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Making Sauerkraut

December 17, 2009

The hubby and I are in the midst of our sauerkraut experiment, though I’m not sure how well it’s going yet.  We decided to do this as our first foray into lactofermentation (or really, for something else to do now that the garden is mostly dormant).  Last weekend we bought two head of cabbage at the farmers market.

Every recipe for lactofermented cabbage calls for two head, but really, what were we going to do with that much sauerkraut?  I was overruled by my sauerkraut-loving 1/2 German husband, however, so all I can say is he better eat this sauerkraut.

He shredded up the cabbage by hand, even though I tried to convince him to use the food processor.  Sigh…he’s stubborn.

We started by following the “recipe” on this site (not really so much a recipe as semi-directional) and mixed the shredded cabbage with the proper amount of sea salt and caraway seeds.  We enjoyed a little organic wine with it. :)

Yes, we recycle old glass spaghetti jars into containers for things. No, we're not po'.

Interestingly enough, K seems only to be able to drink wine without sulfites.  If he doesn’t, he gets a blazing headache a la a bad hangover (without enjoying the amount of drinking to get said hangover beforehand).  Organic wines are the only ones we’ve seen so far that don’t have sulfites.  Anyone have any other suggestion for sulfite-free wines?

After tossing the lettuce, salt and spice, he pounded it for a good 1/2 hour to get the juices (water) of the cabbage flowing.  At that point, you’re supposed to fill the canning jars with cabbage to the top, and make sure the juices cover the cabbage completely (so no air gets in).  The thing is, after pounding for so long, we didn’t have nearly enough juice to cover anything?

What did we do wrong?

I had read either in Nourishing Traditions or Wild Fermentation (can’t remember now) that if there’s not enough “juice” to put more sea salt in some water and cover the cabbage with this saltwater.  So, that’s what we did.  Then we put the lids on tightly, stuck them in a basin (because they will tend to leak as they ferment – building up gases) and put them in our utility room for 72 hours.

Which ended last night, but we gave it an extra day for good  measure before opening up a jar tonight.  It was frothy at the top, and like this person said, “Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions assures me in her section on lacto-fermentation that if the process goes wrong it will smell so bad that nothing could induce me to eat it. I can’t smell anything from a distance, so I put my nose tentatively towards the jar and…Let me tell you something, this stuff smells good. I mean, it smells really good. It’s the very scent of freshness.”

Well, I sniffed too, and sniffed again, and wasn’t really sure.  It smelled slightly rotten to me, I will admit, but definitely “not so bad that nothing could induce me to eat it.” I could have been induced, sure.  But at the same time, I was really really wary, so I told K he had to. :)  And he did, a little forkful, while telling me I was to blame for his death by bacteria if it came to that, lol.  But he said it tasted just fine, if a little different from the flavoring he’s used to (which is not usually salt and caraway seed, I guess).  He said it was VERY salty, but that he could eat it.  So we put the cap back on and put the opened jar (pint-sized) in the fridge for future eating.  There’s two other quart jars we still haven’t opened, but might let ferment a few more days.

So, this one isn’t an out and out FAIL, but not sure it’s a WIN either.  The juices didn’t really come out upon pounding (and these were really fresh cabbage picked the day before!), we added a saltwater “brine” to cover the cabbage, the type of spicing (sea salt and caraway) was different, and we’re not sure it’s fermented properly because the smell was different.

But hey, it was a $4  experiment (2 cabbages at $2 a piece) and if it did work, we’ll have ended up with 2 1/2 quarts of sauerkraut.

We shall see!

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