Homemade Sauerkraut

November 19, 2011

So, if you want real instruction from a professional, go to Sandor Katz. And buy his book, Wild Fermentation, because it is fabulous.

I don’t have much to say that’s new, but, it seems right to have the recipe here. Tidy.

Without Further Ado…

Homemade Sauerkraut

Ingredients

  • About 5 lbs of cabbage–I just use 3 heads. Close enough. I always use at least 1 purple head, because then your kraut will be prettier, and also because they are heavier for their size, which means they have a lot of water, which becomes important later.
  • 3 Tablespoons salt–not the kind with additives. Even stuff called ‘sea salt’ can have anti-caking agents and crap in there. We use Morton Canning and Pickling Salt for everything.

Supplies

  • A knife or mandoline (not the instrument!) or food processor.
  • A 1-gallon crock or other non-metal bucket-shaped thing. Food grade, obviously.
  • A plate or lid or something that fits down inside of the crock.
  • A weight (I use a jar full of salt water, in case it leaks, so you don’t dilute your brine)
  • A cloth (napkin or something) and rubber band
  • A bit of pent-up rage/aggression

Directions

  1. Make sure everything is pretty clean, okay?
  2. Cut the cabbage so it’s quite small. I love to use our mandoline. Use the hand guard! Don’t slice your fingers! This part takes a while, and is much messier than you might expect. It will look like way too much cabbage for your crock. It isn’t.
  3. As you work on the cabbage, put the stuff that’s cut into a large bowl, and throw some of your salt in there after each addition so it’s nice and evenly distributed.
  4. When all of the cut cabbage and salt are in the bowl, toss it around a bit to mix it even better.
  5. Start moving the cabbage/salt into the crock, a bit at a time. Smash it down as you fill the crock. Smash smash smash! Add more! Smash! I use my fist or sometimes a can of beans or something.
  6. When all of the cabbage is in, smash it some more.
  7. Put the plate on the cabbage, push down, and put the weight on top.
  8. Cover your crock with a cloth, secured with the rubber band. Check on the liquid level  every hour or so, and push on the plate to help it along. Clean hands, please.
  9. You want the liquid (brine) to get up over the plate, so that no air is touching your cabbage. If that doesn’t happen within the first day, add some salt water in a ratio of 1 tsp salt/cup of water, until it is deep enough. Make sure that the brine level stays above the cabbage at all times during fermentation.
  10. Check on it every day or so after this. Take off the weight and plate, fork some out, and taste it. Rinse the weight and plate, replace them, and re-cover. I think it starts tasting best in about a week. I scoop out bowls of it to eat for the next week or so, and then move it to jars in the fridge so it doesn’t get any sourer. Then start a new batch!

The world’s cheapest Great sandwich, that is. Bang for your buck!

So, food math.

When I was a freshman in college, during the paper route years, my food math involved calories per dollar. It went something like this:

A prepackaged muffin from Plaid Pantry is 3 servings at 200 calories per serving, and costs $1.89. That’s 600 calories total for under 2 dollars. If you want to be picky about it, it’s 0.315 cents per calorie. But mostly I went like this: This is pretty much a meal and a half for cheap, probably the best I can do without just plain eating mayonnaise. I ate one of these muffins every day (I know, I know…).

Ah, those were the days. Now, I work full time, and get to do a different sort of food math. Deliciousness per dollar. Allow me to introduce you to:

The Sauerkraut Sandwich.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup homemade sauerkraut, drained (store stuff is disgusting. disgusting!)

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 slices of bread, lightly toasted

salt and pepper

That’s all! And it is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

Roughly, that’s

Sauerkraut: [($5 for cabbage)+($0.05 for salt)]/64(because that recipe makes 1 gallon)= 8 cents

Mayo: ($4/jar)/(60 serving/jar)= 7 cents

Bread: ($2.18/loaf)/(18 slices/loaf)x(2 slices)= 24 cents

Salt and Pepper: negligible. Let’s say 1 cent.

= 40 cents!

So, since this sandwich is infinitely delicious, that’s

∞/$0.40= ∞

I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.

I’ll post the instructions for homemade sauerkraut next, so you can get sandwiching.

So, married.

