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Making Sauerkraut with FarmSteady's "Kraut Kit"

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 March 2018 at 09:45
My sauerkraut looks to be plugging along without any significant trouble. I might need to add a little bit of brine to the mix, in order to get the sauerkraut fully submerged. For the sake of reference, the brine consists of 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water.

In the meantime, I do believe that I found my next sauerkraut project; I'll post the recipe if (when!) I make it, but for now, here is the link:

http://farmsteady.com/field-guide/recipe-dill-pickle-kraut
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 August 2018 at 08:58
My last batch of sauerkraut is long gone, so I started a new one on Saturday, 25 August, using the procedure as described before.

This new batch is slated to be used for the upcoming FotW Choucroute Day, on September 29th; details here, for anyone interested:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/is-there-any-interest-in-an-fotw-choucroute-day_topic5082.html
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 September 2018 at 12:24
So, thanks to Ron’s nagging, I went and ordered one of the FarmSteady kraut making kits.

Just kidding, Ron. But, the fact is, they sounded so intriguing that I had to give one a try. And, for 35 bucks, didn’t figure I had anything to lose.

Before ordering I had a question, which I sent to the folks at FarmSteady. Got a quick response, that resolved the issue. So, that’s on the up side.

On the down side---and I realize it’s the modern way---I hate buying things that do not include instructions. In FarmSteady’s case, you have to go to their web page. There’s no reason for this. It’s certainly not a cost factor. The kit comes with a large card that, basically, identifies what you bought on one side, while telling you to go to the website for instructions. They could just as easily have printed those instructions on the 5 x 5 inch card.

That out of the way. I started by cleaning the kit in warm, soapy water. Cleanliness is next to nothing when preserving foods. It’s everything. There is not a single word about cleaning the equipment, though.

I only had enough cabbage to fill the jar halfway. Not a problem. But even extending the “massage” time, I hardly produced any brine, and had to add a considerable amount more.

I suspect, too, that due to Ron’s input (and probably others as well) they made the weight a bit smaller in diameter. There is enough space around it so the problem he had with the weight jamming in the jar mouth could never happen. Another good thing on their part. I mean, how can you fault a company that actually listens to its customers?

I’ve just put the jar up, so have no comment yet on how well it works. But, based on Ron and Mike’s comments about overspill, I set the jar in a tub, rather than have it just sit on the counter. For this first batch I did not add caraway, cuz I want to see how the basic kraut turns out.

More in a week.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 September 2018 at 10:39
Hi, Brook -

I'm glad to see that you have taken the plunge, and very much appreciate your detailed and candid observations.

I purchased one for my dad, and he also noted that his full head of cabbage only filled it halfway. I noticed that his cabbage seemed to have "thinner" and more delicate leaves, whereas mine had leaves that tended to be "thicker" and a bit "rubbery," for lack of a better term. In either case, the sauerkraut was indeed excellent for both of us, so no worries; however, that might explain the difference in volume.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your sauerkraut turns out. I've been enjoying mine quite a bit since I learned to make it. At my latitude, 2 weeks seems to be best before putting the sauerkraut in the refrigerator, but of course your mileage may vary. Once in the refrigerator, my observations show that it lasts at least a year, so no real need to put it through the canner, unless you are looking at storage space issues or have some other reason to need to do so.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2018 at 10:13

Well, it’s been a week since I put up the cabbage to ferment. So far, the results are disappointing.

There was no visible signs that the kraut was working. I didn’t know if this was normal, but, apparently, it is.  I consulted with Ron, after four days, and he said the only sign he’d ever noticed was a “funky” smell. There was none of that.  Next day, however, there was a slight smell, the sort you get from finished kraut. So, I was hopeful.

Today that smell has not deepened.  I tasted the cabbage, and it was still fairly crisp. The only flavor I got was that of a salty brine, nothing at all like kraut.

Ron usually lets his work two weeks. So I’m going to let it go another week, to see what happens.

The fact is, I’ve never been able to make kraut, using traditional methods. I’m wondering if there’s something about my environment that causes this?

But we hae meat and we can eat
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2018 at 13:14
Hi, Brook -

I'm not sure that you could have done anything different than what you did - it just seems to take longer than the instructions indicate. One recipe that I read for Alsatian Choucroute said to start your sauerkraut 5 weeks before you expect to make the dish, and this seems - to me - to be a good minimum (2 weeks on the shelf, 3 weeks in the refrigerator).

My main takeaway from the whole experience is that the flavor, aroma and "sauerkrautness" improve dramatically over time. I'm guessing that after 2 weeks total, you'll have a much better product; but having said that, I wouldn't be shy about letting it go as much as 3 weeks before refrigerating, myself.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2018 at 09:44
Sounds like a plan, Ron.  

Frankly, I was surprised when FarmSteady said a week. Most kraut making instructions I've read indicate it's a much longer time frame. 

It's now been two weeks.  The slight kraut-smell has not deepened, and the cabbage remains on the crisp side. Sort of wilted, but not like finished kraut at all. The saltiness has abated, slightly, and there is a faint taste of kraut. So, maybe, it's just a question of time?

