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Soup and Saurkraut

A few weeks ago I posted my super simple soup recipe (and I use that term loosely- it's more of a concept than a recipe, and I don't claim any credit for it).  I make a variation of it every week, but it always turns out very different.  One of my favorite variations included leftover cooked brown rice and about 1/4 cup of leftover homemade pesto.

I made it again today.  We stayed home from preschool because Izzy may be sick.  I say "may" because it's really hard to tell- she seldom runs a fever, she doesn't complain of pain unless she is literally moments from puking... her only obvious symptom is usually a cough, and she isn't coughing.  But she gets uncharactaristically cranky, and last night she threw the MOTHER of all fits.  It started at a restaurant (one of my DH's work friends took us out), mellowed a little until we got home, and resumed when I mentioned that it was clean up and bed time.  She screamed, ran from the room, and came back with a toy tractor that she then chucked at... well, I have no idea what she was aiming for (likely nothing...), but she hit the poor dog in the head.  I put her directly to bed after this and forbade her from coming downstairs until morning (I know, I'm mean, but nonsense like that DOES NOT get to happen in my house without serious consequences).  By this point it was about 8:15.  At 9 I put Oliver to bed (in our room, so he didn't have to listen to the screaming) and then sat at the top of the steps until she finally stopped at about 9:30.  Then I went in and talked to her.

I checked both of their ears this morning, but it's really difficult for an untrained eye to spot a minor ear infection or a fluid filled ear- I even have diagnostic pictures and it's still hard.  To my untrained eyes three of their four ears looked dull and fluid filled.  It's not serious, but it's a good sign that preventative measures are necessary.

Anyway, back to the soup.  Since we hadn't had soup for lunch yet this week I figured this would be the PERFECT meal for today, but I didn't have any soup-friendly leftovers since I was away from home all weekend.  So I used some homemade stock and added some rinsed barley (probably 2/3 cup for the 2 cups of stock).

Izzy ate it.  For the first time ever she ate brothy soup.  And it was amusing because after every bite of broth she was like "look mom, I ate stock!"  I have been pushing her to consume stock in some form for over a year now.  So either her impending sickness tricked her body into thinking it was something she needed to eat, or she's finally coming around to the stuff.  Also, she thought the barley was rice, which is one of the ten foods she willingly eats, and I didn't correct her until she had taken a few bites and declared it yummy.

As I set the bowls in front of my kids I had another thought- I should add some sauerkraut juice so they get some probiotics in it, as well.  I did, and they even saw me do it.  And still ate the soup.

Not just any sauerkraut will do, though.  Late last summer I made sauerkraut in small crocks (I live ten miles from Red Wing... THE Red Wing, so I have several authentic crocks I picked up for cheap).  Then I packed it into jars that I store in my basement fridge (which I keep a little warmer than normal fridge temp).  I know that you can keep fermented sauerkraut in a cool basement without refridgeration, but it would take more maintenance and I was worried I would loose some product (even with the fridge I've already lost some pickles).  You should NOT process the kraut- this kills all the beneficial microorganisms that promote good health and degrades some of the food's nutritional value.  Plus I think it affects the flavor and texture adversely.

Sauerkraut is most commonly eaten as a condiment with meats, particularly meats with strong flavors.  Nutritionally speaking it is best to not cook it for the same reasons listed above, but I do occasionally incorporate it into cooked dishes.  In this case, as I said, I simply poured some of the sauerkraut juice over my kids' soup after it had cooled in their bowls and stirred it in.  For my own soup I added several scoops of the actual sauerkraut to my soup.  Even I was wary about how it would taste, but I have to say it was pretty amazing and satisfying- like it was THE thing for me to eat at that moment.  I think it would have tasted even better with a beef stew or (yum!) cider beef.

If you like sauerkraut I highly suggest you try making it- it is a very simple process and the only ingredients are cabbage and salt (and possibly a little water).  You don't even have to have a fancy crock, just a non-reactive food grade container.  Many people make it in the jars they plan to store it in (regular canning jars).  Especially if you grow cabbage, fermenting some of it into sauerkraut will give you a nutrient rich food you can enjoy through the winter.

Speaking of sauerkraut, I want to take this moment to mention that one of my favorite blogs, The Nourishing Kitchen, is about to put on an e-course on all things fermentation... and I mean ALL things.  I really REALLY want to take the class, but with the money I just dropped on the garden and the money I'm about the drop on chickens and a coop I can't think about paying for something like that right now.

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