Sunday, January 1, 2012

Living South of Lake Pontchartrain and How To Make Sauerkraut

Okay, two posts in one.  I'll start with the first.  I live "south of the lake".  Really, south of New Orleans.  Lake Pontchartrain is a fairly large lake north of New Orleans that is spanned by the world's longest continuous bridge over water.  The bridge is called the "Causeway", and I spent many an anxious night as a very young girl peering at the tail lights of the car in front of us as we traveled home on this bridge from some late night Bible Conference that my Pastor Father loved to attend.

My secret childish fear was that a concrete span surely one day would break and simply fall into the lake, and all the unsuspecting drivers would like lemmings fall over it's cement edge.  I wonder if my Father ever knew his tired little girl struggled to keep her eye lids open on those long late nights.   For surely my alertness would save the whole family from plunging into lake Pontchartrain and sending all our souls to a horrible watery grave.  My plan was to scream loudly  if the preceding car's tail lights suddenly disappeared thus causing my Father to slam the brakes and save us from an early demise.

Now, I love to cross the causeway.   There's always a sailboat or someone trawling.  The water shimmers and glistens and on a really windy day there are white caps.  But, once you get south of Lake Pontchartrain.....climate wise....things change.  Slightly milder weather allows citrus to be planted in the ground, and unless a once in 25 year freeze happens, your trees grow larger and more productive each year.

Today I was marveling at the abundance I find in my garden.  It's no wonder that the city is called "The Big Easy".  So much of living here is so easy.  The abundance, the food, the exuberance, the special brand of Jazz, the closeness of families.....many things.  I've looked at blogs from way north and marveled at the blankets of frost and snow that cover their landscapes.  Like squirrels people work at preserving the bounty of their garden for winter consumption.

I too love to can.  I canned green beans, carrots, pickled cauliflower, preserves and fruit of all types.  I dry produce and freeze it....but sometimes it seems as if I rarely use these wonderful put ups.  Fresh fruit and veggies from the garden always come first when planning my menu for the next few days.  And, they always are available!  Of course I want to feed my family the freshest foods first.  

Such as beets boiled until tender and sprinkled with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar, coleslaw made from a fresh picked cabbage, salsa from the green onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, lemon, lime, and onion (yes, I'm still picking them), cauliflower omelets, yummy tennis ball lettuce salad, greens and cornbread, sugared pecans, roasted carrots with deer roast, boiled turnips and the list really goes on and on.....

With the winter abundance our local climate gives I rarely find a reason to use the canned items I have hoarded on the top my large dish cabinet (not really a china cabinet).  I find preserving berries is the most useful of all since they are so perishable.  Jams, butters, and frozen (especially frozen blueberries).  Dehydrating herbs is really nice too.  Especially garlic and parsley.  I'd rather use herbs fresh if possible.  yet sweet basil is too tender for even our mild climate.  But the other things I've canned....useful?....not so much.  I'm actually trying to work them in to keep them from being on top of the cabinet for too long. 

So what's a girl to do?  What's the best thing to do.  I think I've narrowed down the best things for preserving and storing in our climate.   The can pretty much get local or grow yourself all year.  Here goes:

The List of The Best Things To Preserve, Freeze or Dehydrate if You Live in or Around New Orleans:

Canned tomatoes
fruit butters
dilly beans
frozen purple hull peas
frozen Lima beans
frozen baby green beans
frozen corn
frozen blueberries
dried basil
dried parsley
dried mushrooms
dried garlic (a small creole variety I have keeps fresh pretty well)
homegrown popcorn
dried onion

That's all...I think.  What is available fresh in the yard right now is too numerous to completely list.  Some examples are:  All types of greens, carrots, lettuces, herbs, cabbage, broccoli, Romanesque, cauliflower, green onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, kale, collards, turnips, beets, onion, winged bean, arugula, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, satsumas, pecans.  So.......... fresh it is for the "Big Easy"!

Some pecans recently shelled.
Sample of what's up in the gardens......
Now on to the second post:  How To Make Sauerkraut

When I was growing up sauerkraut was for hot dogs and Rueben sandwiches...yum.  My husband family eats it cooked as a side to go with sausages and paneed, breaded and fried pork.  They love it, and they are certainly not German.  Growing so much cabbage has made me interested in trying my hand at making sauerkraut....So, Byron, finding this out, bought me a really awesome 10 liter Harsch fermenting crock.  Yea!!

