Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Fanny Bay Oysters

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed —
Now if you’re ready, Oysters, dear,
We can begin to feed!”

             -Lewis Carroll

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We knew we were buying ocean-front property.

We had no idea we were also buying a farm-front estate.

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See those turquoise rectangular plots out there awaiting sun exposure in the outgoing tide?

That’s a bona fide farm, aquaculture-style.

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Oysters, baby… oysters.

Acres and acres of some of the best in the world reveal themselves twice a day in that amazing zone known as “our back yard.”

That’s me, gently tiptoe-ing through the two-lips (aka, bivalves.)
Hahaha… get it? Bivalves… two-lips…
Sorry. I’m just in this for the shuckles.

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And the oysters. We’re in it for the oysters, too.

Why, many of you will ask, do apparently rational people willingly slurp back completely recognizable, unadorned and unaltered (except for having been chilled and treated to a spare drop of lemon juice to tone down the salt hit), raw, living critters?

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Rowan Jacobsen’s amazingly engaging*, informative, and delightful little tome, A Geography of Oysters, lays out at least two compelling reasons:

1. In a way unique among all edibles, raw oysters taste like the sea.

Landlocked in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and pining for the briny ozone air of your favorite coastal town and the sound of eagles and waves breaking on the beach? Hit a local oyster bar, knock back half a dozen of these puppies, and save yourself several hundred dollars in air fare, ’cause you’re there.

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2. More than any other food, the flavor of particular oysters, like the terroir of wine, is derived from the unique intersection of the bottom composition, river inlets, salinity, and the thousand other variables that make one place different from another.

This is why oysters are named for the place they come from, rather than for their species. Their “somewhereness” links palate to place.

Raw Fanny Bay oysters (of the species Crassostrea gigas, or Pacific oysters) have a smooth, clean, light cucumber, medium salt Fanny Bay-ness to them that is now permanently bolted to our definition of “home.”

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They’re “beach cultured” oysters, meaning that once the little tray-nurseried gems reach the age of oyster-majority, they’re hardened off for market on our beautiful rocky shale beach.

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Think of them as yogi vegetarians who live on filtered algae and plankton, using the daily tides to strengthen their core muscles by clamping resolutely shut during low tides to preserve their sweet life juices and to guard themselves against beach predators.

Between that and the regular intense natural tanning sessions, they grow stout, shucker-friendly shells that also extend their shelf life.

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While the gustatory appeal is self-evident to us, the details of the whole oyster-farming process still remain a bit of a mystery.

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This much we know: the practice involves tides, oyster growth cycles, sex (theirs), and winter survival.

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Things involving boats, winches, and large quantities of oysters happen during high tide.

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At low tide, the stuff (in this case, the nursery trays) that was dropped off at high tide begins to emerge…

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…as do these good oyster farmers of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, who now show up to engage in intensely manual labor.

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Next time you enjoy a Fanny Bay oyster, give a “cheers!” to the backs that brought you that joy.

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The relationship of–and duration between–the dropping off…

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… and the picking up of oyster-related bits is still unclear to us, as yet, but give us a full year on the observation deck and we’ll get ‘er figured out.

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Meanwhile, what’s not confusing in the least is how lovely Rick’s hands look while shucking an oyster…

Oyster Shucking Gloves

… and therefore how important a protective shucking glove is.

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Of course, oysters don’t give it up easily, and a regular kitchen knife is too sharp and flexible to be of much use, so if you’ll need a dedicated oyster knife or two (or four).

Our original “pre-Fanny Bay residents” oyster knife—a Dexter-Russell 3″ shucker—has been a reliable workhorse. We bought it because it’s apparently used in a lot of commercial kitchens and was inexpensive. And it works just fine.

Dexter-Russell 3″ Boston-Style Oyster Knife

However, as we’re now into bigger league and more regular shucking, it was time to get serious. The Cook’s Illustrated top-rated oyster knife is the R Murphy “New Haven,” a style involving a slight bend at the end which makes a lot of difference when detaching the shell-attaching muscle thingy.

We bought one  and love the well-crafted, light, and comfortable simplicity of it. Plus, the upturned tip makes finding your way into and through the hinge way easier.

R Murphy New Haven Oyster Knife

Oyster shucking is rarely a single participant sport around here, so we also decided to try the OXO Good Grips Oyster Knife. It’s also a “New Haven” style, a “recommended with reservations” option with Cooks, but an Amazon Best Seller with a 4.5 star rating based on over 120 reviews.

