I know everyone’s been at the edge of their seats regarding my sauerkraut experiment, but I’ve been very busy ignoring it lately. And when you’re busy ignoring something, the last thing you want to do is pay it any attention.
But we’ve finally reached a landmark moment, so here are the highlights. Keep in mind that I was storing the crock at room temperature. Basement storage, where it’s cooler, would take longer. Because I know everyone’s going to rush out and try this.
Day 9: The funky smell stopped. New smell. Sour smell. One you can’t detect from the other rooms in the house but one you can DEFINITELY detect when you remove the sheet from the crock. Wow. But once you pick yourself up off the floor, it’s not bad. It’s actually starting to smell a bit like sauerkraut.
Day 14: Sour, but a weird flavor profile. Runs amok from sauerkrauty to garbagey (to borrow a term from CookieCrumb). In the bacterial tug-of-war going on in there, I hope garbagey eventually loses.
Day 20: Getting more and more sour, and that’s a good thing. Brine level is still above the cabbage, so I’m not worried about rot. I’ve been letting days go by without checking it because the day-to-day changes are so minimal. Tastes, dare I say it, almost good. Especially in the beginning. The two garlic cloves I stuck in there are starting to come through. The garbagey flavor at the end is lessening. Still there at the tail end, though. More time.
Day 24: Hey, this is getting good. That weird aftertaste is all but gone. I’m pissed because we had hot dogs tonight and I totally should have piled some on. I think I’ll let it go a few more days, and then I’ll take some out and put it in a jar in the fridge while I let the rest keep going.
Day 39: Whoops, kind of forgot about it there for a while. And, boy, am I glad I did. It’s really delicious. I’m not kidding. Literally, I was just standing over the crock shoveling it in. This is really the first time I’ve been able to say that. Forget Day 24, that was crap compared to this. And way better than the stuff I put in the fridge last week (it got kind of limp and musty). Note to self: keep it in the brine.
Wow, and I thought killing all of the bacteria in our midst was a good thing.
If you’re interested in trying this at home, the go-to book is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. This site has his basic sauerkraut technique. For my experiment, I used four smallish green cabbages (basically, one large bowl’s worth of shredded cabbage), about 3 Tbsp. of sea salt, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, 2 tsp. caraway seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1 tsp. celery seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 1 Tbsp. juniper berries. All you really need is the cabbage and the salt, though. The important thing to remember, again, is to keep the cabbage submerged under the salt water at all times. You may have to add some if there’s not enough (I did).
So, what am I going to do with all of this sauerkraut? Reubens, for one. I’ve got the corned beef purchased and the rye bread is rising as I type (flour from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine). Then, I was thinking a bacon and sauerkraut strudel (I’ll be using phyllo dough, though, because I’ve had the displeasure of making strudel dough once before, and I shan’t be making it again). And, of course, on hot dogs. If you have any other ideas, feel free to send them my way.