Pointed Cabbage & Fennel Sauerkraut

It’s that time of year when we have cabbages coming out of our ears. Sauerkraut is a really simple and safe way to not only preserve, but to also enhance the nutritional value of these humble vegetables. It just so happens that we have a bumper crop of fennel too so we’ve been making my favourite fennel and cabbage kraut on repeat, and you can too! All you need is a big glass jar, a smaller jar or glass that fits inside it, salt, cabbage and fennel.

Don’t be intimidated by the science behind fermentation. It can feel a little counter-intuitive to encourage microbes to thrive and multiply, but microbes are an essential part of us and part of a healthy world. We would not be here without them, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to grow our organic vegetables without them making our soil healthy and teaming with life. Eating fermented vegetables like this sauerkraut is scientifically proven to boost your gut health, which has a positive knock on effect to your overall health and wellbeing.

Sauerkraut is very simple. Just mix shredded cabbage (and fennel too in this recipe) with enough salt to make it pleasantly salty, pack it tightly into a clean jar and weigh it down so that the vegetables stay safely submerged in brine. Allow fermentation to happen at room temperature for about a week, then remove the weight and pop your jar of tangy, pickley goodness into the fridge to have as a side or sandwich filler to many meals over the coming months.

Liz x

Ingredients

Method

  1. Find some large jars and give them a really good clean and a hot rinse. You can sterilise if you like but it is not strictly necessary.
  2. Give your vegetables a rinse to remove any dirt. Carefully peel off and reserve a couple of outer leaves of your cabbage.
  3. Finely shred your remaining cabbage and the fennel bulbs using a sharp knife, a mandolin or a food processor. Place the shredded vegetables into a large, clean mixing bowl.
  4. Sprinkle over the salt then use your hands to tumble the salt through the shredded vegetables. Once it is evenly dispersed, start squeezing and massaging the salt with the shredded vegetables.
  5. You will soon notice that the salt is drawing liquid out of the vegetables and the vegetables are decreasing in volume. Taste a spoon of the mixture and decide if you would like to add more salt or not. It should just taste pleasantly salty.
  6. The mixture is ready to pack into the jar when it is very wet. You can test this by picking up a large handful and squeezing. There should be loads of lovely brine dripping from your hands into the bowl.
  7. Pack the mixture very firmly into the jar. It’s best to do this a couple of handfuls at a time so that you can push down each layer nice and tight. You want to ensure that no air pockets are in the jar. Use your fist if it fits in the jar, otherwise a clean rolling pin is perfect for poking and packing down the mixture.
  8. Keep going until you have used all the mixture or until you have at least an inch of headroom left in the jar. You don’t want to overfill it! But do include the brine that the salt has drawn from the vegetables. The more brine the better!
  9. Now grab those outer leaves you reserved earlier. Break them to size, they should be just bigger than the surface area of the packed cabbage and fennel mixture. Tuck a leaf carefully into a jar and push it neatly over the shredded veg mixture but under the brine. The aim is to prevent any little bits of shredded veg from floating up to the surface of the brine and catching mould. The brine should rise above the cabbage leaf and all the shredded bits should be safely tucked underneath it. You may be able to push the edges of the cabbage leaf down against the sides of the jar to really tuck the mixture in. Try use a spoon or your fingers.
  10. Pick off any floating bits of shredded vegetables and clean up your jar with a piece of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Then add a weight to weigh down the cabbage leaf which will keep everything safely submerged in brine. You can use anything that will be food safe and not be affected by the salt. So a smaller glass jar filled with water is good – just ensure the metal side does not touch the salty brine or it can corrode. Another good option is to use a small water glass or glass ramekin. If it fits right, putting the lid on the jar should pin the glass down and keep everything submerged.
  11. Put the lid on the jar. If you are using a clip-top jar, remove the rubber seal first, this will allow gases to escape during fermentation and there will be non need to ‘burp’ your jars. If you are using a screw top jar you will need to ‘burp’ your jar twice a day by carefully loosening then tightening the lid. You should hear the gases escape and see bubbles rising to the top of the ferment.
  12. Keep the jar on a plate or tray to catch any spills, at room temperature for 1 week. Not in direct sunlight. It’s best to ‘burp’ over the sink in case you have a very active ferment. It should be very active and bubbly between days 2 and 4/5 then it will calm down. If the action of the bubbles causes your ferment to rise above the brine, just use a clean hand or utensil to push everything back down under brine and carry on.
  13. After a week your sauerkraut should be tangy and delicious. Remove the weight and the cabbage leaf. Replace the rubber seal if using a clip top jar, put the lid back on and place the jar in the fridge.
  14. Your sauerkraut should stay fresh in the fridge for at least 3 months but often up to 1 year! To make it last well, do not double dip and move into smaller, clean jars as you work your way down the big jar. This means less air in the jar and less chance of it drying out and getting susceptible to mould.
The just-packed jar before I removed the floating bits of cabbage and fennel. You can just about see the cabbage leaf and glass which is holding the bulk of the shredded veg under brine.
The finished product after a week of fermenting at room temperature.