I'll give it another week, and see what happens.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2018 at 13:58
Keep us informed, Brook - I noticed that mine continued to mature in the refrigerator after being on the shelf for 2 weeks. At first, it was much as you described, but as time went on it got much deeper and better with the sauerkraut. An extra week at room temperature should - I would think - hasten those results.

I agree about their timeline of a week; it just doesn't bear out, in my experience. On the other hand, when I've made pickles according to their instructions, they were close to being as I expected after two weeks, and even more so after a couple of additional weeks in the refrigerator.

Maybe things ferment faster in Brooklyn? I'm not sure; my only guess is that the instructions are written for people new to the idea, and FarmSteady might be giving those instructions on the conservative (milder) side.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2018 at 14:15
Could be, Ron.

But I suspect, given my past failures with kraut, that there's some sort of environmental problem affecting how things ferment.

I have the same thing happen when I try to make sourdough starters.  You'd think that, with all the baking I do, there's be all sorts of yeasts floating around.  But, apparently, that's not the case.

Ah, well. We'll see what happens in another week. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2018 at 06:56
Brook, are you keeping the fermenting kraut in a dark place?  Yeasts are everywhere so I don't believe that is a problem.  It can be iffy with sourdough starters but I've never heard of a problem with sauerkraut fermentation. Doesn't mean there isn't one, just means I need to get out more Wink

It takes a minimum of 20 days for kraut to run through all 3 stages of fermentation.  The first stage is active.  The other two, not so much.  20 days is under perfect conditions.  This realistically  translates into 3-5 weeks depending on how warm or cool your home is.  The longer the fermentation time the greater the flavor.  Health benefits are maximized when all three stages of fermentation have been completed.

I will remind the good folks here, who have not already invested in a fermentation jar or crock, of the Fido jar method.  No airlock or weights required.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2018 at 07:51
I'd call it semi-dark, or gloomy, G-man, but not dark. It's in a spare bedroom that I also use for seed starting and the like. Windows are curtained, but not opaque. 

When you say the first stage is active, does that mean there are visual indications? Bubbles or that sort of thing? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2018 at 11:32
I agree with G - darker is better, for sure.

G - have you got a link to the Fido jar that you can post here? My opinion: there can never be too many options!

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2018 at 18:00
Brook, yes the first stage is active and gas bubbles will form and enter the airlock.  This slows and seemingly stops but fermentation is still taking place.

Ron, Fido jars of all sizes can be found on Amazon, even over 100 oz, but the most inexpensive place they can be found that I know of is in Christmas Tree shops. I am not near one of these so used Amazon.   
The Fido jar gasket is weak enough to allow gas and fluid to escape through it but strong enough to seal out oxygen.  This is why no weights or airlocks are required.  Just fill it, close it, place in an overflow dish (I use an 8" x 8" baking dish), and put in a cabinet.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2018 at 08:42
Well, there's the problem right there, G-man. To date there has been no visible activity; no bubbles or other signs.

Maybe I need to start over, and keep it in the dark?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2018 at 08:51
I've only made three batches so far, so take this with a grain of salt; however, my "guess" is that even without the activity early on, it's still happening, just much more slowly.

We're coming up on three weeks, I think? Give it a try tomorrow and see if its "deepening" in flavor at all. I think that it can still be saved, but I'll yield to the judgment of those with more experience.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2018 at 10:55
The first stage, the active stage, is not violent bubbling but you may notice it within the first week.  With the Fido jar, the unweighted fermenting cabbage rises to the top and a little brine usually leaks out. It settles back down afterward.  I've never done the airlock method with added weights so I can't really comment on how noticeable it would be.  Cooler temps also make for a slower fermentation.  If you added a homemade brine that could also make a difference if the salt level was off.

I'm with Ron on this one.  Let it be and check it again.  It's probably fine and just needs more time.

Beware of "watched pot" syndrome.  Gets me every time LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2018 at 11:23
The last time I made straight sauerkraut it went a good 5 weeks in the fermenter before it was sour enough for my liking. This was in the garage where temps were probably in the 60s during the day and 50s at night. My garage has a north facing window so it wasn't completely dark in there.  I can't recall if it actively bubbled or not. My last batch of lemon fennel kraut did bubble quite a bit, to the point of blowing the brine out the air lock. That was done on the kitchen counter and not protected from daylight at all.

However on the flip side, I recently attempted to make a fermented steak sauce in the same way and it never bubbled a bit. I lost that batch due to a mold infestation on top that I couldn't get out without it mixing in, but when I opened it it had the characteristic sour smell of sauerkraut so despite never bubbling I'd say it was working. If I hadn't opened it halfway through to check on it and contaminate it in the process it probably would have been fine.

So, long story short, your kraut is probably fine despite not bubbling. Give it a little more time, but be cautious about opening it up unless your very vigilante about skimming the scum and any mold.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2018 at 11:39
I agree with Mike - the purpose of the air lock is to prevent any scum or mold, but if the jar is opened, there is a risk. Two ways to help prevent it are two make sure that the cabbage is completely submerged in brine and to keep the lid on in order to prevent the risk of anything getting in.

Having said that, I check mine all the time, because I enjoy seeing (and smelling) how it is coming along.
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