Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

’tis the season (to season your wares)
May 28, 2010, 3:58 am
Filed under: Pickled Anything, Uncategorized

On an unseasonably warm day in May, I stood in the back yard garden of my Southwest Detroit home watching a bottle of food grade wood conditioner melt from semi-solid to liquid in the heat.  My birthday gift to myself was to finally purchase 3 wooden kraut boards from Lehman’s non-electric, an amish catalog that sells exactly what it says–non-electric everythings.  I’ve been ooogling these boards for a year now, and when I grew my collection of ceramic crocks from 2 to 4 for my birthday, I decided it was finally time to take the plunge.

In the past, I’ve compromised to some pretty creative solutions when it came to the niche these puppies fill.  Basically, when making krauts and other fermented pickles, you need to keep your vegetables submerged below their brine.  A ceramic plate, a food grade plastic bag, or a wooden board are the items of choice for distributing weight across the veggie surface.  Metal corrodes and plastic leaches so these materials can’t be used.  Beyond those requirements, however, you can get pretty creative, and up until a week ago, I had been doing just that.

I am, however, a strong believer in the power of investing, which is a notably different consumer strategy than that which I was raised with.  Rather than buying things somewhat willy nilly, I’ve gotten in the habit of making note of the tools and items that repeatedly occur as those that could be of use to me.  Generally, I passively seek these things through a few different channels over a period of time.  With these kraut boards, I’ve looked into making them myself (cost of materials and necessary equipment ruled that out) and I talked to a local hardware store busy bee hardware, about building them for me.  With both of those options forever on the back burner, I simultaneously pursued my third option, buying something shiny and new.  I may be a traitor to my generation for saying this, but all the DIY training in the world doesn’t replace a real live artisanal good.  So I try to do my research and I try to buy to last.

These particular objects, which fit inside 5 gallon and 3 gallon ceramic crocks respectively, are made from poplar.  And, as of Monday May 24th, they’ve been sealed with food grade wood conditioner.

I plan to use these lids in my crocks to keep my fermentations below their brine, placing a water/stone filled mason jar on top for weight.

I also like to ferment smaller batch items in glass 1/2 gallon jars, with water/stone filled pint jars used as a weight.  The pint jars fit perfectly into the mouth of any wide-mouth mason jar and the glass makes for easy viewing of the fermentation magic happening within.

I’ve found a few good places for buying mason jars in Detroit, but my favorite is busy bee hardware on Gratiot and Russel.  They also sell pickle crocks of all sizes, and maybe if enough of us pester them about it, they’ll begin to cut some kraut boards too!  I’m planning on bringing one by there to show the guy I’ve nagging about them what I’m looking for, and to prove how serious I am.  While I love and trust Lehman’s… they are also far away, and I’d love to help move along this burgeoning preserves economy in my own town.

So, if you’re ever in Busy Bee Hardware, ask for wooden kraut boards, and in the mean time, use whatever you invent until you can’t stand it no more, or your birthday roles around and you’re feeling particularly acquisitive.