Steamed Artichokes & Asparagus with Wild Garlic Butter

I love perennial vegetables and think we should all be eating more of them! Perennials are vegetables and fruits which are planted once and come back year after year. They could be a key solution in the fight against hunger and climate change. Perennials develop longer, more stabilising roots than annual crops. That and the fact that there is no digging once they are planted means they are the best crops for soil health. Their long, undisturbed root systems have also been shown to sequester carbon in the soil. Undisturbed crops like artichokes, especially organically grown ones, create wildlife havens and putting back a balance of biodiversity in any agricultural land is so important!

So add perennials like asparagus and artichokes (rhubarb, fruits, nuts, olives…) to your order whenever they are in season to show your support to this climate friendly type of farming and to enjoy the incredible flavour and nutrition that comes along with them. Here’s my favourite way to enjoy these two crops every spring. It’s so simple and so delicious.

Liz x

Getting close to the tender heart of the artichoke

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 globe artichokes
  • 1 bundle of asparagus
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • wild garlic butter (wild garlic blended with butter)
  • toast and cheese (I used my fermented cashew cheese)

Method

Rinse the asparagus and artichokes and get a pot of water under your steamer basket on the hob. I like to add lemon slices, garlic and bay leaves to the steaming water to infuse into the vegetables.

Prepare the artichokes. Slice an inch or so off the tops, remove any small leaves on the steam and trim the steam leaving a good inch or two still attached to the flower head. Use kitchen scissors to cut the spiky top off all the outer petals. You can also use a potato peeler or a sharp knife to peel the stalk.

Put the artichokes into the steamer basket, replace the lid and allow them to steam for at least 20 minutes. They are done when you can easily pull a petal off.

Prepare the asparagus spears by simply snapping off the woody ends. Carefully bend the end and it should break off just past the dried out, tougher woody ends. Those can go in the compost bin or into the freezer to be used in a homemade veggie stock.

Once the artichokes are steamed, add the asparagus spears to the steamer and cook them for just 3-5 minutes or so until they are tender but still with some bite.

Serve with melted wild garlic butter or your choice of dip (aioli, salsa verde, hollandaise, vinaigrette…) and some toast and cheese. I melted a slice of wild garlic butter for each of us and can highly recommend it.

Eat the artichokes by pulling off one petal at a time and dipping it in the melted butter. Then scrape off the tender part with your teeth and keep going until you reach the heart.

On top of the heart is a fibrous, hairy ‘choke’. Scrape this off using a teaspoon or a knife.

Then eat the delicious heart and as much of the stem that is tender.

The petals and choke can then be composted. Have a bowl on the table to collect them in as you go.

The asparagus is also incredible dunked in the wild garlic butter. Enjoy!

Pak Choi Kimchi

Like all fermented vegetables, kimchi is incredibly good for you. Luckily it’s mind-blowingly delicious too…and very easy to make yourself. I’ve made it with pak choi, seaweed and little radishes this time but you can play around with the ingredients and make it your own. Use local, seasonal vegetables for the best results. Here’s my quick tutorial video so you can see how easy it is to make yourself. Loads more fermenting inspiration in my book which is available to add to your veg order here. Any questions? Pop a comment down below and I’ll get back to you asap. Liz x

Ingredients

  • 2 large pak choi
  • 2 bundles of radishes
  • 1 handful of dried seaweed
  • 1 tbsp natural salt
  • 3 fresh chillies (or dried to taste)
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic

Method

Gather and rinse your ingredients. Find a large jar, a chopping board, a sharp knife, a spoon, a rolling pin, a blender, a mixing bowl and a small jar or glass that fits snugly inside your large jar. Ensure all your equipment is nice and clean – no need to sterilise.

Reserve an outer leaf or two from your pak choi. These will be used as ‘followers’ at the end of the recipe.

Slice the rest of the pak choi into bite sized pieces and put them in the large bowl.

Thinly slice the radishes and add them to the bowl too.

Rinse and slice the seaweed too (if you are using nori, no need to rinse first) and add it to the bowl.

Add the salt to the bowl and use your hands to tumble the ingredients and evenly disperse the salt. Sit the bowl to one side to give the salt time to dissolve and start drawing brine out of the vegetables.

