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Sauerkraut Wars - A New Tutorial

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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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    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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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 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 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: 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 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 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 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 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: 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: 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 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 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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 07:15
looks good!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 02:31
Well here is a final pic of the kimchi....it's still a bit salty, but I guess all kimchi is anyway. It soured up nicely during the four day ferment and the hot pepper flakes come through nicely.

I'm going to try to eat a small portion of it every day for a while...it's supposed to be very good for the digestive system.

Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 19:55
i'm eager to see how the freezing experiment turns out.
 
good point about the refrigeration lasting a year ~ it wouldn't last too long here, either!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 19:43
I have never frozen uncooked sauerkraut before. I read it on the internet somewhere in the last few weeks. It will be a new experience.

Putting it in quart canning jars and into the fridge is the normal way for me. It would easily last a year in there. I don't know if you would consider that short term. 12 quarts of sauerkraut won't last that long! Smile I like the active bacterial cultures. However, it does get more acidic as time goes by, but at 35 or 36 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes a long time.

Canning it would be what the county extension office would suggest, but that would kill all those good bugs! I don't want to do that. I don't think there is a way of preserving a live culture in a jar for a bunch of years. Long term canning would require sterilization.

Honestly, I can only think of one thing that might be a downside to freezing, and that would be that the cabbage become a little softer after thawing it out. In many dishes that wouldn't matter. Well, maybe two things; freezing might kill my bugs. I don't know.

Bears some more research.

I would really like to see some others efforts in the sauerkraut arena.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 19:20
awesome ~ rod, i can't thank you enough for such a detailed and well-written procedure. you're really raising the bar and providing some very valuable material here!

judging form your post, i take it that bagging and freezing is a perfectly acceptable way to store it. i am also assuming that the jars in the fridge are for shorter-period storage. how about canning in jars for long-term storage? worthwhile, or is freezing better? i'm guessing that frozen rather than boil would help maintain freshness and crispness, but am not sure.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 18:53
I checked into it today.

You can see in the above picture the patches of bubbles that appeared on the second day and stopped just a day or two later. You can also see a small hose that I inserted between the plastic bags and deep within the cabbage. This allowed me to siphon a sample of the juice out without disturbing the seal. Next time I'll just install the siphon tube when I place the bags over the cabbage. And of course, the tubing was sanitized before putting it in there.

Here's  the juice that I removed.

Cloudy from all the bacteria. Tastes like sauerkraut. Very nicely like cabbage. Way more cabbage tasting that what's found in the store. Salty, as would be expected. Nothing at all unpleasant. What's that yellow thing in there?

That's the pH meter, and it says it's pH is 3.8. I calibrated it before testing, so this number is good.
Any food with a  pH of 4.6 and below is considered a high acid food, so this stuff is essentially ready to go as it is. Safe against unwanted bacterial infection.

I drank that juice 6 hours ago. It is good. If I remember right, dill pickles from the store run about 3.4 pH.

I didn't pull the bags out of there or anything, so I haven't laid an eyeball on the surface of the cabbage, but I will say with confidence that there isn't anything bad growing anywhere inside that fermenting bucket. No skimming, no uncertainty, no worries, no drama.

This is round two and is dominated by two lactobacillus bugs, L. plantarum and L. cucumeris. These two will continue to thrive for awhile until they produce enough lactic acid to kill themselves, at which time round three will commence. Round three will be dominated by L. pentoaceticus, the last available lactobacillus bug that can tolerate this high acid environment. It will finish the ferment and this stuff will become way sour. I might just put this stuff in bags and freeze it now. I might just bottle it up now in quart jars and keep it in the fridge. Either way, round three would get stopped or seriously inhibited.

Pro-biotics? I got a bucket full of them!

Dead easy. So easy, a caveman could do it!

I'll take requests about what you might like me to make out of the first bunch I remove from the bucket. Something that would showcase this well. I'll take the pictures and post it in here.

Go buy some cabbage!



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 09:26
hey, rod - excellent write-up there on the continuing war between the bad bugs and the good bugs. it sounds like thigns are moving along exactly as they should be!
 
looking forward to updates - keep us informed!
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