While at around $8, it’s about half the price of the R Murphy. However, they’re both under $20 and neither one will break the bank.

In the end, the best oyster knife is the one you like the most, and we both prefer the R Murphy, so whoever shows up second at the shucking table gets the OXO.

OXO Good Grips Oyster Knife

One note on the un-named wooden knife with the metal guard in the background of the photo above: forget about it. It’s too blunt to effectively wedge into the hinge so you can lever it open, and the guard only teases you into thinking it’s protecting you from a potential oyster edge poke, when in fact the best protection is a great knife that allows you to stay in control.

A Geography of Oysters:
The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America

*Okay, just how engaging can a book on the geography of oysters be?

Witness Rowan Jacobsen, from a random paragraph in the chapter entitled “How to Grow an Oyster”:

“As mammals, we have trouble with the concept of jettisoning useful tools as we develop. For us, it’s all progress from infancy to adulthood–language, walking, winking, sex. It’s hard to comprehend a creature that voluntarily ditches vision and locomotion. We place a premium on them, but evolution decided such trifles were useless to oysters, and made the cuts. It’s a bit like being a Hindu mystic. Your life path involves paring down to the bare essentials, making do with less. You find a nice spot, settle into the lotus posture, and do nothing but eat, breathe, and periodically blow off a third of your body mass in one titanic ejaculation.”

I read the whole thing cover to cover in two days, laughing out loud in several places. If you’ve got an oyster lover on a gift list, or if you want to invite conversation while sitting alone reading at a raw bar, or if you’re just a curious foodie and would enjoy a breezy romp through a new subject, this offering comes highly recommended. An IACP Cookbook Award finalist, and a James Beard Foundation Book Award winner, it’s currently at the top of my personal non-fiction hit parade.


Cranberry Shrub

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |
If you caught our first shrub post, you’ll know that there’s no single cranberry shrub recipe that can claim to corner that market any more than there’s one single way to make shrubs, period.

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |
Instead, it’s better to think about the culinary opportunities that are available to you in terms of the qualities of the ingredients, conventional ratios, and personal preference options that make sense, and then tweak from there.

(Don’t bail on us just yet: there is an actual tried-and-delicious Cranberry Thyme Shrub recipe at the end of the post, if you just want to skootch there directly.)

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |
Ye olde text-book standard ratio for making cold-processed shrubs is equal parts of the following:

  • fruit and/or vegetable
  • sugar (as newbies, we’re sticking with white or raw cane sugar that lets the main flavors shine), and
  • vinegar (again, until further notice, we’re going with organic apple cider, complete with the “mother” until we find a good reason to do otherwise).


However, we far prefer a more fruit-forward, less sweet/tang hit on the taste buds, so we’ve landed on a starting point of 2-1-1 ratio, as recommended by our shrub guru, Michael Dietsch, in his entertaining and enlightening book:

Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times

Plus, in addition to the straight up fruit/sugar/vinegar possibilities…

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |
… to achieve the complex wonders you’ve been sampling at your local chi-chi cocktail bar, you’re going to want to add a sprinkling of ordinary–yet out of context, stunningly exotic–herbs, roots, citrus, spice, and botanical options.

Blackberries and lime for a fresh hit of summer? Absolutely. Figs and cinnamon? Screams “autumn and football is here!” Mint with cherries, cantaloupe, or yellow plums? Dietsch declares it one of his favorite complementary flavors.

This is all about establishing a solid point of departure, and then experimenting, tweaking, trying, investigating, looking into, venturing your way forward… and we haven’t even begun to discuss which alcohol to use when skipping down the “let’s make a shrub cocktail!” path between the poppy fields.

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |

We’ve just come through a delightful Christmas holiday season, so we’re talking cranberries here, bursting with TART, TANGY, scurvy-scolding zesty flavor.

Given that description–plus the conventional 1-1-1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar–what would you do?

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Yup… and that’s just what we did.

To our new standard of 2-1-1, we amped the sugar, and then we added some kick-*ss vodka and ice and soda, shook vigorously, and it was delicious, and festive, and we laughed and …

I forget.

