One of those days in my kitchen
You know the days when you go tot the fridge to get dinner started and you feel like you’ve been transported to the nursery rhyme “Old Mother Hubbard”. Well today was one of those days for me. I opened the fridge and was greeted by nothing more than some red wine braised pork neck I brought home from work, some home made sauerkraut, some pickled lentils and the usual array of home made condiments. Which translates to me having found an effing treasure trove of a chef’s bounty.
Even after doing what I do for years, I find it hard sometimes… mostly in the morning when I wake up it’s… um… story for another time methinks. This day was not hard though. This was the opposite of hard. This was most certainly soft.
It is not that difficult to conjure up a cracking meal with what can be only described as quite literally four things, if you are lucky enough that those four things are meant to be bedfellows.
I am not a magician; I don’t even have the skills to do a basic card trick (but you are still sure to see me at any local young kid’s birthday party looking like Ronald McDonald) but sometimes things just fall into place… and if they don’t, all you need are a few pickled and fermented things in your fridge to be the hammer you need to get the round peg into the square hole.
One very good point to note about pickled and fermented goodies is they will last a whole heap longer than their regular fresh life expectancy. They last for damn near ever and help to make slapping together and easy tasty dinner even easier and tastier than you thought it could be. Get pickled stuff now!
As I said, I had pork neck for this one, but the sauerkraut and lentils would be a gracious host to an array of meaty outcomes; pork belly, ham hock, duck maryland, thick cut bacon, lamb neck, beef brisket, smoky sausages, not smoky sausages, etc.
Also, remember that with pickling, even if everything does go to shit and you have produced something that looks and tastes about as appealing as the illegitimate offspring of Gina Rinehart and Tony Abbot, then it’s time to get started on pickling yourself! A couple of beers and a bottle of red should do the trick. There you go, everything tastes fine now, doesn’t it!
BRAISED PORK NECK, SAUERKRAUT, PICKLED LENTILS
You can cook a piece of pork by now, non? This pork neck was braised in red wine with star anise, thyme, peppercorns and garlic, cooled in the braising liquid and then rolled in mustard seeds and more herbs. The lentils were my pickled lentils, which you can find here, and they were simply warmed through. The sauerkraut is the recipe you can find below (original recipe can be found here), once again simply warmed through.
Go fourth now my child. Make pickled lentils and sauerkraut and let your mind be free…
1 medium green cabbage
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoons caraway seeds
• 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 jar is washed and rinsed of all soap residue
• Quarter the cabbage through the core and slice it nice and fine. A mandolin is good, nay great, for this
• Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Chuck the caraway seeds in now, too. Work the salt into the cabbage and then let it sit for an hour or so as to draw out the moisture
• Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them a large jar or even bucket I guess. Every so often, squash down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar
• Once all the cabbage is packed into the jar, slip a smaller jar or ramekin into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with a tin of something. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid
• Cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in
• Over the next 24 hours press down on the cabbage every so often with the smaller 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 after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage
• Let the cabbage ferment on the bench top for 5-10 days. It hasn’t got past the 5 day stage here and it tastes damn good, but I’m going to make a really big batch and see how it goes for 10 days
• Store in the fridge for ever