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January 15, 2008

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OMG - you're tasting it this early on?! You, my friend, are very, very brave! My dad is the kraut maker and sends along bags of the finished product (which by the way is soooo much better than the grocery store stuff). I've been tempted to give this a whirl myself, but am still a bit daunted. Can't wait to hear more about the process, but please, put down the fork for a month or so!

I tried it once. Pretty, but ultimately -- garbagey. I don't know where I went wrong, but I think I ought to try again.
Good luck. I'll be tuning in.

This sounds disturbingly like the time my husband tried to pickle cucumbers in one of my bread bowls on the dining room table. Not even the dog would eat them, even though I really, really wanted him to. Maybe we just didn't wait long enough?

I am watching intently. I have 2 purple cabbage sitting in the fridge. Someone, anyone, tell me what to do with all this cabbage. I will wait to see what happens...

My dad and stepmom make sauerkraut, just like his mom did. It's definitely way way better than store bought. But it really really really smells. For a long time. I'm impressed too about how brave you are just making it.

Two words for you:

perfect

pickler

http://www.perfectpickler.com/

I have no idea if it works, but I've talked at least one person into buying one. She'd better make me some pickles!

My sauerkraut actually didn't smell all that bad. Nor was it overly salty. Same method you used, generally, except:

I moved it to the fridge after about four days

I really pounded the cabbage at the beginning to release a lot of moisture - there was a goodly amount of brine, enough to completely submerge the cabbage

In addition to the salt, I added about a tablespoon of whey (drained off yogurt) to the brine

I was just thinking how I had to make some more. It was really good stuff.

Pyewacket: What a great idea to use yogurt whey. Is that the same good bacteria that goes to town in sauerkraut? Also, my cabbage didn't give off that much moisture (maybe I didn't pound it enough), so I added salted water enough to cover the cabbage. That was the thing I was most careful about -- to keep everything submerged to prevent rot.

Jess: Interesting contraption. Maybe not big enough, though. I wonder if a keg would work the same way?

Mary: Awesome. Can I hit up your dad for advice if things go horribly wrong?

Maggie: In the meantime, make the cabbage dish here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/240268. Soooo good.

Alecto: Not so fond of your dog, then? I think there are many ways things can go wrong with pickling. I have a feeling I'll be exploring them one by one.

CC: Some interesting things have happened since Day 7. Not all hope is lost. Yet.

Andrea: Good, I can add your dad to my team of consultants. But if I don't taste it throughout the process, how will I know what's going on in there?

You've set me off on a research project into the bacteria involved in lacto-fermented foods - far more complicated than I would have thought. It seems that there are different bacteria that are responsible for sauerkraut and yogurt. So I'm not sure about the why on the whey, which I included on the suggestion of Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation and pickle advocate. On Sally Fallon's site, she says that the whey inoculates the sauerkraut with the right lactic acid bacteria, but according to one textbook I found, Leuconostoc mesenteroides is the bacteria associated with sauerkraut, while a site devoted to kefir notes that kefir contains this bacteria, while yogurt normally does not (it contains lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus). I don't understand why inoculating the sauerkraut with a different bacteria would help, unless somehow the bacteria creates better conditions and knocks out the other competitive bacteria, giving the secondary bacteria a better shot? I just don't know - we need a biologist.

How great that you are trying your hand at sauerkraut! I think the main thing with these old world foods, is we try it out once, (oddly) haven't mastered it in the first try, and then give up. There are so many nuances and factors that it takes practice. A friend of mine always has a new batch of kraut going, so I've tasted quite a few batches. They are different every time because of the cabbage, humidity, temperature and salinity. He adds dill and lemon, and it's amazing. I have his recipe, but I'd like to buy a crock first, so I haven't attempted it yet. Good luck in your foray, but don't give up. You may need to make it a few times to really get it to be fabulous.

Bri: Luckily, I know a guy with some cabbage. Also, I snagged the crock from inside our crockpot and used that.

Pyewacket: I consulted my dad who's a microbiologist. Sometimes I forget that he knows stuff. Here's what he said:

"Both Sally Fallon and the textbook are right according to my limited knowledge. All raw cabbage comes with its own fermentation bacteria packed in its cracks and crevices. The bacteria can live in soil and are generally ubiquitous in nature.

Both Leuconostoc and lactobacilli are facultative anaerobic bacteria that both participate in the fermentation of sauerkraut (and other vegetables, etc.). I believe they operate separately with Leuconostoc working first and Lactobacillus coming in later at lower pH (acidic) conditions. The addition of yogurt lactobacillus to the mix may help to eliminate more of the sugars at the latter stages, thus enhancing the Sauerkraut's flavor."

Just found your blog - as another almost-local-only eater in Cambridge, it's great! Your sauerkraut will be fantastic in just a few more weeks, I'm sure. We've found that canning it works well, too (hot pack, then process pints for 15 min, quarts for 20 min) - it changes the flavor a little, and it gets a bit more mushy, but it's still delicious. Good luck with your batch!

haha! i am a first time krauter too and i just tasted my batch which is about 4 days old at the moment, my recipe said it would be ready after 3 days and would keep getting better as it aged from there. i was nervous about the fizziness but i am exceedingly glad to hear you didn't puke. i can keep eating now. yum!

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