How to Make a Cranberry-Thyme Shrub



  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 tbs thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar


  1. Muddle the cranberries in a glass canning jar
  2. Add fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped
  3. Stir in the sugar to mix well
  4. Cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 days
  5. Using a fine mesh strainer positioned over a bowl, strain out the solid ingredients. Whisk the syrup well to dissolve any remaining solid sugar. Chuck the solids or use for something else… muffins?
  6. Add the vinegar and let sit at room temperature for about a week or two.*
  7. Pour the syrup into a clean jar or bottle, cap, shake to dissolve any remaining sugar, and label your jar. Seriously, once you get bit by the shrub bug and have several bottles of orangy or berry-looking concoctions in your fridge at the same time, you’ll forget which one is which.
  8. Refrigerate and enjoy anytime over the next six months or so over ice cream, mixed into a pretty cocktail with vodka or gin for a Christmassy hit, or simply serve with soda water over ice for a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative.

Cranberry Thyme Shrub |

*To Refrigerate After Adding the Vinegar Or Not?

Because we came to shrubs through the “Oh look! Another way to ferment things!” door, we depart on this point from Dietsch’s recommendation to refrigerate throughout the whole process.

Our original recipe for the strawberry-rosemary shrub from The Book of Kale and Friends: 14 Easy-To-Grow Superfoods with 130+ Recipes directed us to leave the syrup at room temp for a week or two after adding the vinegar, which makes sense to our fermentation-friendly thinking.

We trust that at room temperature, the yeast on the fruit and from the air have the best ambience for dining on the sugar and producing their delightful waste product, alcohol and a bit of CO2. (Yay, yeast!)

The acetobacter (the bacteria in unpasteurized vinegar) then feeds on the alcohol, turning it into more vinegar. The yeast, encouraged by their new clean environment (thanks, vinegar!) happily gets to work making more alcohol, and so on in the positive cycle known as “fermentation.”

Eventually this process winds down (something to do with the bacteria-induced pH change, phase of the moon, blah, blah, blah) and you’re left with the delicious, slightly bubbly nectar you’ve been shooting for, which you should then refrigerate.

Handy Shrub-Making Resources

A citrus juicer (Cooks Illustrated’s top recommendation is the inexpensive AMCO manual juicer):

Amco Enameled Aluminum Lemon Squeezer

A wooden muddler:

Tablecraft Natural Wood Muddler

A fine-meshed strainer (the Cooks Illustrated winner is the CIA Masters Collection 6 3/4-inch version):

CIA Masters Collection 6 3/4-Inch Mesh Strainer

A funnel for getting juice into jars without making a huge mess (the Cooks Illustrated top pick for funnels is the Progressive Collapsible Funnel):

Progressive Collapsible Funnel

For use in cocktails, you’ll probably also be looking for a decent cocktail shaker (the Cook’s Illustrated recommendation is the Metrokane Fliptop), and maybe a jigger, but if you’re reading this, you probably already have those, right?

Metrokane Cocktail Shaker

And, finally, a nice cocktail glass to enjoy your shrub concoctions in. Here’s one of our favorites:

Bee Pattern Goblets

*Cook’s Illustrated has not yet published a book of cocktails yet, to our knowledge, but we think that’s just a matter of time, don’t you?

How To Make Shrub Drinks

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub | rickandkathy.comUntil we bought a great book on how to grow and cook kale and stumbled accidentally on a couple of  shrub recipes, we weren’t even aware that the delightful rainbow of beverage flavors known as “shrubs” existed.

Some of the best things in my life have come along by happy accident, like most of my books, Rick, and now, this whole world of fermented cocktail shrubs.

Who would have thought the curiously named “drinkable vinegars” could be so delicious, healthful, and super easy-to-make?

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub |
The name “shrub” comes from the Arabic “sharab,” meaning beverage, and is linked linguistically to sherbet, sorbet, and syrup, but my inner four-year old gets a chuckle anyway from having used a few sprigs from our favorite bushes for our strawberry rosemary shrub (recipe below).

Shrub… bush… get it? Ha ha. My humor is a BIG hit with the pre-school crowd.

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub |
There are a handful of ways to make shrubs, but because we’re big fans of all things fermented (cabbage, bread, grapes, and so on), we prefer the “cold process” that keeps the fruit raw and allows the fresh vibrancy of flavor to shine through.

Here’s how it works:

Some combination of fruit, vegetables, herbs and/or spices + sugar + a few days + vinegar + a week or two of partying at room temperature with airborne yeasts and microbes = an easy and delightful addition to your beverage repertoire.

Mix a tablespoon of the shrub with a handful of ice cubes and water for a thirst-quenching alternative to soda, use it as an intriguing base for salad dressings, or pour yourself into the creative swirl of sweet and savory cocktails and spritzers.

strawberry best part is that, according to our copy of the marvelous new book on how to make shrub drinks by Michael Dietsch (surprise!), they’re almost impossible to screw up.

