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Friday Fun Thread for October 27, 2023

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You can't retvrn to anything without going back to seasonal produce, so what are your favourite homemade preserves? My preferred one is the lactofermented cabbage my grandma learned to make in Georgia, which is quite different from German, Polish or Russian sauerkraut. I still make it every year and I think I talk about it here every year as well. I mean, if NYT can do it with their plum cake, why not me? Here's the recipe:

What you'll need:

  • a head of cabbage that is white and juicy more than it's green and leafy, with no deep scores or gouges
  • a fist-sized beetroot per 1kg/2lbs of cabbage (I have small fists, tho)
  • two-three cloves of garlic per 1kg/2lbs of cabbage
  • chili powder or flakes if you like it hot
  • water (I use bottled water, about as much as your cabbage weighs)
  • salt (5% of water volume)
  • a knife, cutting board and some temporary vessels
  • a bucket or a big pot that you won't fill all the way to the top, a wide pan to put under it if it's not big enough
  • a plate that is a bit smaller than your pot and something heavy to weigh it down with
  • a pot to make the brine in
  • a cheesecloth or a large tea towel
  • large glass or clay jars with lids


  1. Boil some water and scald all your utensils except the jars
  2. Peel and wash your beet, quarter it and slice it into fork-sized pieces
  3. Discard the outer leaves of your cabbage head until it's clean and cut off the dirty end of the stem
  4. Quarter the head and remove the rest of the stem
  5. Reserve a few large leaves, cut the quarter-heads into two-three pieces and disassemble them
  6. Peel and slice your garlic
  7. Put cabbage, sliced beet, garlic and chili into the pot/bucket
  8. Really go to town and mash the contents of the pot as hard as you can
  9. Cover them with the reserved leaves, tamp everything down again, cover the cabbage with the plate and place the weight on top of it
  10. Prepare the brine (remember, 5% salt by weight, 50g per 1l) in a separate pot and carefully pour it into the main pot/bucket, it should cover the plate
  11. Cover everything with a cheesecloth/towel and leave at room temperature for three days
  12. Despite your efforts to tamp it all down the cabbage will soften and reduce in volume, raising the level of the brine. That's why I told you to get a bigger pot or a bucket
  13. The surface of the brine should be clean, no scum or film should form on it, just some fermentation bubbles. Theoretically, you can salvage your cabbage by washing everything and replacing the brine, but I've never gotten a film and would just throw the batch away
  14. After three days remove the cloth, the weight and the plate. The brine should be pink from the beet and have a pleasant fermented smell. The cabbage will probably still look and taste very raw
  15. Boil some water and scald your mason jars
  16. Shove as much cabbage (including beets and stuff) as you can into every jar and top them off with brine
  17. Let the jars ferment in your root cellar or fridge for at least four more days or better a whole week before eating

Sounds complicated, but my recipe is just overly detailed. It's basically "cabbage, beets, garlic, 5% brine, 3 days warm, 4-7 days cold" for those who are familiar with fermentation.

Some pseudorationalist musings:

  • I should try the same recipe without beets and see if that makes any difference. I think all they provide is the attractive color (and some pickled beet slices in the mix), but they are also sweet and might speed up the fermentation since I'm not chopping the cabbage up into strands and macerating it with salt like in regular sauerkraut
  • I should try the same recipe, but with cucumbers. I love a good pickle, and the recipe should be practically the same, just with dill and horseradish instead of beet
  • Why do I transfer the cabbage to a cold environment after just three days? Theoretically, leaving it in the warm pantry to ferment should speed up the process, letting me have my sour cabbage in just five or six days. What are the tradeoffs?

My big mason jars arrived, so it's sauerkraut time! I got two good cabbages and a tray of beets at the markets, so I am going to make two lots - one spicy, one regular. How much chili flakes would you put in to make it nicely spicy - spicy enough you get a good kick out of it, but not so spicy I break out in sweats and start seeing spots in front of my eyes?

No idea, honestly, I always skip chili flakes.

I despise beets, but would be much more appreciative of the carrot version.

My favorite preserves were Grandma’s pear and especially apple butter. May she rest in peace.

What do you like eating it with?

Cabbage soup! I know this sounds weird, but my wife prefers to put fresh cabbage into her cabbage soup instead of stewed sauerkraut, so eating sour fermented cabbage with her soup means everything works together.

Other than that, I eat it with every dish from Potato Europe.

...what is supposed to be put into cabbage soup if not fresh cabbage?


My mom makes this with carrot instead of beet, so I don't think the beets are crucial.

Carrots are quite sweet:

Which reminds me of an old tip for spaghetti - while a lot of people use a teaspoon or two of sugar to sweeten their sauce (and the store bought crap dumps truckloads in) , you can get the same effect by slicing a carrot in just after you brown the meat.

