Pumkins in the Pantry

Lacto-fermentation Pumpkin Trials

It is the day after Halloween and the valley around me is waking up. The sun is just peeping over the ridge. It is reflecting off the gold and orange that is briefly dominating our landscape. Because we are in predominately conifer forest, this time of year the deciduous trees have just a few weeks to sing out their presence. As I look across the valley it appears as if there are many small bonfires scattered through the forest where the individual maples or oaks flame in their autumn color. The winding creek that rushes through the center of the valley is a ribbon of saffron yellow, and the female madrone trees are heavy with their small orange fruit. We string these like beads, they drape the windows were they will dry and decorate the view in the coming grey days.

Orange is considered a color that embodies the warmth of the sun and that is how is exactly how it feels to me. I have the sense that we are soaking up all that warmth to last us through the winter. This is especially happening in the pantry; the sweet meat winter squash and cinderella pumpkins are tucked on the slatted shelves and waiting to feed us slowly in the coming months. In the crocks there are squash krauts and pumpkin chutneys curing; they will add spice and comfort when served with hearty soups.

The photo I have chosen is from the squash and pumpkin trials I conducted a few years ago. From left to right: The chipotle squash kraut was amazing. The holiday kraut with pickled cranberries was also delicious. The squash chutney--definitely nice. The beautiful pumpkin pickles with cranberries--a disaster. The flavor was fine, the squishy chunks--well not so much.

I thought I would share our Holiday Kraut on this entry. It is a fun change to add to the Thanksgiving table.  Any winter squash will work though I prefer the sweet meat types of  squash. The first time I made it I began with whole cranberries that I had previously pickled. Now I make both ferments at the same time, and mix them together after they have both cured.

Pickled Cranberries

makes about a quart (assuming two 8-oz packages of cranberries)

1 - 2 packages fresh cranberries (one is enough, two will give you extra)
a few slices fresh ginger, or candied ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
brine: 1/4 cup salt to 1/2 gallon spring water
Place all of the ingredients into a crock or jar. Cover with the prepared brine. Be sure to use a weight that will keep all of the cranberries submerged. They really want to float, which makes sense since they are harvested by water that fills the bogs where they grow.
Ferment for 1 - 2 weeks.

Squash Kraut

makes approximately 2 quarts

1 - 2 medium heads cabbage
1 medium sized winter squash
3 - 4 tablespoons salt

Peel and grate the squash. Remove the outer leaves and core of the cabbage. Thinly slice or shred the cabbage.  The goal is to have roughly equal amounts of each.
In a large bowl mix together. Sprinkle in half of the salt and massage until the vegetables start to sweat. Taste. This is to make sure that you do not over salt the kraut. If you cannot taste salt slowly add more.  The goal is to taste the salt in a pleasant salty way, but never to be overwhelmed by the salt. If is good raw, it will be excellent fermented.

Massage the kraut mixture by kneading it with your hands until it is juicy.  Press into a crock or jar.  Make sure all of the vegetable is submerged under the resultant brine. Add weight and cover. On a counter this will ferment in about a week. It will be ready when it is still crunchy and pleasingly acidic.

To serve, mix cranberries into the kraut in a 1:4 ratio -- or whatever pleases you.

Kirsten Shockey