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Sauerkraut Wars - A New Tutorial

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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 09:54
The kimchi looks good! The first time I made it, I used a recipe that required making a thick mixture of things that were to be smeared on the salted and washed cabbage. I put it all on the cabbage even though the whole time my brain was telling me it was too much, and in the end the kimchi was too salty. Just too much of everything except cabbage. A waste really.

Learn while you burn...

Anyway, as can easily be seen from my above posts, plastic is an important part of the gear required to make this stuff the way I do. I didn't use just any plastic bucket when I did this. There are many kinds of plastic.
 
I always use HDPE, High Density Poly Ethylene. It is recognized by this symbol that will be molded into the surface of the container, usually on the bottom somewhere:



It's the same stuff that plastic milk jugs are made of. Plastic buckets are usually, but not always, made of this stuff. Many times they have pigments mixed in. Even the white ones are pigmented. HDPE will be translucent in it's unaltered state. I don't think the pigments are a problem, but I don't really know. A lot of pickles are transported in white 5 gallon pails to restaurants. You might be able to get a good bucket for free from behind a restaurant. You can certainly find what you need at a brewing supply website or store if there is one near you.

I'm a real fan of fermented things. Quick! Somebody make some sauerkraut and take pictures!

 

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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: 12 May 2011 at 10:02
i really need to get some equipment to do this; i'll also see about growing cabbage in order to make this in the fall. we haven't had too much luck growing cabbages. we get a few small heads and that's about it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 13:41
A cabbage slicer would have been good to have. It would have sped things up. I probably would have taken the ends off of 2 or 3 fingers.


I searched and searched for plans on building one of these things and I couldn't find anything specific. The one above has 3 cutting blades, I think.

I found someone trying to sell an old one with one blade on craigslist, but he thought he was sitting on a real treasure...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 13:51
as i recall, the member here named soggyshooter (or s.shooter) built one. you might send him a PM about it, or maybe he will see this thread and weigh in?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2011 at 11:58
Here it is, Friday the 13th. I put this stuff to fermenting on the 4th or 5th. So it's been 8 or 9 days. The room where I put this stuff to ferment wasn't quite as impervious to outside temperature changes as I had hoped, and yesterday I measured 77F in there. This is not good. Ferments like an even temperature. Wildly varying temps can lead to a ferment that terminates early.

I chose the fermenting location because it is easy to keep that space absolutely dark. I mean, can't see your hand in front of your face dark. One of the things that spoilage and putrefaction bugs like is light.

As mentioned before, based on measured pH, I was considering packaging this stuff and calling it done. The ambient temperatures noticed yesterday motivated me to bring this stuff into the kitchen.

Here's what I found. I took a few of the bags out and took a picture. It's not the greatest but it does show that there isn't anything nasty going on.

The surface of the cabbage just looks like what you might find in a jar or bag. Touching the bottoms of the bags removed showed that the liquid on them was not in the least bit slimy. That's good.

But now the less than good news. Chopping this stuff by hand resulted in many sort-of-thick bits of cabbage. The last time I did this I had access to a mandolin. This thicker sliced stuff is not done yet. A taste test revealed the rawness of the thicker pieces. It does taste good though, just not ready yet. Not too salty, and not overly sour at this point. In fact I think it needs to be more sour. I think sauerkraut should be about a pH of 3.0 or so to be done. Had all the cabbage been sliced very thinly things would have been different. Otherwise, an absolutely clean ferment!

The other bit of bad news is that I just plowed ahead thinking I was going to bag and bottle this stuff and move on. Out came all the bags and into the clean, but not sanitized sink they went. Although I washed my hands well before I started, in went my fingers into the cabbage to grab a sample.

Bad form! Way bad Form!

I cleaned the bottoms of the bags as I could by just rinsing, and rinsing with tap water. Not much to do about the place in the cabbage where put my fingers in. And of course, the lid was open for quite some time also.

All in all, many chances for infection were provided.

The temperature of the cabbage as measured this morning was 72F. This is the absolute high end of the temperature range for good bug culturing. The ferment itself generates heat. Keeping the cabbage at the low end of the optimum temperature range will still result in an internal, to the ferment, temperature several degrees hotter. This means that although the top of the optimum temperature scale is 72F, the actual temperature of a ferment taking place in an ambient temperature of 72F will be at least 2F hotter, and therefore outside the optimum range. Beware these things.

