Tonight I sat down to a simple but very meaningful meal: homemade sauerkraut (six weeks in the making after months of growing the cabbage), homemade 100% rye sourdough bread (a week and a half from beginning the sourdough starter to baking the bread), and a couple of nice cheeses (not local but excellent), all topped off with an Angeles Porter from Slow Happy Brewing (now about a seven weeks since brew date).
Is this slow happy dining or what?
While CFL and I do carefully control the ingredients and environmental conditions for our beer, the sauerkraut and bread are wild and crazy!
The cabbage fermented on its own in a crock, happily doing its thing on whatever wild yeasts had chosen to inhabit our cabbage. When we finally tasted it, we were amazed at how crisp and crunchy it is! Really flavorful too — it’s not like the limp store-bought stuff at all.
I kicked off the sourdough starter with whatever wild yeasts happened to be hanging out on an apple from a tree in my front yard. My first attempt a month ago failed because I got lax about feeding the starter more flour after it began to bubble. I kept a close eye on my second attempt at a starter and caught it at its prime, just in time to start my first loaf of bread. It then took me about two days to get a lively bread dough going in my cool kitchen. When baking day finally came, I used a brand new cast iron loaf pan and held my breath.
The bread came out perfect! CFL and I consumed almost half of it in the first half hour, and then we had another large chunk of it at dinner.
The bread, sauerkraut, and beer complemented one another perfectly, with the cheese adding a few nice notes as well. CFL tells me his pastrami completed the ensemble nicely; I’ll take his word for that.
I forgot to photograph my plate, but here is a photo of our Angeles Porter. In contrast to our first batch, this beer has an impressive head! This particular bottle was actually a tad more exuberant than most – which is why I’d grabbed my phone to capture that moment.
There is something immensely satisfying about eating a meal that you not only prepared yourself, but waited a loooooonnnng time for! As I write this, the second batch of cabbage is aging in my pantry, to be enjoyed beginning about two weeks from now. It will be a lovely shade of pink, as it’s two-thirds red cabbage.
Two batches of beer are aging in my upstairs loft, to be debuted this weekend (Up the Elwha ESB) and next weekend (Grand Festivus XII). The still-unnamed strong Scotch ale is downstairs in a carboy, enjoying a long cozy relationship with a bunch of oak chips before it will be bottled (probably next week) and then aged another 45 days. Today we bought the ingredients for our second porter. It’s a recipe that I invented based on a lot of reading and my determination to create something as true to the “robust porter” style as possible. We’ll brew that one this weekend and plan to debut it just before New Years.
I think I’ll wake up the sourdough starter and begin another loaf of bread tomorrow morning… and maybe bake on Sunday.
Although CFL and I are committed to living one day at a time and enjoying each moment as much as we possibly can, I’m coming to love the long slow happy rhythm that fermenting requires. Especially this time of year, as the nights get longer and colder, it’s good to know that there is genuine, living, local, healthy food growing all around me. It’s good to mark the calendar and anticipate the first tastes. It’s good to plan a couple of batches out and realize that I’ll be eating or drinking them next year.
We’d both lost so much — we’d both lost the person whom we hoped and expected we’d spend the rest of our lives with. Somehow, when we create the slowest of slow foods together, it’s an affirmation that for us, life will indeed go on.
Slowly and happily.