While we cling to the summer, still able to feel its heat in our bones, it's easy to smell the chill in the air and remember Rod Stewart's "...it's late September and I really should be back at school..." We got our first apples of the season last week and we've had evenings in the 40s.
I grew up eating sauerkraut - it's the one part of my mom's German heritage that stayed with her - we never had a holiday meal without a big bowl of it gracing the table. But, for all the kraut I've eaten in my life, I never made it myself. I got Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie for Christmas last year, and I've had my eye on the home-cured sauerkraut recipe ever since.
It couldn't be simpler: a salt water brine is poured over thinly sliced cabbage and it cures for two weeks under a cheesecloth cover. The end result is a bit tart and quite salty. A few nights ago I cooked it and rinsed it a few times in water before braising it in a pan. Still a bit salty, I thought.
My sister Mo used to swoon over country pork ribs and sauerkraut, emphatically telling our mom, "It's my favorite dinner!" with her honest eyes and dramatic voice. She might be right. I browned the ribs last night in my dutch oven, and the sauteed an onion in the fatty residue. Before I went to bed I added a layer of rinsed and drained sauerkraut and put it in the fridge. When I came home for lunch today I peeled and thinly sliced a tart apple, added another 1 1/2 quarts of rinsed and drained sauerkraut, a bay leaf, a few juniper berries, and a cup or two of water. My wife put it in the oven late in the afternoon, and when I got home the house smelled like heaven!
Last night, my wife and daughters drove up to Minneapolis to see Little House on the Prairie, the world premiere musical at the Guthrie Theater, and my son and I played baseball and then picked tomatoes and dug potatoes. Nice hard potatoes, which Meaghen threw into the oven as well. How can you not just love eating in September, when so much of what goes into our mouths is homegrown?
Oh, the kraut mellowed beautifully during the baking in the oven. The apple's tartness and the onion's sweetness all melted together and made such beautiful juice - during my second helping I grabbed my camera and took a photo. "It's not very attractive," my wife pointed out, but the smells and tastes swirling around me announced a new family tradition.
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...