No joke. This story is true, a real foodie’s hilariously strange nightmare.
Who else could end up with sauerkraut in their washing machine?
Why me, of course! My story will demonstrate I know a lot about cultured foods, but nothing about plumbing.
It all started with a lazy Sunday afternoon and twelve quarts of fresh sauerkraut. But first, some back story is necessary to make any sense of this crazy tale.
For several years, I’ve been faithfully eating according to the GAPS protocol, trying to heal my gut lining with nourishing foods. Consuming ferments is a major component of the diet, since favorable bacteria restore intestinal cells. So, I learned to make water kefir, homemade yogurt, and crock sauerkraut, of which cabbage is the base ingredient. Not only did we consume cabbage in the form of sauerkraut, we also ate it a couple times a week for dinner, and three to four times a week for lunch in soup.
About two months ago, my nutritionist diagnosed me with a strong sensitivity to cabbage, in addition to other food intolerances. When you have leaky gut syndrome, like I do, your immune system can over react to any food or chemical, especially when you are overexposed. Yes, I ate too much cabbage. Too much of a good thing is still too much! Alas, my beloved sauerkraut that everyone raves about was now off my approved foods list. But by this time, I had already begun a huge new batch, more than 12 quarts.
Fast forward to Sunday. After three months of fermenting, this latest recipe was ready to harvest and share with all my non-cabbage-sensitive friends. (Learn how to make it from my post, Superb Crock Sauerkraut.) I scoop out the kraut spoon by spoon, into half gallon and quart jars. Then, I run out of jars! What to do? Oh, yes. I’ve got several quarts of old kraut sitting in the fridge. I decide it can be discarded, so I can make use of those jars. This is where my story goes awry. I proceed to put at least four quarts of sauerkraut down my kitchen sink garbage disposal, carefully washing it down with hot water.
Who’s bright idea was that!!??
(Important side note – we have battled a clogged main drainage pipe for three years, ever since we moved into our 40-year old ranch-style home. The kitchen drain, dishwasher drain, and washing machine drain are all connected close together! That must have been a popular design feature in the 1970s, along with yellow-stained windows and green-colored toilets. We have managed to open the drain several times with a 50-foot plumbing snake.)
Where is my husband while I’m putting large amounts of sauerkraut down our kitchen sink? Blissfully listening to an audio book and working on a puzzle, not paying attention to the impending doom.
Guess what happens next! You’re right; the kitchen sink begins to back up.
I sheepishly call Jim over to take a look. I’m starting to realize what I’ve done. He decides to thread a 5-foot snake down the sink, in attempts to disrupt what might be a small clog.
Then, the U-shaped trap pipe under the sink breaks and water and sauerkraut immediately gush out, with a big “woosh” sound. Now we have a bigger problem. Jim grabs the pipe with his hand to stop the flow and tells me to hand him a large bowl to catch the remaining water. I gladly comply.
He takes apart the pipe, leaving it completely open and heads to Home Depot to find the correct part. But before he leaves, he starts the washing machine on a tub rinse cycle, believing that will help flush out the trapped sauerkraut. Sounds reasonable, I think. (This is the point we forget that all the drains are connected and we still have a major clog underneath the house.)
I get out some rag towels and begin wiping up the floor. Meanwhile, while Jim is gone, the washing machine commences its spin cycle and starts draining. Oh no! I hear more water flushing from the kitchen sink pipe. I race to our laundry room and pause the washing machine. Whew, I think I’ve averted a worse disaster. But now we have even more water and sauerkraut on the floor, this time flowing into the dining room. I get out some more towels. (It’s a good thing we have linoleum!)
Ten minutes later, the washing machine starts its cycle once again, and now I can’t stop it! It won’t pause! I run around literally screaming, “I don’t know how to stop the water!” (Unplugging it would have been a good start!) Now the water draining from the washer is flowing onto our laundry room floor, as well as the kitchen floor! I pull out the drain hose, quickly grab an empty trash can nearby and let the rest of the water drain out of the machine. After my heart stops racing and I come back to my senses, I unplug it and open the washer lid. I survey the damage.
Now there is sauerkraut in my washing machine!
It must have backed up from the main clog underneath the house. Oh dear!
Jim returns to find me almost in tears. I keep a fairly clean house and this is quite disturbing. I have water and wet towels all over the floor. I can’t use the kitchen sink or dishwasher. I have sauerkraut in my washing machine. I have a 15-liter fermenting crock half full of fresh sauerkraut sitting on my counter. And I can’t even eat it! (Are you laughing yet?) All I wanted was a few extra jars.
Bless his heart, my dear husband calmly goes about fixing the trap pipe and reminds me that our predicament is only temporary. I hover over his shoulder while looking at the messy floor.
But wait, it’s not over. “Jim,” I say, “there’s another leak.” This time it’s a different pipe coming from the garbage disposal. It’s after 8pm and Home Depot is closed.
Now what do we do? I text my mom! Mothers always have brilliant ideas in the midst of a crisis. She calls back and suggests we try Fred Meyer for plumbing supplies. Good thought. We have a few laughs over the phone and my parents pray for our sanity to hold fast into the night.
Jim returns a second time with a second pipe and fixes it too. He then makes a valiant attempt to unclog the main drain pipe through the laundry access using the 50-foot snake. This time, it doesn’t work. What’s next when you can’t fix your own plumbing problem? That’s right. Call a professional, a real plumber.
We finish wiping up the floors. I find a few small clean jars to pack up the rest of the fresh sauerkraut. The main drain pipe is still clogged, but at least I can walk around with dry feet now. We both conclude that a plumber is what we need. I will call tomorrow. We can live with a clogged pipe, at least for one or two nights. It could be worse; at least we don’t have a sewage problem. Thankfully, the bathrooms and shower work just fine.
We finally eat dinner at 10pm and go to bed exhausted. I lay my head on the pillow and then remember…
I still have sauerkraut in my washing machine.
I leave it there, too tired to think about it till tomorrow.
That was Sunday.
Now it’s Tuesday. We found a reputable plumber to replace ten feet of drainage pipe underneath our home. It was nasty clog, filled with grease, oil, hair, and of course, sauerkraut. But it’s fixed! And according to the professional, we should have no more problems. Thank you Lord. No more sauerkraut in my washing machine.
This experience has taught me to be thankful for the little things in life, like adequate plumbing and working appliances, and the big people in life, like my sweet husband. I have so much to be grateful for, both the conveniences and relationships I often take for granted. By the way, my washing machine still works. The beneficial sauerkraut bacteria must have given my washer a good cleaning.
Here’s to my friends who have the privilege of eating my latest batch of sauerkraut. It’s really tasty, at least my husband says. Here’s the recipe: 4 large green cabbage, 8 large carrots, 8 leaves of kale, and 1 butternut squash.
I promise, it has not been through the washing machine.