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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dad's Homemade Sauerkraut and Beer

By Lewis LeMaster

At the age of ten (1960), my sports equipment consisted of an old ball, a catcher's mitt and a bat. Five years later, I still had the ball and the mitt, although the ball had lost its cover and the mitt had a patch sewed over a couple rips. Unfortunately, by then my baseball bat was approximately half its original size.

Each year, my father made sauerkraut. After putting all the ingredients into a large vat he needed something to smash the pieces into smaller bits, so each time he would cut a few inches off the end of my bat in order to have a clean, flat surface.

After a few years of this procedure the bat was the perfect length for any two-year-old wanting to take up America's great pastime.

The boss of the house did not abuse alcohol, but he did enjoy an occasional beer. Once someone gave him a recipe for his own brew. According to my brother, a woman from the grocery store gave Dad that recipe. She made a mistake when she copied it for him. He was supposed to put half a teaspoon of sugar in each bottle to finish the process, but she had copied down one and a half teaspoons.

Because of that miscalculation, the bottles began to explode. The beer from the broken bottles actually took the paint off the cellar floor. Only one bottle survived. Dad wrapped a towel around it and opened it in the sink. When the lid came off there was a loud noise, followed by a blue cloud of smoke.

After a batch was completed, we bottled it and put the finished product on shelves in the fruit cellar. Often we would be awakened in the middle of the night by what sounded like a mortar attack. Pressure would build inside a bottle until it exploded, leaving streams of beer and shards of glass on the floor, walls and ceiling of the fruit cellar. Luckily, no bottles ever exploded while being handled.

The first "blast" that I experienced occurred on a Saturday afternoon; I was the only person in the house. Having no idea what had happened, I looked around for a weapon before checking out the basement area.

Finally, with a miniature baseball bat in hand, I was at least half ready to defend myself against any strange creature that might be lurking in our basement.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Lewis - Funny story!

This took me back to the years when my father tried to brew beer in our cellar. I think he intentionally added more sugar to speed up the process. I can still hear the 'fireworks' retorts as the bottles blew up. I can not recall any of them reaching the lips of a human being.

In October during my mid-teens, he began putting and lacing with sugar, a couple of 50 gallon wooden barrels of apple cider in the cellar. Whenever there were guests after the following Memorial Day, he would proudly emerge with glasses of the foulest tasting and smelling liquid, which his friends pretended to like, before discretely pouring the contents into one of my mother's potted camellias in the front hall. - Sandy

My husband got a wine making kit and decided to make wine out of the fruit from a prickly pear cactus. It was a gorgeous pink wine and tasted like medicine.

He proudly served it to guests and I can still see the surprised look on the face of the woman when she took her first sip and the gulp as she bravely swallowed it. She begged off of any more torture with a lame excuse. I couldn't blame her.

Whenever my kids are around to hear anybody comment on my apparent calmness in crisis, they laughingly respond with the gallon-jug-of-cider-exploding-in-the-garage story. I don't even remember it--seriously!

Lewis, I would've loved to have met your father. What a character.

Loved your story and it brought back memories of when we, me and my then husband tried to make apple jack. We were young and had no money so we thought this would be a good way to have something to drink. We got the recipe, the ingredients, the makings and put it all together. WE duly waited until the proper time (we thought) and bottled it. This was done in the kitchen of a rented house in Texas. We sat back for a relaxing afternoon and were interruped by booms and more booms. All the bottles exploded leaving the kitchen ceiling dotted with black spots the floor flooded and a terrible smell. WE decided that it was more trouble than it was worth. That's one decision we both agreed on!

Great story, Lewis! Thanks.

Lewis, thanks for sharing that! I'm still laughing! What a great story. Sorry about your bat. I'll remember what to use for stripping paint now.

Thanks for sharing. Great story. It sounds like something James Thurber might have written.

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