Post #G29: Illustrated guide to making red cabbage sauerkraut

This post illustrates the process of making sauerkraut, starting from 10 pounds of red cabbage, and ending up with a two half-gallons of kraut, ready to ferment.  For detailed written instructions for lacto-fermentation of vegetables, see Post #G23.

Let me start by noting one big advantage of red cabbage sauerkraut compared to more traditional green cabbage sauerkraut.  Aside from the looks (a deep purple) and the taste (tangier than regular sauerkraut), it is exceptionally crisp when it is done. 

So crisp, in fact, that you can freeze it.  And by that I mean, you can freeze it and still be willing to eat it afterwards.  It won’t be as crisp once you’ve done that, but it is still on the right side of “edible”.  It ends up just about as crisp as traditional sauerkraut.  By contrast, if you freeze traditional sauerkraut, you pretty much get mush when you thaw it.  It’s still edible, but it’s not something you’d care to eat raw.

For the casual reader, that may not seem like much.  But those of you who are into lacto-fermentation or probiotics or food preservation understand the advantage to this:  You don’t have to can it to preserve it.  Canning is a lot of work, and it (by definition) kills all the bacteria in the sauerkraut.  But with red cabbage sauerkraut, you can make a big batch, eat some fresh, put some in the fridge for the next couple of months, and put some in the freezer for next year.  And in each case, those probiotic bacteria will still be alive.  And it’s all good enough to eat raw.  It’s better when it’s fresh, but it’s still not bad after it’s been frozen.

And that’s why I’m not afraid to make it by the gallon, as shown in this posting.  Some will go in the fridge.  The rest will go in the freezer.

And that means I can do this seasonally.  When the new cabbages start showing up at the farmers’ markets in the fall, that’s when I make kraut.  Sometimes I get some odd looks, buying half-a-dozen cabbages at a time.  But they’re always willing to take my money.

The only disadvantage of red cabbage sauerkraut is that you can’t cook with it.  Not unless you like (e.g.) purple pork chops.  It will dye any food that it is cooked with.

If you’ve never made sauerkraut before, everything you really need to know about the basics of making sauerkraut can be found in the USDA guidelines, Section 6 (.pdf).

Continue reading Post #G29: Illustrated guide to making red cabbage sauerkraut

Post #G28: Squirrels are just rats with fluffy tails, UPDATED

Remember the popular kids’ cartoon about Rocket J. Rat and his pal Bullwinkle Opossum?  No, guess not.  Must be the naked tail, or something.  Nobody seems to like rats or possums.

But squirrels are cuuuute!

Cute obnoxious destructive pests, in the garden.  That said, this is not an anti-squirrel screed.  Much.

This is a report about two commonly-suggested methods for preventing squirrel damage to pumpkins and other winter squash.  For me, one worked, one didn’t.  Given that it’s the time of year when squirrels seem to be gnawing on everything not protected by heavy steel mesh, I thought I’d report that out.

Coating the outside of the pumpkin with the hottest, cheapest hot sauce I could find seems to have worked.  Making my own “capsaicin spray” from hot pepper flakes, following common internet guidance, did not.

Continue reading Post #G28: Squirrels are just rats with fluffy tails, UPDATED

Post #G27: A treatise on the squash vine borer, final version


Source:  U Wisconsin Vegetable Entomology.

Yet another gardening post.  If you have no interest in growing cucurbits, stop now.

This is a rewrite of an earlier post (G09), mostly to summarize the results of this season.  And to shorten it up and tighten up the writing.  It’s a summary of everything I think I have learned about the squash vine borer (SVB).  All in one place.  Off the top of my head, based on what I’ve read over the past week, and what I’ve observed in my garden.  So I can remember it next year.  Citations as to source only if and as I feel like locating them.

Continue reading Post #G27: A treatise on the squash vine borer, final version

Post #G26: Back in the Town of Vienna, our water/sewer rate versus Fairfax County

This post only really matters if you use a lot of water outdoors during the summer.  Hence, it falls under gardening on this website.

People are often surprised to find out just how much water it takes to water a garden, or that running a lawn sprinkler for an hour typically consumes 1000 gallons.

And so, there’s sometimes some hubbub when the summer-quarter water bills come out, here in the Town of Vienna.  Particularly now, as Vienna is half-way through a planned five-year, 50% increase in the water/sewer rates.  People see an unusually high bill and attribute that to the rate increase.  When that may not be the whole story. Continue reading Post #G26: Back in the Town of Vienna, our water/sewer rate versus Fairfax County

Post #G25: Meanwhile, in the Town of Vienna, the latest water/sewer rates are being felt

This is another of my contractual obligation postings, relating to government of the Town of Vienna.

Recall back in Post #448, where I described the Town’s five-year plan to raise the water and sewer rates by about 50%.  The Town didn’t really go out of its way to advertise that, or to advertise that it planned to raise those rates every year for five years running. Continue reading Post #G25: Meanwhile, in the Town of Vienna, the latest water/sewer rates are being felt

Post #G24: Paw paw neurotoxicity.

Paw paws.  Source:  My yard.  Destination:  Recycle bin.

We have a couple of paw paw trees in our yard.  The are nice-looking trees, with large gloss green leaves.  I have the vague recollection that we put them in for butterfly habitat, as they are critical for the reproduction of the zebra swallowtail.

We rarely get any edible fruit from them, as the fruit always seem to go from rock hard to “the deer got them” in a matter of days.

And, as it turns out, that may have been a lucky break. Continue reading Post #G24: Paw paw neurotoxicity.

Post #G23: An aside on lacto-fermentation and pickles

This is a second of two pickle posts.  The prior post was about the energy cost of canning pickles.  This post is about making pickles via lacto-fermentation.

If you want to try making pickles with the least possible effort, lacto-fermentation is the way to go.  It’s a lot easier than making a traditional vinegar (canned) pickle. Continue reading Post #G23: An aside on lacto-fermentation and pickles

Post #G22: Energy consumption required for home-canned pickles

I ended my just-prior post with some speculation on the energy (in)efficiency of home canning.  In this post, I work up the numbers and confirm that home-canned pickles require quite a bit of energy.  My calculation is that I use 17 fossil fuel calories for every edible pickle calorie preserved. 

As a way of contrast, I calculate that commercially-canned diced tomatoes require just 2 fossil fuel calories for every edible calorie preserved.  (That’s only for the canning, not for the transportation, but despite what you may read, the energy used in transporting canned goods to the store is minimal. I may need to do a separate post on that.)

Much of that difference is due to the energy density of the foods (canned tomatoes have about 5 times as many calories per volume as canned pickles).  Factoring that out, it appears that my home canning is maybe half as energy-efficient as commercial canning.

You may read blog postings and such suggesting that home-canning is a net energy saver, because you save the transportation costs for the food, and so on.  I’m not sure sure about that.  It’s entirely possible that the relative inefficiency of home canning offsets the fossil fuels used in transportation.  But that’s part of a different calculation.

This is the energy used in canning (preserving) pickles.  You can make pickles with no direct energy use, as in lacto-fermentation.  But if you want to put your pickles on a shelf, to eat some time next year, you have to can them.  That’s what we’re talking about.

Details follow. Continue reading Post #G22: Energy consumption required for home-canned pickles