Planning, organizing, and being in charge of executing your own wedding is no small job. NO SMALL JOB!  As such, this is no small post, but I’ll try to keep it… succinct. There are plenty of places to read about how to DIY a wedding. So, just a peek at how we managed to make a perfect wedding for about $3000.

(Note: Sorry if there is some bragging. Hey, we did a good job!)

Now, first let me just say that a wedding can be a frugal person’s dream or nightmare, depending on how you want to look at it. They cost a lot. But there are so many opportunities to save money! When I first started planning, the thought of spending more than $500 on the whole thing made me want to barf. We had a tiny little thing in mind, but then we realized a) how big my family is, and b) how much we would love to have our good friends there with us. So, we revised the plan. We found a venue. We hired a photographer. We decided to wear real wedding clothes. In the end, we spent way more than I would have ever thought we would, but still less than some people spend on their photographer alone. And it felt just as wonderful and expensive as any wedding I’ve ever been to. How did we do it? Well…

Venue

This was the one and only Stressful Thing about wedding planning, and the thing with the highest price tag (this is one of the areas we had financial help–thanks mother-in-law!). There are so many considerations in finding a place, including how the heck your guests are going to get there; with many out-of-town/state guests without cars, we had to do something in the city. We could have gone to my hometown and saved a bunch of money, but it wouldn’t have been worth it when we considered the hassle and expense for our friends and family. The one good tip I can give you is, if you are looking for a pretty traditional wedding venue, look for non-profit spaces–much less expensive than for-profit ones of similar quality. We used the Village Ballroom, and it was amazing. Very pretty, accommodating, and we got to choose the local charity to which our profits went. Good job, Portland.

If it is something that would suit your needs, you can also check out local parks–most of them have spaces the you can reserve specifically for weddings, on the cheap. But be aware that you’d have to provide pretty much everything except the ground, and lots of them won’t let you bring chairs. We did consider the picnic blanket option, when we were still thinking of doing it all outside, though.  Also note, parks are a little out of your control. Still public spaces, even if you did reserve.

Music

There is no reason you shouldn’t use an  ipod/playlist on a laptop, if you want to. MTT worked for months on ours, and it was absolutely perfect, and free. Everyone commented on how good the music was.

Rings

Spending a bunch of money on an engagement ring is dumb. Well, okay, that’s my opinion. But, even if you love a nice jewel, be aware that there is major money saving potential here. Our rings: $22, total. One for me, one for him. (Make sure that anyone who you think may be proposing to you knows your preferences, ring-wise, before they go shopping. I talked for years about how much I’d hate to wear a ring with any kind of stone, and MTT knew I’d poop my pants [um, in a bad way] if he spent a lot of money on a ring). And, by the way, my ring is awesome, and responsible, and won’t get caught on stuff all the time, and if I lose it it isn’t such a big deal.

Flowers 

The flowers above are what we used for centerpieces and boutonnieres/corsages. I made them for under $20 (for the paper) for about 150 flowers total. Here’s how: cut 2 pieces of paper into triangle shapes about 3″ (equilateral-ish, don’t ya know). Roll them up into a cone shape. Hot glue together, hot glue onto a stick.

My mom did go all fancy with the bouquets. I didn’t really care if I had them, but she really (really really really) wanted me to, and she paid for it! (NOTE: if it doesn’t matter very much to you, just give in to your mom sometimes, okay?)

Dresses, Accessories, Oh My Goodness

I sewed the ties, which was tricky, but cost about $4 each in the end. Use a pattern!

The classic gift for groomsmen is a watch, but we couldn’t possibly afford to buy a bunch of watches that were nice enough to give as gifts. (We love you guys enough to buy $200 gifts if we could have, though). So. We bought a bunch of old watches from thrift shops (one bag of 7 watch faces for $3, and several of them worked), replaced all of the batteries, and made straps out of leftover tie fabric and those snaps that you hammer on. And they looked like real watches in the end!

I made my dress in about 10 hours (1 day) and for about $60. I copied a dress I liked from a store. I am not that great at sewing, I just do it a lot. If you think you might be able to pull it off, it’s totally worth it to try.

I made the flower girl dress from fabric I had lying around, and the flower boy’s suit was $10 at Goodwill. We both got our shoes at Goodwill, too–mine were $2.50.