Prefer more tang? Amp up the vinegar. Love a big fruit-forward blast? Shift it up from a 1 fruit – 1 sugar – 1 vinegar ratio to a 2 – 1 – 1 ratio.

It’s perfect when it tastes right to you.

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub |
Just make sure you use a thoroughly clean jar (wash and boil it for 10 minutes if you run on the safe side), and wash your fruit and herbs well but gently.

The food-safety gurus suggest going so far as to “sanitize” your fruit by soaking it in 1 tbs white vinegar to 6 cups water for 10 minutes and treating your herbs to a quick bath of 1 tsp chlorine bleach to 6 cups water (rinse with cold, blot dry) to nuke any nasty microbes, but in our kitchen, this is called “overkill.”

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub |
The list of equipment needed for cold processing is minimal. Beyond the basics and a good knife and cutting board, you’ll want to consider stocking your kitchen with the following:

Citrus juicer (Cooks Illustrated’s top recommendation is an inexpensive Amco manual juicer)

A wooden muddler

Fine-meshed strainer (the Cooks Illustrated winner is the CIA Masters Collection 6 3/4-Inch Mesh Strainer)

Funnel (the Cooks Illustrated top pick for funnels is the Progressive Collapsible Funnel)

Jars or bottles and tops for storage

Strawberry Rosemary Shrub |
For use in your favorite cocktail shrub, you’ll probably also be looking for a decent cocktail shaker (the Cooks Illustrated recommendation is the Metrokane Cocktail Shaker, and maybe a jigger, but if you’re reading this, you probably already have those, right?

Finally, you’ll want to consider putting the current bible of shrubs, Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, on your Christmas or birthday wish list. This well-written, gorgeously illustrated shrub drink recipe collection is chock full of historical insights, shopping tips, and everything you need to know to dive in.

Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times


Happy shrubbing!


How to Make a Strawberry Rosemary Shrub


  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 2 tbs rosemary
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar


  1. Muddle the strawberries in a glass canning jar
  2. Add fresh rosemary, lightly chopped
  3. Stir in the sugar to mix well
  4. Cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 days
  5. Add the vinegar and let sit at room temperature for about a week
  6. Strain out the solid ingredients
  7. Time to mix cocktails or enjoy with soda water over ice

Letting the shrub continue to ferment at room temperature will add complexity to the flavor.

After two weeks have elapsed, store in the refrigerator to enjoy whenever the mood arises. We’re still experimenting with different alcohols with this, but so far, tequila and rum have come out as winners. A shot each of the shrub and your weapon of choice over ice, topped off with soda water…. ahhh!

The strawberry rosemary shrub recipe came from the book I mentioned above:

The Book of Kale and Friends: 14 Easy-To-Grow Superfoods with 130+ Recipes

Handy Shrub-Making Resources:

Amco Enameled Aluminum Lemon Squeezer

Tablecraft Natural Wood Muddler


CIA Masters Collection 6 3/4-Inch Mesh Strainer


Progressive Collapsible Funnel

Metrokane Cocktail Shaker

And because we always taste first with our eyes, a nice quality cocktail glass for your shrub concoctions is a perfect prelude to first sips. Here’s one of our favorites:

Bee Pattern Goblets


Make Sauerkraut In A Crock

When I was growing up, the only time I recall hearing or using the word “crock” was in reference to something that was seriously hard to believe.

As in, the last word of the declaration, “Well, that’s just a crock of [fill in the blank]!” wasn’t sauerkraut.

Well, Wolfgang, times have changed.

Make Sauerkraut in a Crock |
Sauerkraut — aka fermented cabbage — once known mostly as a staple for Reuben sandwich and hot dog eaters, is also one of the most nutritious, easiest and delicious fermented food you can make.

How to Make Sauerkraut in a Crock
Plus, raw, lactic-acid processed (aka “fermented”) sauerkraut is darned good for you.

In an era where “How much probiotics is needed daily*?” is an emerging hot topic at everything from cocktail gatherings in Manhattan to the Metamucil queue in seniors’ homes, this ancient food’s star is on the rise again.

Low in calories, easy and inexpensive to make, and reputedly able to tame cranky digestive tracts, cure canker sores, and even inhibit the growth of cancer cells… What’s not to love?

