I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to go out in the backyard, pick a few things, and voila – a meal. This is so tasty and easy once you have the sauerkraut on hand, and super fresh if you have good access to local summer produce! I just checked on the garden this morning, and ended up with this treasure chest full of goodies.
Toast both sides of the bread in butter on a frying pan, add cheese (monterey jack, smoked cheddar, gouda, or any hard, melty cheese) and jalapenos. Put one piece on top of the other and cook until the cheese is melted. Once melty and crispy enough, open up to add cucumber slices, arugula, sauerkraut, and a teeny bit of whole grain mustard. I had mine with a bit more of arugula and cucumbers on the side, and a pile of my sungold cherry tomatoes.
This was just really cool for me because the only ingredients I didn’t make or grow were the bread, cheese, and mustard. So fun seeing it all come together!
I’ve made this a few times now, and have sort of adapted a couple different recipes. I’m going with the kraut recipe from “Practical Paleo” as a base, but really this kraut is much different than that one. I’m still a bit in the trial and error phase, but it’s just a simple recipe of cabbage, beets, an onion, and sea salt, that not much can go wrong as long as you don’t use too much salt.
- 3 heads of green cabbage (wish I knew the correct name for it, but I prefer the tight, waxy green cabbage over the more leafy one. It produces a crunchier, more satisfying sauerkraut.)
- 1 bunch of beets, peeled
- 1 onion
- 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt
Very thinly slice the veggies with either a mandoline (quickest way and gives best results) or a sharp knife. Place 1/3 of the veggies into a large bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt over it. Mix the salt in, and with your hands, squeeze the veggies until water begins to come out of it. This is a bit time consuming, but repeat this process with the rest of the veggies and salt two more times.
You can also put the ingredients in a big stock pot and use a potato masher to really condense the veggies, and after a while, water will begin to cover them. Either way, you’re done with the process once there’s enough liquid to completely cover the veggies. If it seems like there really isn’t enough liquid and you’ve been killing the veggies for an absurdly long time, feel free to add a bit more salt to help coax out the rest of the liquid. When you’re done, fill two 32-ounce ball jars, or any size you may have, with the kraut, and really condense it in there so the liquid comes up. Make sure there is about 2 inches of space left at the top of the jar.
Place a clean shot glass or other small object that can weigh it down into the jar. Cover the jars each with a coffee filter and rubber band, to make sure nothing gets inside, but allowing fermentation to still take place. Put the jars in a flat pan in case there is any overflow, and place them in a cool, dark spot where they will not be disturbed. I leave mine in the cupboard above the oven, with the door slightly ajar.
Allow the sauerkraut to ferment for about 2 weeks, checking and tasting it periodically. It’s really important that the veggies are submerged under liquid, because anything that comes in contact with the air will mold, which you don’t want, but everything underneath the liquid will properly ferment and come out as it should. If mold or white scum does form on the top, scrape it off when you notice it. It’s pretty common, but again, can be avoided by making sure everything is under the water line.
Once it is ready, put the jar’s covers on and refrigerate them to stop the fermentation. Then it’s time to experiment with funky sandwiches like this, and other random kraut meals! Beet kraut is really fun because it turns a bright fuschia, and is just super yummy and good for you (natural probiotics and happy digestion!)
I do feel like it’s only fair to clarify my stance on the Paleo diet, now that I’ve had more time to think about it, and since I know a few of my recent followers are “paleo”. I admire any attempt to cut out processed, chemical-ridden foods, but personally do not believe it is an across-the-board healthy lifestyle choice. Much of the same argument many people have against the organic movement – that it is exclusive and far too expensive – is only magnified on the paleo diet. I am all for choosing quality foods, and understand at times they may carry a higher price tag, but the reality of paleo is that many people will not be able to afford grass-fed or pasture-raised meats, and therefore will end up eating lesser quality meats because the lifestyle requires more meat and fish than some people would typically choose to eat, thereby consuming more carcinogens and toxins. Not to mention the widespread sedentary lifestyle of many Americans. I’m considerably active, but hey, I have a desk job and have to sit basically 10 hours a day during the week. A bit of exercise a few times a week does not compare to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our paleolithic ancestors, or the fact that they likely went through periods of time without meat due to lack of availability, while still being incredibly active.
I also have a hard time believing that if you don’t have a gluten or dairy sensitivity, eating either in moderation is worse than having red meat 5 times a week (regardless of being grass-fed). It can be difficult to educate people on healthy lifestyles, but it really does not need to be so complicated unless a health condition is involved, in which case a professional should be involved. I think the most important thing is cutting out processed, packaged foods, and focusing on fresh, organic produce, supplemented by natural sources of protein, such as seafood, meat, or grains, nuts, and seeds; whichever your preference and whatever treats your body best. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, paleo, who cares – just do what makes you feel good. Quality is always extremely important, and better quality will result in better health and wellbeing, but if $10-20/pound protein is out of your budget, who am I to tell you not to have rice or quinoa with your meal? Listen – really listen – to your body.
I am all for inclusion, approachability, and positivity rather than negativity when it comes to eating. It’s the judgement and preachiness for certain diets that really gets me – whether it’s someone telling me “you’re just not ready yet/don’t know better yet but here’s a brochure” to convert me to veganism, or being told I will definitely suffer bad health for having a piece of cheese or an occassional meal with rice. I realize many people, on many different diets, feel positive when they think about all the things they can eat rather than focusing on what they can’t. But I’m not in the business of one size fits all (or one customized size). I think food should evoke feelings of happiness, respect, and creativity. If you feel this way, and feel healthy and empowered regardless of which diet you’re following (or not), then that’s a really great thing!
I enjoy my diverse diet, and would rather eat what I want and crave, which most of the time is great for me anyways. But my love of food will lead me to tasty treats too, still mostly with natural, “unprocessed” ingredients, and that’s how I choose to live my life. So if I want to have a little bread and cheese, I’m gonna do it! Also, you betta believe if I go to Italy, I’m having pasta (with cheese); France, a croissant and chocolate; India, curry and rice…and so on. I could go on about this, but that’s the gist of it. To each his/her own.