Friday, August 8, 2014

Adventures in fermentation, or, Cabbage is the New Glitter


My old friend Chris is an organic farmer, and everything she does inspires me.  We got to talking about fermentation the other day, about how sauerkraut is just cabbage, salt, and time—all of which I already had lying around the house, and you know how that is—so I decided to give it a whirl and see if I could make my own.  I assembled my ingredients:  cabbage, salt, carrots (she said I could), kombucha (to ensure happy fermentation—The Girl Who Married a Bear said I could) and an unopened bottle of cheap merlot (for me, when it all went sideways).  I cored and sliced up the cabbage, put it in a big bowl, liberally salted it, and then used the merlot as a bashing tool, to pound the cabbage into wilted and watery submission.  I grated the carrots into it, and then packed it, along with the juice made by pounding, into two half-gallon canning jars, and added the kombucha as a brine, to cover.  It didn’t quite, so [here’s my first mistake] I figured a splash of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar--which in my experience so far has improved literally everything else in life--wouldn’t hurt either, so I put some of that in there, too. (You seasoned fermenters out there are already slapping your foreheads, aren’t you?)  I covered the jars loosely, set them in a warm spot, and waited for the delicious, baby diaper-ish aroma to begin bubbling forth.  Two days later, it smelled like coleslaw that had been sitting on the kitchen counter for two days; it did not smell stinky, like it should.  A peruse of the blogs easily showed me my vinegar error, so last night at about ten o’clock, as I was about to go to bed, I thought to tidy up the kitchen a little, and [here’s my second mistake] I dumped it down the drain.

You can’t put a whole head of cabbage, no matter how well-pounded, down your kitchen sink without running into a few snags.  So the cabbage (naturally) clogged up the pipes, and the sink began spewing things.  I hopped around in a small panic, hoisting previously clean objects up out of the rising brown water, and the doctor opened the cupboard to see what was the matter, and there was cabbage and dirty water sprayed over every single item and surface.  Of course, I started laughing.  What you absolutely need in times like these is a good-natured husband, and thank goodness I have one, because he sat down on the floor in a fresh puddle of decomposing vegetables and began tinkering with the sink works, and—I swear to god this is true—started whistling.  I was bent over in hysterics, wiping my eyes and saying, “Haha, I am so, haha, so, SO sooooorry!” which came out like a squeal, and he’s down there with his head in the cupboard, holding a bucket underneath the exploded drain and singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Your Life”, and I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  And opened the merlot.  My son came home, into the middle of this melee, said, “It looks like somebody killed a pig and dragged it into the woods” which I think might be a quote from Huckleberry Finn, which made me scream again, and I tried to say, “I put a cabbage down the disposal and the sink broke” but it sounded too funny so it just came out like “Ahhhheeeeehahahahaha!”  and he shook his head and went to take a shower. 

After an hour or so of snaking drains and increasingly muddy trips up and down the basement steps, the comedy began to wear thin, and I sulked, and apologized without laughing, and amused myself with Pinterest.  He’d say, “It’s okay” and  “It wasn’t your fault” [it totally was, I love him so much] and “Whoops, there’s cabbage in my putty” to make me laugh again.  Finally, it was all fixed, and I filled my mop bucket with my beloved radish-scented Mrs. Meyer’s, and cleaned everything up.  He made chamomile tea, for both of us.  He said, “Cabbage is the new glitter.”  By the way, this is a love story. 


  1. OH Whew!
    I needed to read this for a few reasons:
    1. some fun friends & I are planning on making sauerkraut (for the 1st time) next week
    2. You are human— With all your creations, I guessed you were super bionic and I am a real slow poke.
    3. you have adult kids that....
    3. you have a hubby.
    Now I feel like we really have things in common =)
    LiFE laughter LUV:::::::::cozy things.

