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.