Now the fermenting bucket is in another room. A room that stays at a more even temperature, but does not provide absolute darkness. Now I'll want to "Mother hen" this thing, opening the bucket and looking and poking and worrying, but I can't let myself. I'm not going to touch it for at least another week.

The next time I touch it, it will be to siphon out a sample for another pH measurement. If it continues to drop below a pH of 3.8 I know this ferment hasn't terminated early.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2011 at 13:02
rod - it looks to me like everything's fine, but of course as we know the eyes can't see what's going on in the microscopic world. will be looking forward to seeing how it's going and crossing my fingers!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2011 at 15:17
any news, rod?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2011 at 20:21
I was in there a couple of days ago. I drew off a sample and checked the pH. It was 3.7. If you might remember, the pH was 3.8 almost a week prior. There was no sign of spoilage or any thing nasty going on. These things are good.

However, I would have liked to see the pH coming down more rapidly. What happened in a word, shock.

Too much fluctuation of ambient temperature.

Learn from that mistake.

All isn't lost though. The fact that the pH dropped a little means one of two things. Either the ferment continued for a short time after I moved it inside then everything died, or the ferment continues but has been severely attenuated and a small colony of bugs is still barely alive in there. Either everything is dead or almost all life has ended in the fermenting bucket. If the pH doesn'tdrop any more after about another week, I'll know this ferment is terminated.

It's a cinch the optimal process has been disrupted. This will result in somewhat less than ideal tastes and textures. That is not to say that it will turn out inedible. Not by any stretch.

Time will tell.

It will be good.

I like the taste of lactic acid. It's a much more mild tasting acid than that which is in vinegar. I could add some vinegar and call this stuff done. I think I'll just wait it out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 May 2011 at 16:02
I just checked the pH. It is still 3.7. That means it's done. R.I.P. bugs. I basically killed this whole thing off by allowing the temperature to rise less than 10 degrees. That's all it took. It really is a fragile world in that bucket.

I don't have the time right now, but I'll freeze some and refrigerate the rest in jars. When I do I'll recap the process so it's all in one post.

Although it's not terribly sour, it tastes good, and the texture is good too. I don't think it suffered much for stopping early. It was plenty acidic before it terminated. I normally rinse sauerkraut before I use it anyway, so I won't have to do that with this. 

You can see now how the old fashioned root cellar type of environment, with variations, an environment that has been created and used by folks all over the world for thousands of years, was most likely a key element in the development of sauerkraut and many other pickled foods. The cellars almost constant temperature and darkness are important factors in the creation of a favorable place for the good bugs to thrive. Serendipity and human intuition and perseverance did the rest.

Cabbage and salt. Simple in one way, and complicated in other ways. Kind of like making a good cup of coffee. Just beans and water, but so much more...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 August 2011 at 10:35

hey, rod - still as good as the day it was made?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 August 2011 at 14:00
Just because you asked, I pulled a jar out of the refer and checked it out. There are many air pockets here and there in the jar. Sauerkraut has been pushed up in the jar because of that. Nothing is spoiled looking. It has been fermenting slowly in the refrigerator. It definitely is more sour than when I put it in there. I did not measure the pH. The stuff tastes just fine. It may be just slightly softer than it was when I put it up, and all the pieces, thick and thin, have that translucent sauerkraut look to it. I did use a bag from the freezer about a month ago in some pork steak and taters type of stuff and it was good. I think freezing it takes a little of the crispness away too, but for that application it was just fine.

So all in all I guess you could say it doesn't last forever. It could be all done fermenting, it might ferment more. Nothing scary at all.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 August 2011 at 14:07
sounds just about right to me, and a great success! i tried growing cabbage in the garden this year and had little luck (lots of factors but the biggest one was me), but as i recall, this process works just as well with cabbage bought at the store, so i would love to try it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 August 2011 at 15:34
This stuff was made with cabbages grown in a commercial context. The same bugs live on 'em. I just saw cabbage at the store for $0.39/Lb. That's about as good as it gets around here. I'm not prepared at this time to condense all I wrote into one post but before you start make sure you have a dark place that stays the same temperature all the time. Preferably a little less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Get a scale at Harbor Freight. That's about the cheapest place. I got a digital that weighs up to 11 Lbs for $12. It'll see a lot of use once you have it. You should be able to fake the rest.

Have fun! 
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