post by sharing that this is my post for Charcutepalooza – and that this post may indeed disqualify me from the year of meat. If it does, that will make me a CharcutepaLOSER but I’ve had this idea in my head since the topic came out and the little Devil on my shoulder just wouldn’t let me away without doing it. So dear Charcutepalooza friends I come to you with open heart willing to accept my fate and hope that you don’t see this as disrespect.
At any rate, let`s share some background on why this post has taken me away from the primary objective (although I did do my homework) and how I find myself in a motel room in Glasgow with a slight burn on my hand and how my topic got a little sidetracked…
I am a sucker for one of marketing`s oldest tricks:
- The rule of scarcity. If it is rare, limited or special I want it. I am more able to control such urges than when I was young but if you put a limited edition number on it or hand me something that`s one-of-a-kind, I`m a sucker.
I am also a sucker for one of the oldest story telling techniques of all-time:
- The epic tale; particularly one that takes an individual through the stages of `The Hero`s Journey` (such as the Odyssey).
I am powerless when the two interact – and almost useless when food is included. An example of such a combination is Stone Brewery`s Vertical Epic (it’s a beer collecting and tasting event that takes 11 years to participate in and ends in 2012). Yes I’m playing along, no I don’t have them all and yes I have a plan if I get close. 🙂
When the topic of brining was announced with Charcutepalooza this month, I was excited. We’ve brined a lot of things and continue to do so. I maintain it’s the secret a lot of restaurants have in their back pocket that easily elevates their simple dishes to new heights.
We had the option between a simple brine or brining something and corning it later (a la corned beef). I thought about the different things we’ve done and decided my plan of attack was simple: brine half a pork tenderloin in a simple salt brine, make the case for brining vs not and show that simple can sometimes be best. I even had ideas to weigh both pieces before and after cooking and measure weight as a way of seeing moisture loss/ gain by percentage. While I did do the tenderloin, I dropped short of the weighing process.
A full walk-through of how we brine pork chops (including ratios of salt) can be found here. If you’ve never done this, it’s well worth the effort.
Brining just adds moisture and softens the texture of pork. I honestly believe that once you get into the habit of brining pork you won’t go back.
I was struggling a bit with the idea of a simple brine – for one, we already ha that post up. I started reflecting on my options and recalled that the rules hinted that tongue could be a good alternative. I was transported back to the heart of the forest in Huntsville, Ontario where we brined two moose hearts and tongues 2 years ago. We were 13 kilometers from the nearest road – an epic journey of it’s own sort.
I kept reading Cathy’s post and her rules. Her next comment was about making pickles (sauerkraut) to go with your brined goods. Brining, while exciting, wasn’t going to be epic for me this month. But pickling… my mind became infected with an idea that could take a brined meal to a level that would combine scarcity and en epic adventure. So I’m hoping that the combination of this explanation, the fact that we did our homework and posted about it will allow my entry on how to make one batch of pickles in 3 different countries and two continents might be accepted as part of the Charcutepalooza journey.
There was more to the idea than simply getting sucked in by my own soft-spots for marketing tricks and literature.
People fear many types of preserving. I remember being scared of making my first jam and had a humbling reminder of such fear as a cured my own bacon for the first time last month and found myself to be very uncertain of the process. It’s even more ironic that bacon and picking are two of the ‘scarier’ and (simultaneously) ‘simpler’ preserving techniques. Processes that have existed for hundreds of years (or longer in the case of fermenting) are foreign, unknown and more intimidating than trusting a factory of unknown origin.
I knew I was travelling to the UK during this phase of Charcutepalooza. I often miss the kitchen on these work trips (I actually plan these trips to avoid the traditional harvest time at home so that I am preserve the amount that we do). The trip involves some travel between Glasgow and Manchester and revolves around simple hotel rooms with no kitchen. Being here two weeks is just enough time to ferment cabbage and take it back with me to Canada.
I am not recommending that you make sauerkraut like this and it is meant, in part, to be tongue-in-cheek. But I do want to encourage you to experiment with pickling, preserving (and, of course, brining). Actual instructions to make Sauerkraut (which you store in the fridge, water-bath, freeze or cellar) can be found here. I am recommending that if you haven’t you should give it a try.
So, without further adieu, here’s how to make fermented sauerkraut in 2-3 countries in 2 weeks while staying in hotels with no cooking equipment. This is, indeed, the MacGuyver of pickles:
- Pack for the occasion but don’t bring your kitchen. There has to be some sort of sporting challenge to it (I didn’t even know if I could get cabbage here this time of year). I also brought: a 2-cup wide-mouthed mason jar, a half-cup standard mason jar, a plastic wide-mouthed lid, a metal wide-mouthed lid with holes punched in it, a standard lid and pickling salt.
- Find your ingredients. I was lucky to find a tiny cabbage – my fear was having to eat 4 pounds of raw cabbage that I couldn’t jar and wouldn’t waste.
- Find supplies. Order room service or borrow cutlery from the lobby. I liberated a spoon and butter knife (the funniest equipment ever to carve a cabbage with).
- Clean your jars well – I used soap and boiling water from the kettle in the room (at one point pouring it on my hand which explains the slight burn).
- Cut your cabbage and salt it.
- Make a brine. I used the 2-cup jar to measure water and mixed three-quarters of a tablespoon of salt into it. I poured the brine into two coffee cups so I could jar my cabbage.
- Load the wide-mouthed jar half-way with cabbage. You will want enough cabbage so that the small jar will fit on top of the leaves and JUST allow the lid to close tight.
- Once the cabbage is in the large jar, place the small jar on top of the cabbage (inside the bigger one). Make sure the bottom of the small jar is closer to the bottom of the big jar. This will allow the cabbage to be trapped under both jars and stop the leaves from floating. This will prevent mould, encourage proper fermentation and help control odor.
- Press down firmly on the small jar. This will promote liquids escaping from the cabbage and accelerate fermentation.
- Place the lid with holes on it on top, fasten. It is important the jar allows gasses to escape (sealing the jar and walking away at this point risks a broken jar or worse).
- Monitor progress. If scum forms, skim and return to storage. I’m storing mine, on a tray, in the hotel safe. This also helps control any minor smells that may escape (yes I am laughing at the absurdity).
- If you need to transport at this phase, use the plastic lid Be careful and monitor – the pressure can build and crack the plastic lid and cause a giant mess that will leave you smelling for the rest of your trip. This is known as THE ABYSS in the hero’s journey.
- The fermentation should stop in 10-14 days. At this point it’s prudent to find cold storage and place the solid cap on (I plan to use the window sill). If fermentation has stopped, your product SHOULD travel fine. Wrap in lots of plastic. Ensure that you are allowed to transport pickles between the nations of your choosing.
- Don’t ever, ever tell anyone you did this. It’s tremendously silly and unnecessary. 🙂
In a funny twist of fate, Dana has just sent me a text message letting me know that our new 15-liter fermenting pot has arrived at home – so excited and can’t wait to share. It would be far more appropriate that the steps I’ve described above. We’ll post some proper fermentation posts this year (although the above should work just fine – and I’ll know soon ehough) but it’s not the ideal environment. After typing this post twice, I hope you’ve found at least a chuckle or a shake-of-the-head.
Next month we’ll follow the rules completely – here’s hoping that you’ll try to ferment some pickles this year.