Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Since our first crop of cucumbers and cabbage last year I have become increasingly interested in home pickling. While I have always liked a good half-dill from a Jewish deli or finely shredded German style sauerkraut with a grilled Bratwurst, making your own is a different business.

Back in March of 2008 I found myself captivated by a discussion on KCRW's
Good Food between the show's host Evan Kleiman and Local Forage co-editor Steven Fineberg about lacto-fermentation: a method of pickling vegetables that uses neither heat nor vinegar but rather natural fermentation processes. This method produces food that not only tastes delicious, but is also full of living microorganisms that are supposed to promote digestion, health, and overall well being. Plus it is simple and easy.

While Steve Fineberg uses whey from yogurt as a starter for his version, I did some additional reading and settled on a method given by Sandor Katz, self proclaimed "fermentation fetishist":

  • 1 head of cabbage (preferably from your garden)
  • Salt
  • medium size crock
  • plate (slightly smaller than the crock)
  • weight ( I used a mason jar filled with water and capped)
  • clean kitchen towel to cover the crock.
  1. Get a good chef's knife or mandolin and shred the cabbage as fine as you can get it.
  2. Take a handful of the cabbage and toss it in to your crock.
  3. Add a few pinches of salt and mash the cabbage with a potato masher or drink muddler.
  4. Repeat until all your cabbage is in the crock. Taste a piece. It should be briny but not overwhelming.
  5. Pack your cabbage well and place your plate down inside the crock on top of the cabbage. Place your weight on top of the plate and then cover the your crock with a towel. Place somewhere out of the way on your kitchen counter.
  6. Now this next point is critical: check your crock after 24 hours. The salt should pull enough moisture out of the cabbage to completely cover the cabbage and plate. If not mix some water and salt and add to the crock to cover the cabbage and plate by an inch or two. Check occasionally and skim any "blooms" off the surface. Don't worry, this is a natural part of the process.
  7. Wait a few weeks. Take some out to try - the flavors will continue to develop over time. You can take a little bit out at a time and place in a separate jar in the refrigerator.
That's it. It took me about 3 weeks of fermenting before I started to taste the unique properties of my sauerkraut. It is a bit sweet and sour and tangy and has an ineffable flavor unlike any store bought sauerkraut. This is simple rustic food at its best.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

A New Beginning

After five years living a quasi-urban loft experience in downtown LA - five years of fun, excitement, being part of something new, and living over an alley - we decided we needed to get some elbow room, a yard, and eventually a pet for that yard. We looked for a year. Starting our search in Echo Park, we slowly shifted to North East LA after every house we put an offer on went unreasonably over asking price. Ultimately we landed in Highland Park, more specifically Garvanza, on the Western edge of Pasadena. That was 2004.

The home we purchased was a 2 bedroom 1957 stucco on a 8250sf steeply sloping lot that was an unruly mess. The land was raw, weed strewn, overgrown, with collapsing terraces, rotting trees, and what seemed to be an old burn pile. But the bones were good and the yard had tons of potential and we set out to (slowly) make the house and yard into our home. Five years of blood, sweat, and tears. (No, seriously, there were tears.)

Fast forward five years. We have made a ton of progress: we now have a functioning vegetable garden; we have planted the first batch of fruit trees; we have an actual patio that we can hang out on. It is encouraging to see how far we've come and sometimes depressing to see how far we have to go...we still have half of our yard to plant....and then there is the house itself. Rancho Garbonzo can be a mixed bag. We're keeping our chins up!

We had always planned to start a blog to document our experiences but could never get it together. Mainly we couldn't think of a name. Well here's to a new beginning. We hope that this blog will serve as an inspiration to some (maybe to turn that weed patch into some juicy tomatoes?), perhaps an education to others (we are FULL of the what-not-to-dos!), a way to keep up with what we are up to, and a fun way for us to document our own progress. Stay tuned.