For the next couple of weeks I compulsively checked it, my first home fermentation project, impatient for a transformation. I knew that it would take several weeks, if not months, to become that tangy, funky, and thoroughly nourishing German staple we all know and love, but I couldn't stop looking. And doubting.
As I started more and more projects, my attention wandered from the cabbage, until, would you look at that, it's been a solid three months; I'd better check. I lifted the top, fully expecting to find moldy, fly-ridden rotten veg, but what wafted up to greet me was pleasantly sour, and somehow even smelled alive. It crunched like cabbage, but tasted like another being altogether. Pricklingly acidic, earthy, vegetal, robust, brimming with life.
Knowing I didn't want to lose the vivacity of our new friend in the garage, but also realizing that we would most likely not get around to eating it all before the temperature rose to summer heights and carried our sauerkraut over the fermentation Sour Cliff and into the Abyss of Off Flavors, I canned it.
I know, I know, I just killed a living being. I took all that natural health-giving bacteria and cooked it, rendering it just another can in the cupboard. But then again, I'd rather have four quarts of delicious preserve than a crock of what might have been.