Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wild in my kitchen

The boiler was broken at work this week, so I took the opportunity to work at home on Tuesday. And working at home means getting to do fun little projects to break up the computer time.

Tuesday's fun project was making my first batch of sauerkraut in 2008. WooHoo!

This is one of the two heads of cabbage that are now fermenting away on the top of our fridge. (Check the lovely crock in the background. Blair found it for me Christmas. No more big plastic tub for me!) Cabbage and salt go in and then the wild bacteria do their thing to make it into sour goodness. I have to say, I understand bacteria and culturing and all of that business, but fermented food still seem a bit magical to me. I love the idea that eating wild fermented food really is taking the flora of a place into your body. Folks have said since the time of the gold miners that there is something special about the wild bacterial and yeast fauna in San Francisco that makes the sourdough so good, and unlike the sourdough that you get France or Minnesota.

I also have a wild sourdough starter (named Roger), but have had mixed results with the bread from it. I don't know if it's the flour (I use mostly whole wheat), the fluctuating temperatures in our kitchen, my un-honed kneading skills, or something I haven't even thought of, but the bread I've made so far certainly leaves something to be desired. One of my goals this year is to make (more than once, so I know it's not just a fluke) some bread from Roger that I feel good about serving to other people. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Some wild bacteria (and lots of salt) in the salt flats by the San Francisco Airport

For a good, comprehensive book on bacteria I highly recommend Betsey Dexter Dyer's Field Guide to Bacteria. I seriously love this book. Before I had my very own copy I checked it out from library so many times that I maxed out my check-out allowance. Buy one for your bookshelf (or the bookshelf of someone you love who will let you borrow it).

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