Kraut Junkie

Any similarity between this writing and that of The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, can be blamed on the fact that finally, after two weeks of hovering over my mailbox, her new book, Furiously Happy, arrived.

I retrieved it after nearly colliding with the mail truck as I was trying to back out of my driveway without hitting one of the roughly 50 or so trucks that have been intermittently parked on the street for the past year for the re- “construction” of the house across the way.

I apologized to the mailman for the near collision and he said (and I am not making this up), “I didn’t see you, either.” Really? You are driving forward in a truck with a windshield the size of a football field and you didn’t see me? Well, raise my rent.

And so, as they say, back to our story.

As I walked into the kitchen yesterday, I thought that my husband and/or the dog, and maybe even the cat, had passed gas. And I asked as much.

“No. I always claim mine.” Patently not true, by the way, for those keeping score. But I realized he was telling the truth, or he had developed some powerful hang time, because even fifteen minutes later, the smell was still there. Then it hit me — cabbage!

For the past six weeks or so, Ed has been fermenting sauerkraut (not a euphemism) in the pantry, and it’s almost time to can it (thank heavens, because we are having friends over in a week or so and I’d hate to have to explain that, no, we don’t have a gas leak –that is a euphemism– but a bubbling cauldron of bacteria-laden cabbage waiting to be canned).

In an experiment a few years ago, Ed decided to use one of our stone crocks to try his hand at making sauerkraut. As the first batch was a tasty success, he’s made a little more each year, getting maybe six or seven quarts each time, so we are very careful to make it last until the next season. To some of you, that might not sound like a problem. But then: 1) you may not be fans of sauerkraut like we are or 2) you’ve never had Ed’s kraut, which is milder and a tad sweeter than any store-bought variety.

Growing up with a German ethnicity, I think I was probably hard-wired for kraut even before I was born. As a kid, the only kraut I ever had was Frank’s, from the store. But there was something about that mouth-puckering tang with just an edge of sweetness that hooked me. So much so that (I’m almost afraid to admit this), as a kid, I’d open a four-ounce can of Frank’s and eat it right from the can as a snack. I think that might make me what you’d call a kraut junkie.

It seems odd to me, growing up in a heavily German-influenced area that no one I knew ever made their own kraut. But in the 1970s, maybe it wasn’t cool. Maybe I was too young to really pay attention if anyone did or not. Or maybe, less than 50 years after the Second World War involving aggressors from my ancestral homeland, folks had distanced themselves to a point where they were no longer interested in reproducing what they could easily buy from the store.

Or maybe they didn’t want to have their kitchen pantry emit questionable gaseous odors for six weeks, making a wife look askance at her husband, the dog, and even a cat before remembering that said husband was really a culinary genius who took a head of cabbage, some salt, and a stone crock to create the food of the gods. At least those from Valhalla.

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