Iris Clark Neumann: Gardening coming to an end as fall weather deteriorates

Homemade sauerkraut sits fermenting on the countertop.

A fall pumpkin and cabbage sit on the counter ready to be used in a variety of ways.

Pumpkin and cranberry muffins are a perfect fall treat.

An interesting combination of cabbage, black beans and cilantro results in a delicious salad.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

After a dry summer, we've had such a wet fall. As I write this, there is still no frost. Many of my plants have taken such a battering, first from insects, then the excess moisture, gardening has pretty much ended.

Oddly, my cucumber plants had a flush of growth, yielding a few last cucumbers on vines that looked dead, except for the new growth at the end.

My farmer son planted late crops of cilantro and string beans, which got me looking for recipes using cilantro. The beans have just started producing (they liked the rain), and are sweet succulent little guys. Hopefully, with covering them, they will survive a frost or two.

With an excess of cabbage, I was also searching for cabbage recipes. So when I spotted a salad using both cilantro and cabbage, I was excited to try it. Weirdly, it also included black beans, which didn't seem like a fit, but I was open to new combinations.

I had been paging through Mark Bittman's “How to Cook Everything Fast” cookbook, which is so big and thick, it's not a fast read.

I was looking for recipes with “cabbage” in them, so it narrowed down my search.

He had a basic recipe for cucumbers in a creamy dill dressing, for which he offered some alternative combinations, including one having cabbage and black beans.

So I tried it, and found the tang from limes, the creaminess from yogurt and sour cream, and the fresh taste of cilantro set off the cabbage and black beans perfectly.

I offered samples at the farmers market and got some immediate fans. One said they had cabbage at home, another mentioned she'd just picked up a can of black beans, but both needed cilantro, which was available at the market.

My favorite comment was, “This is what I am making for Thanksgiving.” If one uses a food processor to shred up the cabbage, one can whip up this recipe very quickly.

It was only when I started making my own sauerkraut a couple years ago that I began using my food processor to shred cabbage. One removes the blades from the bottom of the processor, sets in a slicing blade on top, then puts the cover on. After cutting the cabbage into 1-inch by 2-inch sections, feed the chunks down the tube, using the guide that fits into the feed to push the cabbage toward the blade.

It takes very little time to fill the entire processor container with shredded cabbage.

Because I was asked at the market how to make sauerkraut, I'll include the how-to in this column. One does not need a giant crock to make it, a gallon jar offers just the right size to create a batch of about six pints. The only other ingredient needed is canning salt.

Rain has been the theme for one canceled farmers market and for the annual Cranberry Fest we visit each year in Stone Lake, Wis., that takes place, rain or shine.

Fortunately, my daughter, Amanda, brought along her extra pair of rubber garden boots, which she loaned to me. I was impressed with how a crowd of people enjoyed the day in spite of the weather. All had dug out their rain gear and warm clothes.

I'd purchased a new outfit for the day, but covered it with a ratty warm sweater from my closet and the rain coat I keep at the cabin. Warm winter hats were a hot item for vendors selling at the festival. I was one of the customers.

As usual, recipes touting the locally-grown cranberries were available; several were offered in the local visitor guide. I tried one for muffins using pumpkin and cranberries, both of which I had leftover after making pies donated for the Stone Lake Lutheran Church's annual pie social. I had to substitute brown sugar for some of the white, which I'd depleted making the pies.

Although it calls for pumpkin pie spice, I made my own combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves instead. I prefer using roasted fresh pumpkin or squash that I freeze to have available year round.

My favorite squash, which can also be used in pumpkin recipes, is the Northern Georgia Candy Roaster, a long narrow squash. Cut into pieces, minus the seeds, and set uncovered in a roasting pan in a 350-degree oven, one cooks the chunks until they are tender. I remove excess moisture by putting the softened pieces through a ricer, catching the meat of the squash into a colander, then scooping it into freezer bags. This is the same process I use for pie pumpkins, which have lots of moisture in them. The ricer also takes away any stringiness.

If you want an easy, yummy recipe, try the salad. If you have excess cabbage, consider making fermented sauerkraut. Or if you're a squash/pumpkin and cranberry lover, there's something for you too.

Cabbage & Black Bean Salad

Derived from “How to Cook Everything Fast” by Mark Bittman

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 limes, juiced, discard rinds

1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped (¼ to ½ cup)

Mix the above dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups shredded red and/or green cabbage

1 small sweet onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

Add the beans, cabbage, and onion to the dressing ingredients. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Stir together, then taste. Add more salt, if needed.


Homemade Sauerkraut

Basics from “So Easy to Preserve” by University of Georgia Extension

You'll need:

Food processor with slicing blade

Kitchen scale

Green cabbage

Canning salt

Gallon glass jar

Freezer weight quart-sized zip-lock bag

Place a large bowl on top of the scale. After removing outer leaves, washing, draining cabbage, and removing any spoiled spots, cut into 1- by 2-inch wide pieces, not including the core of the cabbage. Press wedges into feed tube of processor, using the guide piece (not your fingers).

Dump shredded cabbage into bowl. Keep shredding and adding into bowl until the weight, minus the weight of the bowl, is 6 pounds. Remove from scale and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons canning salt. Using clean hands, work the salt into cabbage shreds until it draws moisture from the shreds.

Pack the cabbage into the glass jar, pushing so the moisture covers the cabbage. Fill the zip-lock bag about one-third full of water or brine (see note) and close securely. Fit the bag over the top of the cabbage to cover it and use as a weight. Arrange it so all cabbage is covered with the brine from the salt. Loosely cover the top with the jar lid or towel.

Note: Heat a brine with 1 1/2 tablespoons canning salt and one quart water, then cool. Add a bit to the top of cabbage, if needed, and use to fill plastic bag, in case it leaks.

Then wait for 3 to 4 weeks, keeping the jars at room temperature in the low 70s degree range. In the 60s, fermentation takes 5 to 6 weeks. Check occasionally to readjust weight bag, adding more water to bag if needed, remove any scum, if it forms. Some bubbles will appear around the bag and the cabbage will gradually lose its greenish color. Fermented cabbage can keep in the refrigerator for several months or it can be canned.

To can, remove weight bag and skim off any scum that may have formed. Dump into a large kettle, then heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare a boiling water bath, hot jars and sterilized lids. Spoon into jars, adding enough brine to cover, leaving a half-inch head space. Wipe edges of jar clean, then screw lids on securely. Process pints in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, quarts for 15 minutes.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

From “Wisconsin Northwoods Visitor”

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup canned or frozen (thawed) pumpkin

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Combine first four ingredients in a medium-sized bowl or sifter. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar; add the pumpkin and oil and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries.

Fill paper-lined or greased muffin tins three-fourths full. Makes about 24 muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.