So, let the experiment begin.  Wow, look at that opening.  How does this work?
First, thinly shred the fresh cabbage.
Oh, by the way, here are all the pieces to the crock, the crock itself, the weighting stone, and the lid.
After shredding the cabbage, sprinkle a little salt on layers of cabbage.  A few tablespoons will do.  After sprinkling the salt, mix thoroughly while crushing the cabbage.  Exert lots of pressure, this helps the cabbage release it's juices and create it's own brine.  If the cabbage doesn't release enough water you can make a brine by boiling water and adding salt.

Once done with the above step, put the cabbage and it's brine into the clean crock.  Put a fresh washed large cabbage leaf on top and then the stone to weigh down the mixture underneath the brine. The brine should cover the cabbage nicely.
Next put on the lid and fill the moat surrounding the lid with water.  As the mixture sits, check and make sure the water in the moat doesn't evaporate.  Add more if needed.  See the little mouse hole in the lid (that's what I call it)  The water level should cover that.  It will allow gasses to escape, but keep the mixture sealed.

Then......Wait....six weeks.....I'll let you know how it turns out.  Keep your fingers crossed for good results!


JeanSkirtGirl said...

Wow can't wait to see when it's ready to eat!!! It's is nice to grow your own carrots onions and all kinds of foods when you put your mind to it great job sister kristi nices pics love carmencita

Hana said...

My parents (in Europe) always made Sauerkraut. They just shredded it added some secret ingredient pickling juice and canned it. The best Sauerkraut I have ever eaten though. It is not too sour, almost a bit sweet. Very mild. We too eat it as a side dish, warm, with caraway seeds.

Texan said...

I have this crock as well! I have only used it once thus far for kraut. But plan to try it again this year for fermented pickles! I think I let the water get to low possibly. I am quite sure the error was on my part as these crocks have such a wonderful reputation! I usually can kraut in jars and it always turns out perfect. I can't wait to hear how yours does.
Being it is such a great size I also use my crock for when I need to soak pickles or vegetables in a brine before canning :O). Its great for that as well.

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

First of all Kristi , Happy New Year :o) and every thing looks good..I like your Sauerkraut pot...I used something different..and I also tried the Jars..the jars looked best..the other doesn't look so hot and I think we are shying away from eating it . although it tastes pretty good...Good luck with yours I'll be checking to find out :o)

Hana said...


I was reading through some of your old posts and I noticed that you started planing in January. You planted seeds or plants? Or did you start the seeds outside. I know that January and February are the coldest months here.
I would appreciate your help, my broccoli did very badly last year :-(
Living Uptown NOLA

Kristi said...


I am making plans for spring now. I am planting tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds. These will make transplants for spring and give me a jump on the season. If I don't plant the tomatoes very early they will be destroyed by caterpillars and stink bugs (I do occasionally use bt for caterpillars). Squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, flowers, corn, okra, peas, melons and beans will be planted as early as possible directly in the ground.

Broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, greens, cabbage, beets, lettuce, sweet peas, carrots, kale, turnips, radishes are all considered cold season crops here and must be planted in september - october. They do really well even during a light freeze. Sometimes I plant a later crop in December or January of those crops that mature fairly fast such as beets, greens and turnips. The winter is so productive here. Love the winter.

I find that the hottest months of July and August are the least productive. Mostly herbs, okra, peppers, melons and eggplant.

I do experiment and try to push the seasons here. Sometimes I suceed and sometimes not. Growing from seeds makes these mistakes not too and time are a bit costly. But it's worth it to me to learn what I can and can't do in our climate and the micro climates around my home.

I'll have to do some posts on each crop and my expieriences with them in our zone.

Sometimes my failures teach me the most. I'd love to know how your garden in nola is doing.


Hana said...

My garden? Ha! I planted zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, parsley,and basil. I got them all as plants from Jefferson feed sometimes in February or march. Everything grew like CRAZY. The zucchini completely took over a whole veggie bed, killing the parsley. Not a fruit in sight though. I pulled them out to give the tomatoes some space. Had 5 ft tall tomato plants with a ton of green tomatoes when they got some disease (possibly blight) and all died. Broccoli got really tall but wold not flower till august or so. And small heads. Bell peppers and basil are doing great. I kept both in the ground and today I picked two more bell peppers. Basil had leaves till the end of November. My chicken stopped laying, which is a bummer.