Friday, October 14, 2011

Natural dyeing and sauerkraut

No, I did not dye anything with sauerkraut although I understand someone somewhere managed to dye wool with RED cabbage. Once.

This was supposed to be a post about dyeing wool with black walnuts and goldenrod but someone-who-shall-remain-nameless has not sent me the photos she took, and so we shall do the best we can sans photos.  This will very shortly become a post about making sauerkraut.....

Back in early September my usual group of spinning plotters and troublemakers met at my house. I have 6 walnut trees that gave us and our squirrels a bumper crop this year, enough so that prior to the meeting I could drop a bunch in a bucket of water to soak for several weeks. I also noticed that the goldenrod was in bloom, so I cut a shopping bag full, took it home and simmered it for an hour to extract the color (cooking goldenrod needs to be done on a day when you can open the windows--it gives off a rather "earthy" smell). I also cooked the walnuts for an hour and strained both. Once the day arrived, we soaked our skeins and clean fiber meant for the goldenrod bath in an alum and cream of tartar mordant bath for an hour, while we chatted about the stuff that ladies left on their own with coffee and time on their hands will chat about. I distinctly remember that we mentioned interesting male and female body parts occasionally.

Once the fiber was mordanted, we dropped them in the 2 baths--walnuts do not need mordants because of the high tannen content. All the fibers came out lovely and we were quite happy with the results (which I can't show because someone-who-shall-remain-nameless hasn't forwarded photos yet). I carded up the superwash wool/nylon blend that I dyed into sock fiber, adding camel down, bamboo and sparkly angelina just because I think socks that you spin and knit should be decadent and shiny.

Although I attempted to grow my own cabbage this year, it just wasn't happening because the birds ate the first 2 sowings of seed. So we purchased 5 heads from our local farm. We used to shred the cabbage by hand but Husbeast wasn't in favor of repeating that performance. He used our food processor to shred and I have to say it was just as nice and A LOT faster. We managed to shred and pack 20 lb of cabbage in 90 minutes!

For every 5 lb of shredded cabbage, you sprinkle it with 3 tblsp of canning salt (table salt won't work as the  iodine will retard the fermentation process), mix well and allow to wilt for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, you cut and shred more cabbage--I had 3 very large bowls going simultaneously; 1 being filled, 1 wilting, and 1 being packed.

Using a large straight-sided crock, pack the wilted cabbage snugly in the crock in layers. Once everything is packed, top it with cheesecloth and over turn a dinner plate on top of that. Fill a clean milk jug with water and place it on top of the plate, pushing down slightly to bring the brine to the top so it can protect the fermenting cabbage from rotting. Cover the crock/plate/jug with a cloth and let sit for 5-6 weeks, checking weekly to skim off any scum and check the progress of the sauerkraut. Once it's softened and tastes right, you can pack it in jars and process in a water bath. I mix my sauerkraut with apples, onions, caraway seeds and butter and use that to stuff chicken or turkey--the gravy is to-dye-for good!

(And please don't blame me for the boring sauerkraut-making post, it's all the fault of someone-who-shall-remain-nameless.)

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