This is especially great news when your resident Hunky Punkin is also a rabid fermenter.

Here’s how Rick consistently produces sauerkraut to live for.

The best sauerkraut recipe, straight up:

Buy about 15 pounds of  fresh white head cabbage, bring it home, and wash your hands. (That last instruction isn’t for you. It’s for those other people who sometimes forget to wash their hands before starting to cook. Not you.)

Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the tough core.

Slice to about the thickness of a quarter either by hand (grab a good big knife), with a dedicated cabbage shredder, or with your handy dandy Cuisinart. This is the type of task for which your Cuisinart lives.

You’re going to work in batches here, so place the first batch, about a third of the cabbage (5 pounds-ish) in your BIG mixing bowl.

For those of you without a BIG mixing bowl, do yourself a favor. At well under $20 at the time of writing, this highly-rated 12-quart stainless steel mixing bowl is a no brainer, and within about 15 minutes of having one in your kitchen, you’ll find yourself wondering what you did without it.

Add 3 tablespoons of pickling salt and thoroughly mix with your hands, then pack the salted cabbage firmly into a crock. Pickling salt is iodine free so it won’t darken foods or create a cloudy residue in the liquid.

(BTW, if you want to buy your pickling salt at Amazon with other kraut-related supplies, pass on the Ball brand: apparently they have some serious shipping/packaging issues with the “convenient” pouch. Go with the Morton’s in the sturdy box instead.)

Salt the remaining two batches of five pounds each the same way, adding each batch to the crock with a firm hand.

Cabbage can be kinda pushy, so we must stress: be firm. If you’re using a smaller-necked crock or packing jar, you might need a specialized tamper tool.

This is the crock we’ve used with great success.

It’s the right size for the amount of kraut we like to make at a go, and not only does it do the job, but it’s solid, cute and shiny and looks like it should have starred alongside the singing and dancing tea pot and china cups in Disney’s Cinderella.

Laugh if you will, but as your crock will be sitting in a corner of your home burping merrily away while it does its magic, life is better if you enjoy both its personality AND how it looks.

10 L Polish Fermenting Crock Pot

The Boleslawiec (above) ships with right-sized weighing stones to keep the fermenting cabbage submerged in its brine and its mouth features a channel that’s filled with water to create a simple yet highly effective air lock when the lid is in place.

The air lock prevents oxygen from entering the crock while letting carbon dioxide escape (burp!), which ensures the lovely anaerobic environment that promotes the healing bacteria and mouth-pleasuring tang you’re looking for. Also, you don’t want your fermentation vessel exploding from the build up of CO2, right?

In theory, you can accomplish this system with something as simple as a mason jar with a layer of olive oil over the of the ferment or DIY contraptions that involve installing airlocks in the white lids of mason jars. However, we hate wasting our time and money (well, mostly time as cabbage is pretty darned cheap) on trying to develop some knowledge and skill in new areas with home-grown DIY tools that presume you know what “failure to thrive” looks like in case the tool doesn’t quite work out.

Where was I?

Ah, yes… a lovely crock pot full of salted cabbage.

The cabbage begins releasing water very soon after the salt is introduced. Within an hour or so, the cabbage will have released enough liquid to provide enough brine to completely cover the cabbage (provided it’s packed tightly enough).

Place the weighing stones on top of the whole shebang to ensure the cabbage stays submerged during fermentation.

As I mentioned above, the crock we use came with stones right-sized for the crock. It’s such a simple yet effective design that enables the large stones to clear the bottleneck of the crock yet provide the maximum tamping/weighting effect.

So simple, in fact, that it just screams “a couple of millenia on the draft board” elegance.

1000 Stone weight, 5-Liter

You can buy the weighting stones independently if you already have a crock and just need some helping sitting on your cabbage for the fermentation period.

Final five steps:

  1. Once the stones are in place, cover the crock with the lid and set in a room temperature location where the crock can live undisturbed for the duration.
  2. Add water to the channel to create an air lock.
  3. Check the water every day or two to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated from the airlock, adding more to keep the seal when needed.
  4. Wait a month. Yes, your cabbage will be safe at room temperature for that long, and yes, the fermentation process needs that long to give the various strains of friendly bacteria time to develop fully and mature.
  5. As long as you kept the seal on the airlock (aka, didn’t let it dry out) and didn’t expose the fermenting cabbage to oxygen, you shouldn’t have any spoilage, but… safety first! You will definitely want to check it anyway for any of the following: browned or pink cabbage, yeasty odor, slime, and mold.