The flowers in the ladies’ hair were made from scraps, using this tutorial, hot glue, and bobby pins.

Eat and Drink!

The eating and drinking part can be really expensive. We were lucky; my dad paid for beer, my mom paid for wine (and got some for free, she’s got connections!) and food, and we were able to use plates and silverware from my mom’s restaurant. We did simple food–tiny sandwich fixin’s, fruit and veggies. I think everyone had plenty to eat, and it was great that it worked as snacks or a meal. We used jars for glasses, which were cheap and which I’ll use for canning in the future. I made cloth napkins from fabric I bought with a gift card, and the napkin sets doubled as favors.

We made the cupcakes, too, and that process was crazy, but one of the most fun parts of all of the prep. All of my lady friends (who weren’t already staying with us) came over and we turned our house into a cupcake factory.

Photography

If you’ve got someone you know who can do your photos for you, you’re a lucky dog (but, hey, pay them back somehow, okay?). If you do decide to go the professional route, look for someone who charges a flat rate and gives you full printing rights (as in, they don’t print anything for you, you send it all to walgreens or whatever). Our fabulous lady charged $550 (eep!), no time limits, gave us discs of all of our photos to print at our leisure, and included a free engagement shoot with our dog. All of the photos here except for the flower-making and the watches are from her.

The Marrying Part

One of MTT’s best buddies did the ceremony for us, and we’re so glad! It was more personal, we got to write the ceremony with him, and it’s free to get ordained online with the Universal Life Church. Check laws in your county to make sure it’s allowed.

That’s what friends are for

Ask for help! DIY is a lot easier if you’ve got a team working with you. Our wonderful friends and family helped out a lot. They set everything up at the venue. They helped with craft stuff beforehand. They put labels on hundreds of jars. They cut branches, bought us coffee, frosted cupcakes, steamed our clothes, controlled the sound system, exercised the dog, performed the ceremony! If you’ve got friends and family who are willing to help out, accept the help! Count their help as their gift, or make sure to return the favor in the future.

The whole point of the Big Wedding for us was to involve important friends and family, and it was wonderful to have them  be a part of all of the elements, instead of just being there for the party. Even aside from the money-saving aspect, we got to make something that really felt like ours, and it couldn’t have been better.


Today, my horoscope in the Oregonian (to which we are currently receiving an un-asked-for free trial) said this:

“Unless you are in the government, you simply cannot keep spending money you do not have without dire repercussions.”

Come on!

Though it did make me spend less than I might have on my big shopping trip today. Nothing like a little guilt…

Power to the People

May 26, 2011

So, this may sound like a bad stand-up routine, but why would you pay for a gym membership so you can ride the exercise bike, and then drive to the store? Or worse yet, drive to the gym (oh–as they say–snap!)? Why pay to make things physically easier, and then have to exercise (maybe paying for that, too) because you’re always sitting around?

Maybe people just don’t think of it that way, but they probably ought to. I have an ongoing fantasy where, for one day, a pioneer (think Oregon Trail) travels through time to hang out with me, and I spend all day showing them fancy technological gizmos and watch them balk at how much things cost (thanks, Margaret Peterson Haddix). I think about this a lot. And I love picturing how they’d crack up when I tell them about exercising. Maybe terribly historically inaccurate, but I’m not going for realistic, here.

Anyway, the exercise thing isn’t really the point. The point is, if you can do something by your own steam, do it. Good for you, good for your wallet, good for the planet and all that jazz. I drilled this awesome umbrella hole in our picnic table with a hand drill. It was hard. But very satisfying. So is sawing with a hand saw. And hand tools are much more inexpensive than power tools.

So ride your bike or walk to the store! Mow the lawn with a reel mower! Save money, feel better.

Even the dog is on board.

Paradigm Shift…

May 26, 2011

Okay, maybe that title is a bit dramatic.

But I just want to say that I’m going to (try) to revise how I post, to some extent. I’ve been treating this blog a bit like emails to out-of-town friends–if I don’t have a lot of really important stuff to say, or an hour to sit down and write it all out, I put it off until I do (p.s. sorry friends!).

But I’m going to start posting little things, more frequently.

Cool?