Now doesn't that sound tasty?
Well, not really, but that's what I got.
I was so excited this spring when Kim bought me two old stoneware crocks: visions of fermented deli pickles and sauerkraut buoyed me through the planting season and long summer. The cucumbers I seeded did absolutely nothing, but the cabbages were happy and plump, once the bugs that were nibbling them went on to better things.
I was so excited when I started the first batch of sauerkraut in one of the crocks. I tended that batch lovingly, and if my plugged up nose meant I couldn't smell the fermentation process myself, Kim assured me (regularly) that it was, indeed, filling the kitchen with its distinctive aroma.
I was so excited when I had my first taste. My mom might have made a politely funny face, and Kim might have sworn the kraut was salty enough to fell a horse, but to someone like me with no sense of smell and consequently little sense of taste, kraut that packed a punch was right up my alley. I loved it, and ate a bowl every day. But it was a big crock, filled with a big batch, and in the heat of August I knew it wouldn't keep forever on the counter. So I canned it.
I was so excited when I viewed the quart jars of kraut lined up on the counter. I imagined opening them up in the doldrums of winter, jolting my taste buds awake with every crunchy bite. And then I washed up.
I washed the canning equipment. I washed the crock. It was when I washed the glass plate I had been using to weigh down the cabbage in the crock that I saw that a fair-sized piece of glass had been chipped from the edge, and now was nowhere to be found. Which meant there was glass somewhere in my lovingly canned sauerkraut.
Into the garbage it went. It didn't even make it into the compost - I didn't want to put the chickens at risk, since the compost pile is one of their favourite places to scratch for bugs. And I started again.
I wasn't quite so excited by it all the second time around, and maybe that meant an essential ingredient was missing. Or maybe the cooler weather meant a slower fermentation that I didn't manage properly. But I started noticing a different kind of scum on top of the crock's contents, something more thick and rubbery than the foamy scum I had been told to expect and had been skimming off every few days. And then Kim came into the kitchen one day and said "Phew!"
Since I don't have a functioning nose, Kim has to act as my smeller and taster of things. With the kraut she never got past the smelling part, which is probably just as well. "Smells like wine," she said. "Sauerkraut wine. It smells really bad - I think you should throw it out."
So into the garbage went the second batch. It didn't make it to the compost either - no sense giving the chickens botulism, or whatever that rubbery mold was.
I'll definitely try this again next year, because the first batch was so darn good - at least to me. And I didn't completely wash out in the fermentation department, because the crock of mini cucumbers (bought by the case at our local market) that lived on the counter through the late summer and early fall turned into really, really good kosher-style deli pickles. But the sauerkraut was a failure.
Unless you have a taste for sauerkraut wine, that is.
My crock, full of hope but empty of kraut...