Thursday, November 18, 2010

My House Smells Funny, and a Plea for Flyod

I came upon an interesting cabbage the other day. Happily, I've been privy to a CSA all summer long and into the fall. Sadly, the season for this particular one has come to an end, but in one of the last boxes, a strange conehead cabbage appeared. It made me think how long it's been since my kitchen had that certain funk of something fermenting in it, and I decided it was high time to do something about it.

Don't get me wrong, a nice, long slow braise would do the trick, but then, the methane would most certainly be mixed with the far too pleasant aroma of apples and pork of some sort (probably the crazy smoky bacon ends my hunky teacher-bartender friend brought me from Tennessee when a bunch of us cooked together the day after a raucous Halloween: homemade mergeuz fried with potatoes and a good dose of lard, sopes with pork green chile Colorado style, smoked mushrooms and eggplant, etc. with copious amounts of Hamburgled wine and beer), and despite being a slow braise, this would be a relative quick-fix and would earn me no street cred with this Polish butcher I know.

It'd have to be stronger, and more sustained.

Nothing short of the funk of lactic acid produced by cabbage sitting in salt water on the counter top for awhile would do. I cut strange old Beldar up and packed him into a simple brine of salt and water in a mason jar (many traditional recipes call for just packing the cabbage in salt, pressing it and using the abrasive nature of the salt to bring the water out of the cabbage, which works, but the complete submerging action by the brine tends to be a bit more consistent), covered the jar with a napkin/fermenting food coverer/old torn up curtains from the lean days in Georgia, and let it hang out on my counter for a few weeks. Lactic acid develops, fermenting the cabbage safely, and the brine keeps the cabbage crunchy and salty despite the color fading. It finished today (3 or 4 weeks later), and I couldn't be happier. Not because the funky smell will be gone--I actually really love that--but now I can get some pork involved, and serve the sauerkraut with a bunch of sausages.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to charm crazy haired friend into swapping some of his amazing starter culture for some kraut, or a kombucha scoby, or some good old-fashioned labor--if you'd had bread made with it, you would know why. Anyway. I've got some kraut to eat in preparation for tonight's meal--my first in a Chicago Michelin-starred rəstaurant.