I’d been looking forward to March 21st all year. Since we started this stricter phase of the diet, in the back of my mind I’d set this as our first finish line–if we could just make three months, cooking and eating gluten-, casein-, and sugar-free and probiotics-rich should have gotten a lot easier. It should have become routine. And we should be starting to see results. Plus, the weather would be getting warmer, I would be finished with my master’s degree, and the college I teach at would be starting its spring break. Life should be good come end of March, I’d thought.
And it has, I suppose (except for the uncooperative Minnesota weather, where snow is expected again this week). Cooking dinner has gotten much more routine, and making breakfasts and lunches each morning has become a quicker process. Logan’s preschool teacher even told me last week that she believes she sees a definite difference in Logan from last year, when he wasn’t on the diet, to this year, when he is on the diet. “I think you should keep doing it,” she said, almost timidly. (I had just finished my usual whine about how difficult it is to maintain.)
It’s all been encouraging. Still, I see Logan oddly waving his hands in the air–stimming–and hear him babbling baby talk and endless lines from movies that come out of nowhere and get disheartened. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. But at least, with our first deadline passed, I feel a bit of renewed strength to set a new finish line.
It was good timing, then, to add another element to our diet lifestyle: fermenting vegetables. Because of their high levels of good bacteria that helps restore gut health, fermented vegetables are supposed to be a main part of this diet, and we have been including them in our suppers every night since even before the new year. But we’ve just been buying them; eating vegetables that we’ve “made” by essentially letting them rot to grow bacteria, which people normally avoid like, well, the plague, is a bit intimidating. My husband ranged from concerned to terrified that we’d make ourselves all sick. Buying jars of it in the store made it seem a little less risky, somehow. Angelica’s Garden was our favorite brand of fermented red cabbage–we’d tried a few other brands and veggies, too, like kimchee and raw, fermented pickles, but they weren’t as good. There’s a taste to fermented veggies that’s an acquired one, for sure. Sharp, sour, sort of spicy. I still see Logan grimacing every now and then as he takes a bite, but he’s almost always a trooper and cleans his plate.
Even though fermenting is a pretty simple process (as far as cooking is concerned, since there is no cooking involved), it still took all day and spilled over into the next morning. We bought four heads of cabbage (both green and red), little cucumbers, carrots, onions, jalapenos, dill, and a half dozen jars of spices. Back at home, we started with the cabbage. And by “we,” of course, I mean my husband. My role was simply cleaning up the giant mess afterward.
My husband shredded the cabbage and carrots in the food processor, then mixed them together with grated fresh ginger and Himalaya salt in a large stockpot. (This step sounds easier than it was–the vegetables had to be weighed on a food scale, then the salt crystals had to be ground and weighed, and the correct salt-to-veggie ratio had to be added. Jason kept muttering things like “450 grams…225…half of 28…so that means…” I wanted to say it means there’s too much math involved for me to not feel like hyperventilating, not to mention too much ickyness in hand-mixing the slimy stuff, but I didn’t.) Then he scooped it into jars, packed it in tight, and sealed the lids. “I must be forgetting something,” he kept saying. It was just too simple.
Jason did pickles next, quartering them and packing them into jars with salt, onions, dill, and jalapenos. He then poured filtered water in and sealed the jars.
Now, the 10 jars simply sit in a cooler, whispering to each other as the gases escape from the ever-so-slightly loosened lids (fermentation creates carbon dioxide — the jars could explode if the pressure builds up in the jar.) If you lean your head in close, you can hear it, almost like a song. Tiny bubbles inside the jars whiz to the top as bacteria grows. This is what some call wild fermentation, done without a starter culture. When they’re ready in a week or so, it will be interesting to see how they taste–and more importantly, how they affect our health.