Meanwhile make the spice paste. Take the green stalks off the chillies and roughly chop them. Put them in a blender. Peel and chop the ginger and add that to the blender too. Peel the garlic and then blend the 3 ingredients together into a bright space paste.

Taste the salted vegetables and add more salt if needed. They should taste pleasantly salty and should now look wet and wilted. If they are too salty, add some more vegetables eg grated carrot or another pak choi.

Mix the spice paste through the salted vegetables. Be careful not to get any on your bare skin. Wear gloves or use a spoon.

Then pack the mixture carefully and firmly into the large jar. Use the rolling pin to tamp down each new layer to ensure no air pockets are left in the jar. Leave at least an inch or two of head room in the jar.

Now cover the chopped vegetables with the ‘followers’ (the leaves you reserved earlier). Tuck everything neatly in under the brine. Use the spoon to help tuck the leaves down the sides of the jar and ensure no little floaty bits are above the brine.

Weigh down the ‘followers’ with a small glass/jar/ramekin. See the video above for more details.

Then close the jar – if you are using a clip top jar, remove the rubber seal to allow gases to escape, otherwise just close a regular jar loosely or remember to ‘burp’ the jar every day to allow gases to escape by briefly opening and closing it.

Put the jar on a tray or in a bowl to catch any overspill and set it on a dark shelf to ferment at room temperature for at least one week. Keep an eye on it. Does it need burping? If so, do it over the sink! Have the gases caused the veg to rise up above the brine? If so push the weight down to expel and air bubbles and get everything neatly under brine again.

After one week at room temperature, taste your kimchi. It should be tangy, spicy and delicious. If you are happy with the tang-level, remove the weight and pop the jar in the fridge. It should last well for at least one month, if not many more.

*Tips to make your fermented food last longer in the fridge: No double dipping! Consider transferring the ferment to smaller jars before refrigerating.

Fermented Onions

Fermented onions are pickled onions funky cousin. They are much easier to make than the traditional pickled onion and taste amazing. And as an added bonus, like all fermented vegetables, they are incredibly good for you! I use these beautiful, tangy onions on loads of dishes, from dals to tacos. How will you use yours? Liz x

A quick video tutorial for you.

Ingredients

  • onions (a mix of red and white or just one or the other)
  • natural salt
  • optional herbs/spices (eg bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds, juniper berries, thyme, rosemary, chilli… anything you like)
  • a cabbage leaf (or something similar)

Method

Gather your ingredients and a clean jar, knife, measuring jug, measuring spoons and chopping board. There is no need to sterilise, but do make sure everything you are working with is nice and clean and well rinsed.

Make a basic brine in your measuring jug and put it aside to fully dissolve while you prepare the jar of vegetables. ***The basic brine recipe is 1.5 tbsp salt dissolved in 1 litre of water.*** If you are making just a small jar then halve or quarter the recipe.

Add a pinch of whatever pickling spices or herbs you’d like to flavour your pickled onions with to the jar.

Then peel and slice your onions and add them to the jar. Red onions, or a mix of red and white, will give you beautiful, bright pink fermented onions. Plain white are delicious too of course. Leave about an inch of head room in the jar.

Then pour the brine into the jar ensuring you cover the onions when they are pressed down, but still leave a little head space in the jar.

Pin the chopped onions down under the brine with the cabbage leaf. You may need to break it to size. Try and tuck it neatly under the shoulders of the jar so that everything is safely tucked under brine. Any floating bits of onion will be exposed to air and are at risk of going mouldy so tuck them under the cabbage leaf ‘follower’.

Add a weight on top of the cabbage leaf if it looks like it will float up over the brine. This needs to be something that is not corrosive when in contact with salt and water. Glass is ideal in this situation so a smaller jar or a glass ramekin is perfect. Otherwise you can buy specialist glass weights for this purpose.

Place the lid loosely on the jar to allow gases to escape during fermentation. If your lid does not fit over the weight, then cover the jar with a tea towel and secure it with string/elastic.

Put the jar in a bowl or on a tray on a shelf for one week to ferment at room temperature. It’s best not in direct sunlight as that would cause too many fluctuations in temperature.

Taste the onions after 1 week. They should taste vinegary and delicious, a lot like pickled onions. If you are happy with the flavour, remove the weight and follower and keep the jar in the fridge. Otherwise let it carry on fermenting at room temperature until you are happy with the flavour.

The onions should last for a long time in the fridge, at least a month but usually much much longer. Just keep an eye on them and no double dipping! Enjoy!

5 Ways to Stop Food Waste

At the farm , rescue pigs George and Florence enjoy any food waste we incur.

