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Sunday, September 04, 2016

A nature moment with Ask Rula!

Hello, my people! It seems I have been AWOL for a while, so sorry! I have moved to the country! Long Island counts as rural, right? Along with fixing up the new (old) Chez Rula, I have been gardening! Or well, rather, watching the gardeners. Those guys need someone to bring them spiked lemonade, and hold their shirts for them when they get all hot and sweaty! But no matter where I am, people always seem to have questions. And I have answers! So let's get to a few of them right now, shall we?

Our first question is from Green and Blue, and she says:
Dear Rula,
This year has been both good and bad for my tomatoes. My plants have set a LOT of tomatoes, but it's already getting too cool at night for them to ripen. I enjoyed the few ripe ones I got, but what can I do with all these green tomatoes — besides frying them?
I'm so sad.
Green and Blue

Dear Green and Blue,
Pickle them! I slice and pickle green tomatoes all the time. They're great on sandwiches! I usually just wing it — a little dill, bay leaf, mustard seed, sugar, vinegar and a pinch of salt — but here's a simple refrigerator pickle recipe for you:

Basic Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients - for every pound of vegetable
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Extras: fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, cumin seed, peppercorns, cloves of garlic, or any other pickling spices

First, clean and prepare all your vegetables. If it's a veggie you normally eat raw, leave them alone. If not, you can blanch them in boiling water, steam them, or roast them. You want them edible but still a little crunchy — like me!

Next, pack all your vegetables tightly into jars — slice them up to fit. You can use old canning jars or any other heat-proof container with an airtight lid. You can also combine more than one type of veg in the same jar — but make sure the combination will taste good together because all the flavors mix it up in there.

In a small saucepan, bring all the brine ingredients to a boil, then remove from heat and pour the brine over the vegetables. Put the lids on the containers, cool them to room temp, and then refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating, if you can wait. They'll keep for about a month in the fridge, assuming they last that long!

This next question is from Probiotic Patty, and she asks:
Dear Rula,
As a middle-aged, smart-and-savvy woman trying to compete with thousands of millennials for low-paying jobs in the big city, I need all the help I can get. One thing I have started to do is try to take better care of myself, which means I am paying more attention to what I eat. There are those who say food can empower you, so I figured what the hell! I am now really into probiotic foods. Wondering about making sauerkraut, I looked it up and it seems to have only one ingredient. I know nothing about cooking and have seldom used my kitchen, so I was thinking this would be my speed. Any thoughts?
Probiotic Patty

Dear Probiotic Patty,
You know what they say, "A woman with guts needs a healthy gut," so you go girl! Yes sauerkraut is indeed simple to make and really good for you and delicious on a kosher dog. But let's talk about what probiotics are first, ok? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. Here is a short list of best probiotic choices: yogurt; sauerkraut; miso soup; soft cheeses; kefir; sourdough bread; milk with probiotics; and sour pickles. But honestly honey, most of this is above your pay grade so let's start at the very beginning — how to turn cabbage into sauerkraut. This recipe makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts and is very detailed, so pay attention!


1 medium-sized head of green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)
1 big mason jar (like 2-quart size)
1 smaller jelly jar
rocks or marbles to use as weights

Clean everything. When fermenting anything, it's best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar and jelly jar are washed and rinsed of all soap residue. You'll be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, so wash your hands as well.

Slice or shred the cabbage into thin threads. Combine the cabbage and salt and start massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first it might not seem like enough salt, but gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you'd like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds, mix them in now. Then stop for a cocktail, darling.

Pack the cabbage into the jar with your hands, as tightly as possible. Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid. Weigh the cabbage down — once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.

Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents dust or insects from getting in. Press the cabbage every few hours — over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage. If extra liquid is needed, you can dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days — as it's fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid. Taste it and when it seems sour enough refrigerate and eat. I love sauerkraut with rice, it's like Jewish kimchi.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment here on this post!

Well, that's all for now, my little sprouts — all that sod isn't going to lay itself! Ciao!

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