    WHEW x0x keep going!!
    and thanX for the tip on the sauerkraut

  2. Awww, you poor thing!!! I know that it is awful, but this has just made me laugh so much which I needed right now, so even though the fermenting didn't work for you, it has certainly worked for me. I feel a lot cheerier now! See, every cloud has a silver lining, they just turn up in unexpected places and in strange ways! I hope that your next attempt - because you will surely try again! - is much better. xx

  3. I laughed so hard I was wiping tears from my eyes. Thank you! It can be so frightening when something goes wrong like that but thank goodness you had a calm workerbee to help you out; and yeah, real love! LOL You are my inspiration in everything in life; thank you for sharing on your blog.

  4. I really needed a laugh, I spit soda on my monitor! have a great one!

  5. oh my- my sweet dog was skunked last night and I too was laughing and crying and in way over my head and we were all covered in tomato paste and enzyme cleaner and singing along to the dixie chicks- who provided an excellent sound track to the melee that was occuring. I was bailed out by my very favorite neighbors who came to help and share the adventure and it did feel a bit like a love story over here too- skunk is the new gluten free cookie :)

  6. Brilliant, honest and totally funny.

    Jean x

  7. I think I may have laughed as much as you! So funny!

  8. Oh for a man like that, he is one in a million. I laughed and laughed with you, whilst envying you your wonderful husband. Massive disasters are nowhere near as relaxed in this house. Wishing you a good weekend. Will you be trying the sauerkraut again..? CJ xx

  9. A good tale, very well told. I could smell the fermenting cabbage down your drain from here! Great husband you have - he's a keeper, methinks. Good weekend to you and many Happy Saurkraut moments for the future. x

  10. Oh Kristen!!!

    How on earth did you manage to tell this tale so splendidly without being incapacitated by more laughter?

    Thanks for telling, these things do happen, and laughter is the best stress reliever!!! Your husband deserves a medal - or should that be a large serving of sauerkraut?! ;)

    Coming from Bavaria (where a lot of sauerkraut is being eaten), it never occurred to me to have a go at making my own, hehehe!

    Enjoy your weekend!
    Ingrid xx
    (PS: my blog is finally open, why not take a little look?)

  11. I would have peed my pants.... And drunk the merlot, probably.....:)

  12. I realize you said it was a love story, so I must ask forgiveness, as I laughed hysterically! Sounds like something I would do!

  13. That was wonderful and you have a prince for a husband. I think if we're honest, we'll all admit to doing something similar. I also have a fantastically perfect Hubby who would react similarly. Thank you for my smile for the day.

  14. What a wonderful story! I giggled my way through it! You're hubby is indeed a hero .... xxx

  15. I saw this post last night but I knew it was going to be good so I saved it until this morning to read read while my man makes pancakes - worth the wait, I can tell you - I had a wine type disaster like that but the smell might have been more fragrant than cabbage. Jo x

  16. What a wonderful story, and a wonderful man! A love story, indeed!

  17. Hahaha, I could just picture the whole scene! Good thing your man is handy around the house.
    I buy Bubbies brand pickles and sauerkraut, (fermented naturally) because I tried the cabbage thing before and failed miserably.
    The merlot was a wise choice.

  18. Too funny, and you have the nicest hubby, absolutely a love story - bravo for the experiment and bravo for hubby's support and fixing skills.

  19. Oh I'm so glad I'm not the only person who has these sorts of things happen. Not that I've done exactly the same - but similar. And the good-natured husband helps to clear up the mess.

  20. Hilarious!!! We did something similar trying to make pineapple beer - inside an old cupboard!!!! Yeh, that was quite a thing too!!! I also have a great hubby just like yours!!! Have a fun week!!!
    AMarie xxx

  21. This is the best thing I've read in days and days. And definitely a love story!

  22. oh I LOVE this!! Going to send it to my husband to read, too, for the next time I have a kitchen disaster. So smart of you to keep the merlot on hand :)

    And, as an experienced fermenter, it took me batches and batches to believe that magic could happen with just brine and veggies. Just shredded up a bunch of zucchini yesterday and set it in a brine to ferment. Supposedly going to be like sauerkraut. Maybe I need to make sure I have some merlot around. . .

  23. Oh my goodness, I just discovered your blog through, you know, linky linky link-following, and have been reading a bunch of your posts. I love the way you write and this is certainly the best so far! Count me in as new reader #whatever :)