Quarantine shopping has its challenges. I’m not complaining… far from it. We’re thankful to have plenty in the pantry and fabulous sources for healthy food from every corner of the world. But there are growing pains as grocers – particularly small ones – scale up their delivery mechanisms, and we’re often having to place orders from various sources up to two weeks ahead of time. For people used to shopping a couple times a week, this kind of forecasting is foreign and vexing.
This is all to say: earlier this week, we ended up with two cabbages, two cartons of whipping cream, and no room in the fridge. And that led, in a roundabout way, to this admittedly gimmicky-sounding but 102% factual post.
Let’s start with the cream. There’s no room in the freezer for ice cream, because of the five bags of frozen pierogis (don’t make me post a photo… the Jenga puzzle that is the freezer would collapse). But we’re out of sour cream, and you can’t have pierogis without sour cream, onions and bacon (of which we have about three pounds… told you I was bad at forecasting).
But look! From last week’s fried chicken brine, we have some leftover buttermilk. Buttermilk and cream? There’s our first two-ingredient recipe: crème fraîche, which is basically French cultured sour cream only tastier and not full of additives like gelatine AND you can cook with it and it won’t split. If these virtues weren’t enough, it ferments at room temperature, which frees up fridge space. Magic.
Here’s how to make crème fraîche. Get a Mason jar. Mix together 2 cups of cream (pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized) and 2 Tbsp of buttermilk. Put it in the jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth or some other clean, breathable fabric and secure that with a jar ring or elastic band (or raffia, if you’re like that). Put it out of the sunlight in a room temperature place, and come back in 22 hours. (I’m very invested in this “two” gag. It might take as little as 12 hours and as long as two days for the cream to thicken to a runny sour cream consistency. Anyone who guarantees you a one-day result is a filthy, filthy liar.)
Congratulations: you have crème fraîche. Now what?
- Pour it over berries and sprinkle some brown sugar on top.
- Cook yourself some chicken thighs or breasts. Reduce a little chicken stock until it’s dark and deeply savoury. Pour some crème fraîche into it and simmer it until it coats the back of a wooden spoon in a silky, sexy manner. Nap your chicken with that and adorn it with a shower of chopped chives. Eat it with someone you lurve. Thank me later.
- Or do as we did, and use your Microplane to turn some horseradish root into a tiny countertop blizzard. Mix that with 1/4C of your homemade, badass crème fraîche, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, and you have the most luscious complement for your roast beef, hot or cold.
But about those cabbages. Is there really a two-ingredient recipe for those? And… does it prominently feature the number 2? Yes, my friends. Yes there is, and yes, it does.
Shred your cabbages finely. Weigh the resulting shreds. Add 2% their weight in salt (sea or kosher… not table salt). So, if you have two kilograms of cabbage, you’d use 40 grams of salt. We had 1.9kg of cabbage, so that’s 38 grams of salt.
Mix that together in a big bowl and, using your sauerkraut stomper (who knew, right?) or the bottom of a very heavy glass, beat the ever loving hell out of it. Mix it around, and do that again. Pretend it’s an anti-vaxxer. So therapeutic.
Leave it alone for an hour or so. Bash it around a bit more for good measure, then pack it into your fermentation crock or, lacking that, a few wide-mouth Mason jars for which you’ve purchased Pickle Pebbles and Masontops fermentation locks. These keep the nascent ‘kraut out of the reach of undesirable airborne microbes, while allowing it to burp CO2.
If, a couple of hours after loading your crock/jars, you still can’t force out enough liquid to cover the Pickle Pebbles or fermentation crock weights, add a little bit of 2% salt solution (that is to say: 200ml of water and 4g salt.) Put the lid on your fermentation apparatus, and leave it alone for anywhere between two days and two weeks (depending on how sour you like your ‘kraut).
If you’re used to canned sauerkraut, the fresh stuff is going to blow your mind. It’s mild, sweet, juicy, super-cronchy, and smells of health and culinary potential rather than old socks. Give it a try!