Adventures in Lacto-Fermentation: Cabbage

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Cabbage. I have lots of it.  Even the frozen cabbage I chipped out of my garden before the polar vortex arrived have defrosted fine in my fridge without only a few lost leaves.  5 days ago, I started a batch of sauerkraut.

Let me explain about me and lacto-fermentation.  I’ve read the books, analyzed the recipes and I’ll all for it.   Nonetheless, every time I try it I end up with smelly sludge that I would never, ever bring myself to eat.

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This time, I went small; no sense ruining too much cabbage even if I do have an excess.  I also eliminated the whey starter, since that method has never worked for me before.  I sterilized the jar, shredded and packed fresh cabbage mixed with kosher salt, topped it with a small jar filled with marbles to weigh it down, and placed it at a stable 68F. Sure enough, right on time the salt worked to create a deep brine. That was the last time I was sure things were okay. At Day 2 & 3, it was quite smelly. At Day 4, it was rank but I ventured a small taste.  Tasted like salty wilted cabbage.  No trouble keeping the cabbage submerged in the brine and no mold or goo.

Day 5 was this morning.  Does it smell less?  Another small taste.  Ugh.  Not sour, but bitter — a bitterness that hits the back of the throat and lingers.  (It’s been half an hour and I can still taste it.  It’s not pleasant.)  In such a small batch, I am thinking, the fermentation shouldn’t take long.  For now, the smelly jar will linger on my counter and I guess I will keep monitoring it to see if it yet turns into sauerkraut one evening when I am not looking.

Any advice from experienced fermenters?


UPDATE:  According to this site, I may be in stage one with Leuconostoc mesenteroides proliferating, which would produce the bitter taste, and should occur in about two days.  If so, my theory that smaller jars would ferment faster seems totally incorrect — it may be fermenting slower — and I just need to be patient for a while.

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