after heating up in a pan a slice of leftover armando anchovy and sausage pizza for lunch, i was ready to do some grocery shopping. it seemed a long time since i last visited market basket. i was just there monday of last week but only to buy some thai chili peppers for my kimchi recipe. but the last time i was there for groceries was back at the end of november. today i was there to get ingredients for two recipes i was making: sauerkraut and chicken corn chowder. i ended up getting $40 worth of food, with my two canvas shopping bags bulging to capacity. i slowly biked home.
i started with the sauerkraut first (2:40pm). i was basically following this recipe i found online a few weeks ago. making sauerkraut is very basic, all you need is a cabbage and some salt and a place for everything to ferment. cabbage is cheap and plentiful, i got a 2.49 lbs. green cabbage for $1.22 (unlike kimchi, which requires some special vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon radish, and garlic chives). i used my DIY fermenting mason jar with airlock instead of just letting the sauerkraut sit out in the open to ferment. i sliced the cabbage by hand, although in hindsight i could've used a mandolin slicer to speed things up.
to the shredded cabbage i added 1 tbsp of sea salt and 1 tbsp of caraway seeds. i never tried caraway seeds before. they're like a mix between cumin seeds and fennel seeds, with a minty anise flavor. i mixed everything by hand and let it sit. the recipe said to wait only 10 minutes but i ended up waiting an hour because i was making the chicken corn chowder.
an hour later the cabbage had reduced in size by about a half. i mixed everything again, squeezing and massaging the cabbage to make it more compact, before i started packing the cabbage into the 1-quart mason jar. it didn't seem like everything would fit, and i kept compacting the cabbage in the jar to make more room, until finally i managed to get all of it inside. i saved a piece of cabbage leaf earlier to use as a cover to prevent the shredded sauerkraut from floating up. i then screwed on the lid and added purified water (i.e. boiled then let cool overnight) to the airlock. let the fermenting begin!
3:15pm i embarked on my adventures in chowdering. i want to say this was my first time making chowder using the slow cooker, but i'd forgotten i'd done it before last year. i forgot to read my notes and repeated a lot of the same mistakes from last time. chowder requires bacon, but after i fry and add them to the crock pot, they turn soggy and unappetizing. preparing the bacon took the longest time, and afterwards made the house smell like bacon despite having the window open with a fan running.
i started a little late, since slow-cooking takes time, but i put the crock pot on high, hoping to get it done in about 4 hours. as for the crock pot, i actually found this one on the street last year. it's actually kind of small, just 4-quart, and not really expensive (only $20), so i could understand why the original owner just threw it away.
3 hours later, i shredded the chicken with a pair of forks. i let it slow cook for 2 more hours before finally adding 2 cups of half and half (essentially the whole carton) plus 2 tbsp of cornstarch. cornstarch didn't really seem to thicken the chowder, and the half and half began to curdle once heated. 30 minutes later the chowder was ready, or as ready as it was going to get.
i didn't eat until almost 9:30pm. the chowder was a little bland, even though i added some salt. the potato combined with the plain chicken breast enhanced the blandness. even after all that cooking, the potatoes were still only medium-soft. i heard russet potatoes break down more easily, i should try them next time. the oil and water liquids also has a tendency to separate, but that's fairly common with homemade chowder and doesn't really affect the flavor, just doesn't look appealing. there also wasn't a lot of sweetness compared to clam chowder (clams and its juices have a natural sweetness), despite the corn ingredient. maybe i should use cream corn next time instead of frozen kernels. a recipe to be revisited! in the meantime, i have enough chicken corn chowder for the rest of the week. despite the bland taste, you can't deny the heartiness of it, chock full of potatoes and chickens and milk and bacon and corn.
around 9pm i noticed something unusual was going on in the mason jar airlock. cabbage juice seemed to have push out from the jar into the airlock itself, in the form of a milky yellow liquid. 30 minutes later i saw the water level inside was even higher than before. soon it'd overflow.
the problem was i needed some sort of weight to keep the sauerkraut down. without something to keep it down, all the carbon dioxide produced from fermentation will push up the sauerkraut, forcing the liquid into the airlock, and then out. i didn't have anything i could use, but i read that a thick slice of apple might do the trick. just so happens freddy left a bag of apples in the fridge. i cut a slice, pushed down the sauerkraut, poured out some liquid, then added the apple weight. hopefully this will keep the airlock from overflowing again.
1 although i used 1 tbsp, i'd read in another recipe that said it should be 2 tsp for every 1 pound of cabbage. i guess i'll find out when the sauerkraut is finished and i can judge how salty or bland it is. 1 tbsp seemed to be enough for me, although i did let it reduce for an hour.