A Cry for Help: Sauerkraut…

Sauerkraut- Putting Up with ErinSauerkraut- Putting Up with Erin

Historically, fermented foods have played an important role in the diets of almost every society throughout the world. Although initially utilized as a method of food preservation, fermentation also offers health benefits and a way to diversify the diet… GREAT… great if I actually knew what I was doing. Rather than going on about fermentation or providing a killer recipe, I’m switching things up and am asking for advice/book or apparatus suggestions/help with fermenting vegetables. A horrific smelling apartment korean kimchi, a small batch overflow disaster, and more recently a SUPER smart night of experimenting with red cabbage sauerkraut while three sheets to the wind (there was red ALL over my kitchen when I woke up), my experience with fermented foods hasn’t gone too well to say the least.

A couple weeks back I picked up a couple heads of red cabbage from the Heron Pond Farm booth at the Wentworth Greenhouses winter farmers’ market. After thoroughly consulting with plenty of friends, websites, and the book Wild Fermentation I figured a basic sauerkraut recipe couldn’t be that difficult.

Sauerkraut- Putting Up with Erin

Tonight I performed my bi-weekly taste-test (this batch has probably been fermenting for 12 days now), and while the spice flavor of the kraut is on point, the consistency and strong desired acidic fermentation flavor is still weak. As far as I know my ratios of salt to water were correct and all of the cabbage was fully submerged by liquid, but something is still not right… Thoughts? Any help would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

Sauerkraut- Putting Up with Erin

13 responses to A Cry for Help: Sauerkraut…

  1. Ugh!! I know your pain!! My first attempt at kraut resulted in a vat of moldy goo. After that I decided kimchi was the way to go- and while I consider it successful, it was a little too salty for me. I am just getting ready to start a small batch kraut- everything fits in a one quart jar. I know from reading and advice that it can be as long as 8 weeks to fully ferment…maybe yours just isn’t “old” enough yet?

  2. I am in the same boat. I have yet to successfully ferment anything. With a Kickstarted kit I tried, but I never really saw the fermentation bubbles and ended up with black mold on the top of everything. I look forward hearing the people’s feedback. I need the help too!

  3. Hello, I love your website.
    I make my kraut in a repurposed primary fermenter that I had for wine making. I usually buy 50lbs of cabbage and use the food processor to shred it then layer the cabbage with salt and mix and scrunch it all up and leave it until it juices up and then pack them into my canning jars with a bay leaf added and tighten the lids. Put your jars into a rubbermade tub because they will ferment over. I then open them up usually after 4 weeks, add chlorine free water to top up the jars and process for 15 to 20 minutes in a the hot water canner. I imagine the amount of salt you will need depends on the area you live in, your elevation and climate could affect the fermentation. It took me a few batches to get things right. I used Savoy cabbage the last time and I liked it the best, seemed to have good water content and a sweeter flavour.
    Thanks fir your awesome blog!

      • If you pack the jar tight up to the top and have the lid on it the cabbage stays covered with the liquid as it ferments, I did forget to mention that I top the jars up after a week or so with fresh water. I have had the odd jar mould and I believe that is from not having the lid on tight enough.

      • One thing you can get if you are using quart size jars are glass fermentation weights (just google a source – I think mine were about $18 for 3). Pack your jars and then place these weights on top and it keeps the stuff submerged in the liquid.

      • I tried a small batch of cabbage in a mason jar that seems to be working. Tricks that helped, used juice from a local farmers market kraut at seed and I placed a ziploc bag filled with just enough water to weight down the cabbage and keep the liquid over top of the cabbage. So far so good.

  4. Ugh, I’m sorry your creation isn’t turning out as well as you had hoped!
    I’ve only made sauerkraut once, but my recipe didn’t call for any water to be added. If I remember correctly, it was 3T salt to 5lbs of shredded cabbage. Mix everything together and “knead” the salt into the leaves, and the cabbage will shed it’s water and create all the juice you need. Keep some type of weight on your kraut (a plate with something heavy on it works well) to keep the cabbage submerged in juices. If the cabbage doesn’t produce enough juice to cover itself, then there’s a water/salt solution to put on it, but I don’t remember the ratio. It should foam after a few days, and you should scrape the foamy scum off each day, and let it fester for a few weeks.

    Good luck!

  5. as a life long sauerkraut eater and maker( german immigrant neibor taught me when i was ten) it is a balance between time temp and how tight it is packed into the crock. tighter takes longer, low temp takes longer. the other ting i found is that sometimes it is the cabbage the last two five gallon crocks were seperated by two an a half weeks. tha differece store bought and home grown

  6. Trust the process, Erin! Like boiling rice, you can ruin it by checking it incessantly. I usually do large batches and can it for later, so when I ferment it I use one of those big plastic buckets (20lbs of cabbage, y’all) with cheesecloth over the top, then pressed down hard with an inverted plate over the top, weighted down with quart jars full of water. It’s just the standard ball blue book recipe, but it works great. If you see those bubbles forming, skim them off and know you’re good and it’s doing it’s job. I say leave it alone for at LEAST 3 weeks (my preferred fermentation day is 4 weeks in) before you even bother it, then press it all down again if you want to let it go longer or it may spoil.

    Best of luck! I’m happy I stumbled across your blog today! I’ve got a laundry basket full of free cucumbers and I’m running out of ideas!

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