Friday, January 21, 2011

A Story of Rutabega, Cabbage and Saurkraut YUM!

This story starts on my bicycle.

In December I rode my bike in search of two rare birds that had been seen near the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in the Fraser Valley. Ah... farm fields, local production of food, snow geese, and the largest wintering population of raptors in Canada.

I digress on birds:
See, I was on a personal challenge in 2010 to count the bird species I could find without using any motors. The answer is 183! (Tho including public transit I saw 232!) I wrote about biking and birding in Momentum Magazine, and this is the link to the bird article. Anyways, I did see the birds I went looking for that day (a Northern Hawk Owl and a Yellow Chat). the edge of a farmers field I also saw truck-sized piles which were surprisingly coloured... one green, and two purple. Hunh?

(LT and a fraction of our salvaged cabbages and rutabaga's)

The answer is CABBAGES! Hundreds of pounds of offcuts from cabbages after the harvest.

The compost piles were mostly outer leaves, sliced off and left to turn back into dirt. There were also many cabbages that were minorly damaged, sliced by harvest machinery, or with spots of blemish. One pile was entirely rutabaga, with some kind of miner insect that had scarred their surfaces.

Now these piles were up to my head. They were big. This was serious. What should I do?

Did you know in France there are laws that permit gleaning in the fields after the harvest? It is a tradition, and it is mandatory that owners allow access to their fields post harvest, or so I learned from a great film called "the Gleaners and I", by Agnes Varda.

I digress on tresspass:
I salvage from urban dumpsters, which is technically trespassing. But now the question of whether to salvage from Farmer's fields? I believe it is one thing to trespass from an urban corporate back alley, but I tremble at the thought of doing injury to an individual farmer or their family. How could I know if this is an individual family farm, or a corporately owned farm? I want to do no harm to individuals. Even individually-owned farms are subject to the pricing of the industrial food system. I wonder if these rutabegas were out-competed by some rutabegas from california? Can I justify this trespass???

So I filled my bicycle panniers, rode to the bus stop and come home (probably with the most weight I have ever carried on my bicycle). Several days later a car-trip was taken to the field, inspired by a story told by Sister Chan Khong about a Monastery in Vietnam during the war, where hundreds of people survived an entire year by eating pickled vegetables that has beed donated. The monks and nuns had spent a week processing them themselves.

We can do this, we thought!

Saurkraut & salted vegetables.
These are the old ways which have allowed people to survive for centuries without depending on industrial food systems.

Step 1: Prepare the food for storage. Cut off damage and exterior leaves. Likes 95% humidity and air movement, so we've got it outside on the back porch. Vancouver is perfect for this! The photo above is Travis preparing the veg's for longer term storage. We made the kimchi and kraut together one afternoon in December.

Step 2: chop! For our Kraut we used about 1/3 grated rutabaga (traditionally when salted is called Saurueben) to 2/3 red cabbage chopped finely. The Kimchi was a bit untraditional as we used red cabbage rather than savoy. Added carrots, black radish, garlic and chilles. Plus Salt.

Fortunately, our resident fermenting expert Kyle, aka Garliq was at home, who provided the instructions on massaging, appropriately salting, and weighting the kraut to make it perfect. (Check out Garliq's website The Living Medicine Project)

Step 3: Pack the Kraut fiercely, and store under a plate with weight on top. Cover and tie with a bit of bicycle innertube. My hands are appreciated for this labour of love and transformation!

Step 4: It's working! Wait for a few weeks, or sample whenever you like.

EAT IT!!! We've got rutabaga-garlic pickles, kimchi, and saurkraut with caraway seeds. Li and I just finished a second batch of kraut because our first one is already gone. In jars in the fridge makes it easy to pull out at meals. Hard to keep the jars full around here!

1 comment:

  1. Quite an accomplishment, you should all be proud! :-)