Monday, November 7, 2011

Sauerkraut wine



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...

4 comments:

jeanives said...

sauerkraut wine? there is a very active imagination....!

Shim Farm said...

Oh yum. My German parents made sauerkraut when we were kids - I still remember the fermenting vat stashed away in the front hall closet! My (now 75 year-old) mother laughed at me when I mentioned I wanted to try and make sauerkraut this summer, "Ach!", she said, "why when you can buy a jar of Bicks sauerkraut for $2?" She's the voice of reason. Mind you, she perks her jar of Bicks up with goose fat, onions, apples and bacon which goes a loooong way in zipping up the taste!

I enjoy reading your blog - the beautiful Cowichan valley - paradise found!

Greeting from Quebec and Shim Farm!

Ann

Paula said...

Sauerkraut's a tricky thing, if you're still learning how.

I've only managed one batch. I wanted to can it, but the extension agent suggested freezing as a better method.

If you manage to can a batch and it turns out, I will be very much interested to know who you did it.

Kara said...

What a bummer! I've been itching to start down the fermentation road, but am pretty intimidated by it-- it seems like there is a lot that can go wrong, and it also seems like things are made in such big batches...maybe I'll try a mini-batch of something!

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