Sandor Katz: “You Could Survive a Winter on That Much Radish Kraut”
With the summer markets exploding with fresh fruits and vegetables and the Internet full of tutorials for making your own jams, pickles and other preserved foods, it’s hard to know where to start when you begin preserving your own food. So we asked some experts for help — and every day this week we will be sharing their picks for the preserved foods they can’t live without.
Up first is fermenting guru Sandor Katz, author of the excellent books Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, who shares why he puts up 55 gallons of radish kraut every year and how he eats his way through the bounty.
If you could preserve only one type of food, what would it be?
Each year I’ve been putting up a 55-gallon barrel of radish kraut, made primarily of daikons and other large fall radishes. I do this partly because they ferment so well and are so delicious, and partly because fall radishes are plentiful around here since they pretty much grow themselves. So if I was forced to pick just one food to preserve it would be them. You could survive a winter on that much radish kraut.
The hard part is scrubbing the radishes clean. Then I like to grate a third of them, slice a third of them using an old kraut board I have, and leave a third of them whole. I salt the shredded and sliced ones, squeeze them a little to break down cell walls and get some juice out of them, add some hot chili peppers, garlic, and some cabbage, and pack the mix into a wooden barrel. Then I bury the whole ones into the mass, weigh it down to keep the vegetables submerged under their juices, and ferment in an unheated cellar through the winter.
Why radish kraut?
I believe in working with resources that are abundant. All of these preservation techniques and traditions arose out of the fleeting seasonal abundances that people in different places experienced. When life gives you lots of big radishes, turn them into a resource you can use for awhile.
Once preserved, what do you do with it?
The sliced daikons look like cold cuts and are great on sandwiches, and so is the kraut itself. I use kraut on sandwiches or as a condiment and I use the juice in salad dressings or as a braising liquid. I pull out the whole radishes and serve them on a cutting board, simply sliced, and they are always popular as an hors d’oeuvre or finger food. I also use the kraut as a stuffing in dumplings, pierogis, and rolls.
Thank you, Sandor!
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(Images: CHAIWATPHOTOS/Shutterstock; Sandor Katz)