If any of the above show up, toss it, give your crock a good clean, check it for cracks, and start again. Seriously, it means the bad bacteria got the upper hand and you will definitely NOT be doing your gut any favor by taking a chance. And scraping off the mold isn’t a safe “cheat”: by the time you can see visible evidence of nasties, they’ve grown roots and invaded all the corners. Don’t do it.


Delicious, crunchy, low-fat mountains of almost miracle food that you will pack into clean ball jars (just run them through your dishwasher on “sani” cycle), cover with the brine, slap on a lid, and hand them out to grateful friends and rellies with instructions to store in the fridge until devoured.


Our favorite crock sauerkraut recipe (featured in this post) is the classic “Wine Kraut” from The Joy of Pickling.

The Joy of Pickling

Wine Sauerkraut Recipe

15 pounds trimmed and cored fresh white head cabbage
9 tablespoons pickling salt
6 teaspoons whole caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups dry white wine

Proceed as above but simply add 2 teaspoons of whole caraway seeds with the 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 lbs of cabbage for the hand mixing batches. After 24 hours, remove the weights and add the wine. Replace the weights and lid, making sure there’s plenty of water to maintain the airlock seal, and find meaningful employment for four weeks while you wait for your miracle-in-a-crock to unfold.

Cooks Illustrated on Sauerkraut

In one of our go-to cookbooks, The Best International Recipe, the editors of Cook’s Illustrated notes “While making homemade sauerkraut from raw cabbage is a time-consuming endeavor, the sauerkraut you buy at the supermarket can taste lackluster served as is.” If time and/or motivation is short and you wish to limp along with the store-bought variety, Cooks Illustrated recommends rinsing the sauerkraut before cooking and adding Juniper berries for a subtle piney flavor.

Fermentation Crocks

Fermentation crocks come in many shapes, sizes, and prices. We’re huge fans of the 10L earthenware crock made in Poland described above, but here are some other choices to consider:

15 L Polish Fermenting Crock Pot

This is the big brother of the one we use. If you’re after a bigger batch, this would be a better choice, although IMHO, it’s not quite as spunky as ours.

Decorative Fermenting Crock Pot

What can I say? “Spunky cute on steroids” about sums it up…

5-Gallon Stoneware Pickling Crock with Cover

This is a great solid alternative from the reputable Ohio Stoneware Company for those who aren’t a fan of “brown spunky,” although you’ll need to buy the weighing stones separately if you want to go that route.

German Made Fermenting Crock Pot, 5-Liter

For a smaller footprint or batch preference, the mini-me of our 10-liter baby is an elegant choice.

Fermentation Books:

In addition to The Joy of Pickling and The Best International Recipe, here are some other excellent books we’ve added to our cookbook library for a deeper understanding of of all things fermentation…

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Sandor Katz’s “Wild Fermentation” was one of the first books Rick had read on the subject many years ago, and we still go back to it as both a wonderfully enjoyable, almost anarchistic primer on the subject, and for the chuckle we still get from the passage on how prisoners used to make “hooch” out of Donald Duck orange drink and free airborne yeasts and microbes.

Fermentation for Beginners: The Step-by-Step Guide to Fermentation and Probiotic Foods

Mastering Fermentation: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Fermented Foods

Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home: Creative Recipes for Lactic Fermented Food to Improve Your Health

Fermentation Supplies

Here are several kitchen gadgets that come in handy for making kraut:

Kitchen Scale – Baker’s Math Kitchen Scale

12-Quart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl

Cabbage Shredder

Once you experience first-hand how easy it is to produce delicious, crunchy kraut in your own home, you’ll soon become curious about how to make other fermented delicacies. That’s what’s happened around here, so stay tuned for some additional wisdom about making pickles, wine, and more.

* The answer is tough to come up with as probiotics are really the good guys in the “War of Intestinal Bacteria.” Unless you know how many bad guys outnumber the good guys in your gut, it’s difficult to be precise. And precision in the realm of “several bajillions” is impossible to guarantee, especially if you’re on antibiotics or challenged with constipation, chronic yeast infections, diarrhea, gastrointestinal or urinary tract infections, or gum disease. (I’m kidding about the gum disease, but I wouldn’t be surprised…)

The bottom line is this: if a health professional prescribes probiotics in a supplement, TAKE IT. If no one in a white coat has mentioned probiotics to you yet, EAT SAUERKRAUT, and maybe a little yogurt, dark chocolate, and miso soup every day or two. You’ll be scaring the crock out of the bad guys in your gut.