When we think of food waste, throwing out a wobbly carrot or a bruised apple, we usually just think of it as a waste of a few cents. But food waste is actually one of the largest contributors to climate change. Growing, processing and transporting food uses significant resources, so if food is wasted then those resources are wasted too. It is estimated that globally, around 1.4 billion hectares of land is used to grow food which is then wasted. That’s a lot of land that could be returned to the wild and a lot of wasted food emitting methane as it rots. If food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

A brilliant article on the subject of food waste has just recently been published in the Irish Times. Read it here. The article was sponsored by the brilliant initiative, Food Cloud which redistributes food waste in Ireland to those in need. Please do check them out and see how you can get involved.

I’ve been asking you for your food waste prevention tips and tricks over the last few weeks (thank you for those – can you spot your tips below?) and after collecting them all I’ve realised that they boil down to 5 main themes.

Here are some of your brilliant food waste tips, thank you! Please add anything I’ve missed in the comments.

1. Plan & Prepare

  • Write a menu for the week before shopping and only buy what you need. Or if you get a weekly veg box delivered then write a menu as you unpack the box and stick it on your fridge.
  • Plan to use up delicate ingredients with a shorter shelf life first. Things like salads, herbs and greens first, save the hardier root vegetables for later in the week.
  • Before you buy even more fresh food, shop from your own fridge, freezer and pantry. How many more meals can you make with what you already have? Delay the next shop as long as possible.
  • If you know you don’t have much time for cooking, spend some time meal prepping:
  • Cook batches of soups/stews/bakes, freeze them in portions to be taken out when you need them.
  • Make yourself a sort of ‘fridge buffet’ which you can dip into for lunches – separate boxes of cooked grains, roasted veg, dips, dressings – for food safety, only do 3 days worth at a time.
  • Pre-wash and chop all the veg you need for your menu so that when you come to cook it’s much quicker. But be careful doing this kind of prep as chopped veg doesn’t last as long as whole. Only do this 3 days in advance maximum.

2. Storage

  • Learn how best to store different fruits, herbs and vegetables so that they stay fresh longer. 
  • Should they be in the fridge or in a dark cupboard or a fruit bowl? Do they need to be in water to stay fresh longer? Are they better in or out of their packaging? Is it better to store them muddy or clean?
  • Always rotate! Put new ingredients behind older ones and use up the old ingredients first.
  • If you don’t eat a lot of bread, store sliced bread in the freezer and just take out a few slices at a time when you need it.

3. Eat ‘Root to Shoot’

  • Think to yourself, ‘does this really need to be peeled?’. Probably not. Especially if you are using our organic produce. Also, by not peeling you get the maximum nutrition and fibre out of the veg.
  • Question which parts of the vegetables you are discarding. Cauliflower and broccoli leaves and stalks are all edible and delicious. Carrot tops are a brilliant parsley-like herb substitute. Beetroot leaves can be eaten like chard. Mushroom stalks are edible. The core of cabbages can be finely sliced and added to stir fries. The dark green tops of leeks and spring onions are edible…
  • Any clean peelings and offcuts you do have can be collected in a box in the freezer. When you have enough to fill your largest pot, you can simmer them in water to make a tasty and nutritious stock.

4. Love Your Leftovers 

  • Have a strict rule that any leftovers from dinner must be eaten for lunch the next day (or frozen for another meal).
  • Find imaginative ways to repurpose your leftovers into another meal. Can it be turned into a soup or a curry or a pasta sauce? Can it be baked into a pie or a frittata? Would it be nice in a wrap or a sandwich? Can it be bulked out with some more fresh veg and simply eaten again?
  • Make croutons or breadcrumbs with stale bread or the bread ends you would otherwise throw out.

5. Preserve Any Excess

  • If you have a glut of a certain fruit or vegetable, find out the best way to preserve it:
  • Make chutney, jam or pickles? There are endless recipes online for inventive ways to make delicious jars of tangy chutneys and pickles and sweet jams. 
  • Lacto-ferment? Using just salt and a little know-how, transform your unused cabbages into sauerkraut or kimchi or your cucumber into sour dills. Any vegetable can be fermented. 
  • Freeze? Find out the best way to freeze your excess. Does it need blanching first?
  • Dry? Use a low oven or a dehydrator to dry out excess fruit or veg. Then rehydrate it when you need it (garlic, mushrooms, carrot slices…), eat it dry as a snack (apple rings, mango, kale crisps…) or blitz into powder and make your own bouillon (celery, onion, garlic, carrot, herbs, mushrooms…).

Please tell us how you avoid food waste in the comments. We’d love to share these top tips with our community. Liz x