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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When Lacto-Fermenting Experiments Go Wrong

Alternate titles for this post...

The Tale of the Drive-By Ginger Ale

How I Accidentally Almost Killed My Husband

The Most Depressing Two Hours of Cleaning Ever

Or... (according to Jesse)...

Top Ten Reasons to Leave Ginger Ale to the Professionals

My Wife Tried to Kill Me with Health Food.  Literally.

Just Say No to Lacto-Fermented Beverages

This is the tale of how I single-handedly caused the greatest destruction my beautiful living room has ever seen.  And almost seriously hurt my husband in the process.

Lacto-fermenting (at least my experience of it up until Sunday night) is not generally a dangerous process.  It's the art of using good bacteria to convert the starches and sugars of food into lactic acid... which preserves the food and makes the nutrients in it more digestible for your body.  I've never really blogged about it because I'm still new (and now after I share this story you probably won't want to hear about any more experimenting ha!) but it's how I make our homemade saurkraut and yogurt and it's not really that big a deal.

I had a gallon of ginger ale that was fermenting in these pretty glass jars... I was really excited to see if homemade ginger ale tastes at all like conventional ginger ale... but I will never find out, because the jars exploded.  

Let me set the scene.  Jesse is napping on the couch, the girls are napping upstairs, and I am reading in the bedroom.

I am so thankful that God's got my back.  If this had happened any other time that day someone would have gotten seriously hurt.  Possibly ER-worthy.  The girls often play and read on the love seat right next to where the bottles were. And if the force of the explosion was enough to gouge and scratch the windows and walls nearby I shudder to think of my sweet Monkeys being near it.  Kinda makes my stomach hurt even now.  And even the fact that I was out of the room and Jesse (though in the room) was napping, is quite miraculous... I am usually in the living room during the girls' nap but Jesse was playing video games at first and I was reading a really science-y book so I needed quiet to focus.  So I was safe in the bedroom.  When he decided to take a nap, he covered himself completely with blankets, in his usual fashion.  And thank God, cause there was glass on the pillow he was laying on.

So while I feel bad that he was so rudely awoken from a nice Sunday afternoon nap, I'm thankful he wasn't sitting up playing a video game, facing the bottles when they exploded!  Eeeeek!

Okay so I'm just leaning up against the wall in the bedroom, reading my book.  The living room is on the other side of the wall and at this point I know Jesse's asleep because it's quiet out there... but I was comfy in our room so I just stayed there.  Until I heard a huge pop and then glass hitting the wall right behind my head.  Again, God had my back, cause I ran out into the living room without thinking and immediately crunched on glass... but I was wearing my moccasins so I wasn't hurt.

It took J and I about 5 seconds to realize what had happened... poor guy was delirious (and barefoot!) when I suddenly yelled "THE GINGER ALE!" and we looked over to see the remains of the four bottles dripping what was left of the liquid all over the floor in the corner.  I'm so glad Jesse was there because I was in shock.  I didn't even know where to begin with the clean up but he was all "towels! shoes! hurry!" and off we zipped to get started on this HUGE MESS.

Soaking up the liquid was the first priority because there is still a hole over in that corner where the heater-fixer-guys will be coming at the end of April to put new pipes in.  It's only covered with a piece of plywood and they just recently repaired Lilo's ceiling so we obviously didn't want to cause MORE water damage.  Oy veh.  But we think that we got most of it.

The main problem was that there were shards of glass all over our living room and kitchen.  Also a problem, I hadn't done the usual toy cleanup before putting the girls to bed so there was an abnormal amount of dress up clothes, wigs, and stuffed animals all over the floor.  Covered in glass.  So I just started taking everything out of the room, to be thoroughly sorted and cleaned later.  When I went through it all the next morning, I shook glass out of the girls' wigs... blankets... magazines... !!!

Here are some of the alarming places we found relatively large pieces of glass:  all the way in the kitchen, inside Sam's bib, under the book shelves, in the dress up clothes, stuck in the couch, and in the garden seedlings by the window! (We're going to have to be careful to wear gloves when planting cause we weren't able to get all the tiny pieces out of the dirt... thankfully only one plant was damaged but a few lost leaves.)  Can you believe I didn't take pictures of all this?  I was just in such shock, and we were so in over our heads with cleanup because of a mistake I made that I didn't feel like grabbing my camera would be appropriate.  I kind of regret it now, of course.  Cause man it would have made for some crazy pictures!  

Some of the worst damage:  gouges in the wall next to the heater where the bottles were sitting, gouges and scratches in the actual glass of the window behind it (and the wood paneling), serious gouges in the kids' white board that was right in front of the bottles (we pulled pieces of glass right out of it!), and some pretty decent scratches in the side of the tv. (thankfully not the front!)

I can't believe I did this!  I felt so bad about it and I was just dumbfounded as to why it happened.  I actually sent a trouble-shooting email to the author of my Wild Fermentation cookbook and he got right back to me the same day... he said that sometimes actively fermenting liquids can be really powerful.  So basically he wasn't all that helpful.  But apparently I didn't make a terrible mistake, which makes me feel a little better.  If I ever get up the nerve to try it again, I can put plastic balloons over the tops of the bottles to allow air pressure to escape while they ferment.  But I won't be trying to ferment ginger ale again any time soon!  

What were the girls doing during this two-hour clean up?  Destroying the upstairs.  I was checking on them at intervals and making sure everyone was taking potty breaks.  They did get into the closet and pulled out a box of too-small shoes after they got bored of taking the bedding off their beds.  But I'm the one who sent ginger ale shrapnel all over the living room so I can't complain about harmless kid-messes.  We have our suspicions that Sam flushed a good portion of a roll of toilet paper down the toilet.  But no one was fighting or crying.  Or bleeding.  So I consider it a win.

"Our Mommy's crazy, you guys!  She's always trying weird hippie things in the kitchen, and now look what happened.  Did you know she made us wear shoes for two days because she was afraid that she hadn't vacuumed all the glass up? Moms..."

Moral of the story: be careful when lacto-fermenting homemade soda.  Don't be like me and set it out right in your family's main living area.

The End.


  1. Best. Story. Ever.


    Glad everyone was safe!

    1. I thought people would get a kick out of it ;o)

    2. And since you've seen my living room in person now I think you understand the scope of the destruction, ha! It was bad!

  2. Best part of being human...we make some awesome life stories. What book are you reading?

    1. Our Stolen Future: are we threatening our fertility, intelligence, and survival? a scientific detective story. It's got some scary pee your pants info about how chemicals are messing with us.

  3. Ah! I'm glad for your testimony of why I should wait to lacto-ferment anything until I get some of these: http://www.pickl-it.com/ jars - made to let the gases escape! It made for a good story, though!

    1. Haha yeeeeah anything to help other's learn from my mistakes ;o) Thanks for the tip on those jars, I'll have to check them out!

  4. Oh dear!!! Praise the Lord that no one was hurt!! P.S...I love your tag on this one. ;)

  5. the pickl-it jar thingies are what my mom has. not so things won't explode, but so bacteria can't get in. dual purpose I guess :)

    1. I'll have to look into that. I'm not sure I'll be brave enough to try ginger ale again ;o) but maybe if I have a safe way to do it.