Actually, orthoxerox's excellent post has inspired me, here's my (Italian) grandma's spaghetti recipe, one of my go to meals for impressing dates:


  • Olive oil - although if you don't have any, butter is a ok substitute - better than any other oil for sure.

  • 500g beef mince - the amount of fat in the meat has also huge impact on the finished meal's taste and presentation, but anything better than sausage mince quality will do. Here we're using the 25% fat variety.

  • 500g pork mince - in my hometown you couldn't get pork mince except at the butcher, if you face a similar situation eschew both the beef and pork mince for 1kg of pork and veal mince, or otherwise just more beef mince and some bacon fat.

  • Some mushrooms - mushrooms are optional, but they taste great when they've absorbed some of the sauce, and can fill it out a bit if you need to stretch it. If you just want to stretch your sauce buttons will be fine, but if you like mushrooms get some nice big ones, like portabello size.

  • 1 litre of chicken stock - beef is nice too, and probably makes more sense given what you are cooking, but chicken is better.

  • 1 large brown onion, 4 cloves of garlic 1 green bell pepper, 1 carrot, 3 ribs of celery, 1 zucchini - dice them all and put them in three piles - onion and garlic in one pile, zucchini and celery in another and bell pepper and carrot in the third. Really chop the shit out of the garlic and onion.

  • Oregano, basil, rosemary, chives, parsley, smoked paprika, sage - I have no idea about the quantities, I was taught to cook by smell. At a guess I'd say a teaspoon of oregano, basil, chives and parsley, and half a teaspoon of the rosemary, paprika and safe. And actually another half teaspoon of the oregano and basil.

  • 2 tins of diced tomatoes (no extra herbs or anything), 1 tin of whole peeled tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste - pizza sauce will work if you don't have regular tomato paste, although note herbs added and subtract a half teaspoon from yours.

  • 1 packet of spaghetti - bucatini or linguine will do, hell any pasta bigger than macaroni will do, but I said I'm making spaghetti.


  1. Set your frypan going at medium heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan (no more is necessary, the meat fat will do the rest).

  2. Once it's nice and hot, add your finely diced onion and garlic to the pan, and saute them until the onion starts to go clear.

  3. Now whack in your mince, straight on top of the onion and garlic, and throw in the sage and parsley and mix it until the meat browns.

  4. In with the carrot and bell pepper, then the chicken stock and all the other herbs except paprika. Now, my grandma would insist you pour a small amount of stock in, let it reduce and then repeat until you have used all your stock. But I just pour it all in in one go and then let it reduce, and there's no difference. And that's not just me saying that, my grandma called my spaghetti perfect last time I made it for her. The point is chicken stock in, then reduce it. If you aren't familiar with reducing, it just means letting all the liquid evaporate - once your frypan starts sizzling again it should be alright.

  5. And now we add the tins of tomatoes, let it cook for five minutes, add the celery, zucchini and mushrooms, then the tomato paste and paprika, and stir it through (if you put any of these veggies in before the tomatoes they'll turn to mush.) Then let it simmer while we do the pasta.

  6. Fill a big saucepan with about 3L of hot water and a tablespoon of salt and put it on to boil. Once it's boiling, bang in the pasta, and let it cook for 8 - 10 minutes (or whatever the packet says). You'll want to hover a bit after 7 minutes or so if you want it al dente, grabbing a strand out every now and then - it's ready when you are able to just pinch a strand into two pieces. When it is, immediately strain it of water so it doesn't cook further, and then tip it back into the pot (some people use pasta water to thicken the sauce, but tomato paste does a better job).

  7. The traditional method, and the method you should use if this is supposed to be a meal for 4+ or you like leftovers, is to then pour or ladel your sauce into the pot on top of the pasta until it's all in the pot, then use tongs to mix it through until none of the spaghetti is bare. It freezes really well though, and if you want to freeze some just leave it separate, because pasta freezes terribly.

Congratulations, you just made spaghetti - justa likea nonna useda to makea! Garnish with parmesan and cracked pepper and jam it in your face!

Edit: too many carrots

I’ll have to try that. But what is the point of this early stock reducing phase? I thought reducing was the last step, with tomatoes and everything, so it all comes together, boils together, thickens together. But if it’s important to your recipe, then I’d as soon just boil the stock in another pan until nothing’s left and then wash the pan.

The reducing is the trick to this tasting good without several hours of cooking. By keeping the heat up it tenderises the meat and veggies quick and fries them a little - and by drawing some of the sugar out of the carrots it also caramelises a small amount of the onions and garlic - and using stock instead of water enhances the flavour. If you wait until the tomatoes are in you have to use a much lower heat so you don't burn the tomatoes and develop that acrid bite, and because it doesn't reduce until you get your sizzle back and can see the bottom of the pan, you don't get the caramelising. It's odd, but it works great.