Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sauerkraut final product

This is what our cabbage looked like to start after being shredded up, mixed with sea salt, and weighed down.  This apparatus was then left to sit at room temperature for about a month.
And this is what our final product of sauerkraut looks like after sitting at room temperature for one month.

So the sauerkraut we started a month ago is finally finished.  To review, I simply 1. shredded the cabbage, 2. mixed the shredded cabbage with sea salt to taste in a container with vertical or strait sides, 3. weighed down the cabbage so it was submerged under the liquid, and 4. waited several weeks for lactic acid fermentation to take place.  The biological processes that took place to make this sauerkraut are fairly interesting.  First, salt removed water from the cabbage through osmosis to form the liquid the fermentation would take place in.  Salt also works as a preservative by excluding harmful bacteria by killing them off in a few days time.  Leuconostic sp. and Lactobacillus sp. bacteria tolerate salty conditions and and acidify the salty cabbage juice by producing lactic acid.  The increasingly acidic conditions also kill off harmful bacteria and encourage Leuconostic sp. and Lactobacillus sp. bacteria.  The cabbage is also submerged under the cabbage juice to promote anerobic conditions (conditions without oxygen) which also kills off harmful bacteria and again encourages lactic acid production by Leuconostic and Lactobacillus. The remaining species of bacteria, especially Lactobacillus, at the completion of the sauerkraut are well known probiotics, which are bacteria that aid digestive health.

A slightly overgrown culture of bacteria from our last batch of sauerkraut.  The white colonies are Leuconostic sp. and Lactobacillus sp. of bacteria which compose the majority of the bacteria.  The six or so colonies of different color are harmless coliform bacteria.  This culture was grown from the sauerkraut juice as the bacterial populations were transitioning towards Leuconostic sp. and Lactobacillus sp.
So was the sauerkraut good?  Of course yes!  If you like sauerkraut and have never had any home made, it will likely be the best you ever tasted.  Less acidic, less salty, with a stronger sauerkraut flavor then store bought.  If you like sauerkraut or have an excess of cabbage this is a very simple project you can do to produce a lot of it for a long period of time.  After the initial bubbling is complete (after one to two weeks) the kraut is ready to eat.  You can keep it fermenting at room temperature longer and the flavor will change slightly with time.  You can taste it every few days or so to determine if you like the flavor or not.  I prefer the flavor after about four weeks, but every batch is a little different.  Once you decide you like the flavor just stick the sauerkraut in the refrigerator and it will keep for several months.  Be careful though, do not eat sauerkraut with a pink or brownish, hue to it, that looks slimy, or smells bad.  These are all contaminants that happen relatively rarely and usually only when the cabbage isn't submerged well enough during fermentation.  These problems have only happened to me twice in my many many batches that I have made.  And if you do eat them, it probably won't kill you, it will just give you bad gas. 

Here is a good website with additional information:

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