How to Cook Canned Sauerkraut

While we don’t recommend canned (literally) sauerkraut when there’s no time to make it yourself due to a faint metallic taste most of it comes with, Libby’s is reputed to be the best of the canned varieties. Tip: if you need to buy ready made, go for a bagged kraut instead, like Boar’s Head.

To get close to the recipe we crafted above, here’s how to improve what comes out of something besides your own crock:

  1. Rinse kraut really well in cold water
  2. Place kraut in a heavy, non-reactive saucepan and pour about a cup of dry white wine to cover
  3. Add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 tbs caraway seeds
  4. Optional: 1 finely-chopped medium apple and/or some sliced onion
  5. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring occasionally
  6. Enjoy the kraut, knowing that you’ll opt to make your own next time!

More Kitchen Recommendations

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Life Happens in the Kitchen

In the intersecting rhythms of life in a home, people almost always end up hanging out in the kitchen. 

There’s nothing wrong with a family room and flatscreen TV, but that’s more for checking out than checking in.

The hearth—and the heart—of a home are in the kitchen.

Life happens in the kitchen, and many of our blog posts do, too.

This idea relates to a blog we posted in November 2012, “Associated.”

Back then, we mentioned that we’re trying to figure out a way into a “do what you love and the money will follow” kind of blogging experience.

Here’s what we’ve learned about that over the past year:

1) When we write about kitchen equipment, what Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports recommends, and link to where folks can find the goods, we make money.

We aren’t funding exotic trips to Tahiti just yet, but we are starting to decode the rosetta stone of how strangers find your site when they’re looking for information on products they want to purchase.

Life Happens in the Kitchen-32) When we write, cartoon, and shoot photos about friends, family, romance, travel, landscapes, babies, wild life and tame poodles, and fun in our kitchen, we make memories.

Life Happens in the Kitchen-4Happily, all of the above happens in our kitchen.

Life Happens in the Kitchen-5And while we’re addicted to good industrial design in durable products, top-quality ingredients, proven recipes and methodologies, and wildly delicious results, the kitchen is even more about the journey.

Life Happens in the Kitchen-6Everyone hangs out in our kitchen.

It makes sense, then, that our kitchen has emerged over the past five years as both the anchor space of our love story and the springboard of a heart-based commercial endeavor.

Life Happens in the Kitchen-10And while the outward-facing perspective from our kitchen might change from week to week…

Life Happens in the Kitchen-11… the inward-facing motivation remains the same.

Cooks Illustrated on How to Cook Kale Greens

After eating delicious servings of this anti-inflammatory superstar in restaurants and in the form of our homemade kale chips, we finally turned to the gurus at Cooks Illustrated to resolve the question of how to cook kale greens that you’d actually enjoy eating.

Kale is described as an “assertive” green, and for good reason. It needs a firm hand during preparation to calm the bitterness and soften the chew into something your average dinner guest can motor through without incurring a TMJ injury.

Turns out, it’s not that tough. Ha! I love a good pun, don’t you? 

You just have to cook it like you mean it.

kale-3Once again, we turned to the infallible Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Vegetables for their kale tips and tricks. (And while we’re on the subject, those oven baked french fries on the cover are The. Best. Ever.)

The secret to fabulous kale (p. 141) turned out to be pretty simple: just blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for about 7 minutes before using in any quick cooking recipe. And even though this step seems to be adding work to the process, you actually avoid having to soak/clean the leaves in 2 or 3 changes of water before using them in the final dish. (With its curly leaves, kale is prone to hiding tiny bits of dirt in the corners. You don’t want this kind of “crunch” in your dinner.)

Blanching Kale

Bring about 2 quarts of water to boil in a dutch oven or large, deep sauté pan.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, get the kale ready. Just pile three or four leaves into a stack, large on the bottom, smaller on the top. Fold the stack in half lengthwise so the central ribs line up and trim the ribs with one knife stroke. Turn the stack sideways and chop the leaves into 3-inch pieces.

kale-2Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and your chopped kale to the boiling water, stirring until the leaves are wilted. Cover and cook about 7 minutes or until the greens are tender; drain in a colander.

Run your pot under cold water to rinse and cool it off, then refill with cold water. Plunge your now submissive greens into the chilly bath to halt the cooking process. Harvest your kale from the water and gently squeeze dry.

