Down the rabbit hole: Homemade sauerkraut

I've been peeking into the world of lacto-fermented veggies. One day I found myself with an abundance of chopped cabbage and no way to use it anytime soon. Since my brother and sister-in-law make their own, I called for directions.

I started out with about a pound and a half of cabbage. My brother told me to mix it with 2 tbsp sea salt, mix thoroughly and let it sit for about 15 minutes. It took a little longer to juice up, and I had some other things to do, so about half an hour later I dumped the greens and what little juice they'd released into a half gallon jar. I'd been sure to clean it very well, even sprayed it with a little vinegar. The bag that had been holding the cabbage I sprayed well inside and out with vinegar, filled with my clean cooking rocks to weigh the cabbage down, and secured to the top of the jar with a rubber band. This left the cabbage pretty well sealed, but the rocks open to the air.

I was a little concerned because my brother had stressed the importance of making sure the cabbage was covered in its own juices, and there was only a half inch of liquid at the bottom. If I pressed really hard, I could get it to come up halfway, but not all the way. I decided to leave it for an hour and see what happened, but I needn't have worried. When I went back half an hour later, the juice was covering the cabbage just fine, as long as it was weighted down.

My brother said that if pink mold formed I should skim it off and let it keep going, but green/blue/black mold was bad bad bad and needed to toss and start over. And confirmed what I'd heard elsewhere that when it goes bad, you KNOW it. Like, it goes really bad.

I waited the prescribed 7 days and tasted it. It was still pretty crunchy and VERY salty, so I called my brother back for assistance. When he got back to me around the 10-day mark, and I tasted it again to confirm it was still a little crunchy and way too salty, he advised getting more cabbage and adding it to dilute the salt content, and told me a fun little story about staged sauerkraut recipes. Two days later I brought home the cabbage, sliced it, and opened my kraut to find....

My rocks were wet. And STINKY. And I found chunks of green mold in the bag with the rocks. But the kraut itself looked smelled ok... except every time I smelled it my stomach turned and my nose wrinkled involuntarily, even though it was like there was almost no scent. Maybe a little astringent smell. I ran water into the bag to find the leak, and there wasn't one! Still a little weirded out, I asked Mr Moon to smell the contents of the jar. He was immediately repulsed, so we decided to be better safe than sorry and composted the project before either one of us ever thought to take pictures. Go figure.

This cabbage we will probably throw into soup, and start again another time. I'm a little disappointed, as I'd been so excited for our first lacto-fermenting project. And now that I've typed all that out, I can't help but wonder whether part of the issue is that between it being fine and suddenly not, I started a batch of kombucha 4 feet away. I know that my last sourdough starter went way moldy because of being too close to the kombucha, so I'm thinking I may have to segregate my products a little more carefully. It's just that it would be so nice to be able to devote one shelving unit to these kinds of projects!


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