This reality was thrust upon me when, having a strange, almost pregnancy-like craving, I was forced to buy some sauerkraut to go with the hot dogs I had planned for dinner.
Reality is: buying sauerkraut is like going to someone’s house, rummaging through their refrigerator until you find the oldest leftovers in there, and then offering them money for it.
Reality is: sauerkraut is only good after it has gone bad. That’s not a contradiction, not exactly, because it isn’t really sauerkraut unless it has gone rotten for a few days, or weeks. Before it goes bad, it’s only cabbage. It earns the name after it’s gone through the trials of time and torment. There’s probably a life lesson in that, but I don’t want to go down that road. Not today.
You make it by putting your cabbage in a bucket in your garage, you cover it loosely, with gauze or something, and then you wait for it to begin the fermentation process. I’m not kidding around. That’s technically accurate. Actually, some people prefer putting their cabbage in glass jars, but most sauerkraut makers aren’t all that picky. I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve heard that the container can’t be fully closed or you end up with something completely different from sauerkraut.
The next step in the process, after you’ve lumped your cabbage in a bucket, you ignore it for a few weeks. You let it begin the fermentation process, but you don’t let it completely ferment. It just gets started and then you call it done. That might actually be a contradiction. But you really, really, really don’t want to put fermented cabbage on your bratwurst; it tastes terrible. Trust me on that. Don’t ever do it. You’ll have hallucinations of illnesses. You’ll have ghost flavors of dead things trapped in your gullet. You’ll have spasms in the muscles in your tongue. It’s a downward spiral. Your tongue will feel like it has been put in a bucket, thrust to the dark corners of the garage, and neglected—only to be remembered when someone in the house has a hankering for a hot dog.