And that’s it! You’re now ready to use your kinder, gentler kale in your favorite recipes. What’s that you say? You don’t have a favorite kale recipe yet?

While there are several killer kale recipes in the the Perfect Vegetables cookbook (the “Assertive Greens with Shallots and Cream” rocks), here’s a super simple and lower fat “best kale recipe” to prime the pump, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated online recipe collection.

Kale With Black Olives and Lemon Zest

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 pounds kale
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pitted and chopped black olives (oil-cured or brined)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 small lemon
  • Table salt
  • Lemon wedges

Prepare the kale per the instructions above.

In a large sauté pan, heat the garlic and pepper flakes with oil over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the olives and your blanched kale; sauté to coat evenly with the oil. Add 1/3 cup of broth, cover and cook over medium-high heat, adding more stock during cooking if necessary, until the kale is tender and juicy and most of stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and serve with lemon wedges on the side.


FYI, we’re excited to let you know that Rick’s “rickandkathy” cartoons are now available as greeting cards on, and what says “I love you” or “Happy Birthday!” better than a card featuring kale?


Interested in more of our recommendations from Cooks Illustrated?

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Cooks Illustrated Corn Muffins with Spelt

Rick woke up this morning with a hankering for corn muffins (Cook’s Illustrated recipes—free!—below) and a first-ever desire to bake them himself.

Kitchen Clean Up-5Rick, it turns out, is an excellent baker with an inborn understanding that the techniques and tools involved are just as important to producing fine results as are high quality ingredients and a tried-and-true recipe.

Great muffin tin recommended by Cook’s Illustrated? Check.
Best free range butter Broulim’s grocery store carries? Check.
World’s best corn muffin recipe from Baking Illustrated? Check.

Kitchen Clean Up-812 foil baking cups? Whoops…

A dig through the baking cupboard revealed we only had 11 of the foil/paper combination type that I had actually bought by accident, and even then we only had six of the papers that nest inside the foil liners.

Kitchen Clean Up-9While this was Rick’s first muffin rodeo, I have been on the circuit for decades.

Out of a desire to both have my muffins and eat them too, I have always used the paper muffin tin liners so the darned things release in one piece and I don’t spend more time washing up than I did eating. However, Cook’s prep instructions specifically state: “Grease a standard muffin tin and set aside.”

Kitchen Clean Up-1

What… no liners? I went to Cook’s online video on the subject which explained that they don’t like having to pick the paper off the muffins, and that the “lovely brown crust” stays on the paper and not in their mouths, which is where they apparently prefer it.

My experience has been that without the papers, the “lovely brown crust” often clings to the tin with a tenacity that takes several hours of soaking to discourage.

What to do?! Go with decades of my own muffin experience or decades of America’s Test Kitchen muffin experience?

Kitchen Clean Up-3

We decided on an “all of the above” approach, using six foil/paper combos, five straight foil cups, and one unlined hole as our “grease it and see what happens” experiment. (In one of their super-helpful sidebars in the cookbook, Cook’s recommends putting the muffin tin inside the dishwasher to apply cooking spray. Any overspray—and there WILL be overspray, which is why we rarely use it—will be washed away the next time you run the beast.)

As you can see above, both the “foil only” (right) and greased samples retained their delicious brown loveliness right where we wanted it. Cook’s was right about the paper, though: removing the paper also denuded the muffins of the crust.

Eureka! Going forward, our muffins will be hatched using the foil liners on their own. Winston, the paper-lovin’ poodle, will be given the paper portions to keep him amused and out of the kitchen while Rick is baking.

Kitchen Clean Up-4
Enough with the camera already… time for breakfast!

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Baking Illustrated:


  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces) (We substituted 2 cups of spelt: perfect!)
  • 1 cup fine-ground, whole-grain yellow cornmeal (4 1/2 ounces) (Stone-ground whole cornmeal has a richer flavor than regular)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the date: if older than a year, buy new stuff)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (ditto above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (see dishwasher tip above).

2. Whisk dry ingredients in medium bowl to combine; set aside.

3. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add half the sour cream and half the milk and whisk to combine; whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over-mix.

5. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping it to form mound. Do not level or flatten surface of mounds.

6. Bake until muffins are light golden brown and skewer inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in tin 5 minutes; invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, cool 5 minutes longer, take a bajillion photos, but remember to stop in time to serve these puppies while they’re still warm, preferably with fresh hot coffee, aged cheddar cheese, and a perfect Pink Lady apple.