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Making saurkraut... I have questions???

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 27, 2013 at 7:25 PM

So when the recipe states "keep vegetables submerged" does that mean that there should be no vegetables at the surface even if they are within the water and sticking out a little at the top?

Also, should I be concerned with airtightness? Should I avoid airtight containers?

Any other tips and tricks?

Thank you.

Also, are molds a problem when it comes to saurkraut? Most websites say not to worry about them, just to skim them off during the process. However, a few websites state to avoid molds in that they indicate spoilage; they say, once mold forms it is already too late, as they grow tendrils deep into the saurkraut and can cause problems especially to those sensitive to mold. Is this bogus? Can anyone truly explain the science behind this? Because accordingly, we can simply skim the mold and be safe. I am not considered a truly "healthy person" by any means though.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:52 PM

Which is exactly what I said, Chris. An off-gassing mechanism allows the ferment to breathe.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:29 PM

Mathgirl, air-tight containers work just fine for fermenting, as long as you've got an off-gassing mechanism- an airlock, a Harsch crock, etc. All the "bugs" are on the veggies, and there's no need for air exposure (except in the case of kombucha, which requires oxygen to ferment).

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:11 PM

The lactobacillus do not need oxygen, and an airtight container ensures that other "problematic" bacteria do not "infect" your ferment. To do this you can use a Pickle-It or similar instrument. However, a lot of fermentors, including Sandor Katz, encourage an open fermentation that allows for the ferment to off-gas and pick up some "terroir." As your veggies should be submerged in liquid, that's effectively an anaerobic enviro... it's only a problem for things that poke up above the liquid.

B120d28d9620626012de121b6075ce51

(134)

on August 27, 2013
at 08:36 PM

This website says to look for an airtight container? I suppose since the bacteria we are looking for are anaerobic that this would make sense, but is there anything to refute this? http://culture-this.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-containers-should-i-use-to-make.html

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2 Answers

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61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on August 27, 2013
at 08:28 PM

The veg needs to be completely submerged. Anything sticking out will rot, not ferment.

Your set-up needs to breath. No air-tight containers while it is fermenting. Once you transfer it to the fridge, air-tight containers are fine.

My kitchen is too warm to properly ferment on the counter during the summer and I keep it in a cupboard that is not on an exterior wall. It took me a few times to get the hang of things. I started with cabbage because it was cheap! My most successful ferment used whey as a starter. Since then, I use a few tablespoons of the liquid from subsequent ferments as a starter and drink the rest!

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:52 PM

Which is exactly what I said, Chris. An off-gassing mechanism allows the ferment to breathe.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:29 PM

Mathgirl, air-tight containers work just fine for fermenting, as long as you've got an off-gassing mechanism- an airlock, a Harsch crock, etc. All the "bugs" are on the veggies, and there's no need for air exposure (except in the case of kombucha, which requires oxygen to ferment).

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:11 PM

The lactobacillus do not need oxygen, and an airtight container ensures that other "problematic" bacteria do not "infect" your ferment. To do this you can use a Pickle-It or similar instrument. However, a lot of fermentors, including Sandor Katz, encourage an open fermentation that allows for the ferment to off-gas and pick up some "terroir." As your veggies should be submerged in liquid, that's effectively an anaerobic enviro... it's only a problem for things that poke up above the liquid.

B120d28d9620626012de121b6075ce51

(134)

on August 27, 2013
at 08:36 PM

This website says to look for an airtight container? I suppose since the bacteria we are looking for are anaerobic that this would make sense, but is there anything to refute this? http://culture-this.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-containers-should-i-use-to-make.html

1
2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on August 27, 2013
at 09:26 PM

  1. You do want to try to keep everything submerged. It can be tricky.
  2. Airtightness will ensure that nothing else "contaminates" your ferment. However, within 24 hours, your ferment should be acidic enough from normal fermentation activity that nothing else harmful CAN grow in it. source: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz (who's kind of a big deal). I don't have a copy here to reference page numbers. Some people advocate fermenting in airtight containers, and it is typical CYA language. A lot of people I personally know/converse with regularly re: fermentation advocate an open-container ferment. This allows for safe off-gassing and expansion, and can allow natural bacteria in your fermenting environment to affect the flavor somewhat. Effectively anything submerged under the brine is "airtight", so if you've got everything pressed down or held down with some sort of weight, it doesn't matter if you leave it wide open or if you vacuum seal it. (At least put some cheesecloth over it with a rubber band to keep out bugs and dust.)

  3. Tips for submergence: You can buy glass/ceramic weights. When I do saurkraut, I peel off 3-4 of the big outer leaves before shredding the cabbage, even if they are a little soft/skanky. After you've packed your shredded cabbage in it's own juices in your jar/crock, fold or tear those leaves to the approx. size of the jar and use them to press down all the little cabbage bits under the liquid. The top leaves will probably mold or get a little fuzzy, but it's no big deal- take out or rip off the gross parts once a day, and use the remaining to keep pressing down. Another way I keep smaller bits submerged (shredded carrots, garlic cloves, chopped peppers, etc.) is to fill a small ziploc bag with salt water (similar salinity to the "brine" you're making), and use it as a weight on top of the vegetation. You can add distilled or filtered water to the top to get the liquid up the sides of the plastic baggie if needed. I take the baggie out once the room-temp fermentation is done and it's in the fridge- floating bits aren't generally a problem if you're digging into your creation at least once a week and making sure to compress floaters as much as possible. Your ferment will soak up some of that liquid again once it's in the fridge. It's ok to add some filtered or distilled water to keep the liquid level high enough. *People will say filtered water isn't good enough; I've never had a problem with it. Will depend on the chlorine content and the quality of the filter.

  4. As far as your mold question goes... once your saurkraut gets too moldy to be salvageable, you'll know it! No clue on the science, but my guess is that once the mold is prevalent, it's nearly impossible to "carve" it out and get rid of it completely. Carrots and beats are notorious for growing a mold reverse-iceberg, due to their sugar content. I've never had it get out of control with cabbage. If you check your active ferments daily and your refrigerated stuff every 10 days or so, you SHOULD catch it before it gets too bad to save. I pick off/skim off the nasty stuff and I'm quite liberal, making sure to get around all the margins and then some. That being said, I'm also the person who spoons mold off of fruit preserves/salsa and eats the rest if it still smells/tastes ok. At the end of the day- do NOT eat anything you think smells bad or tastes funny. Be comfortable with your experiments, and if in doubt, throw it out- rotten ferments are GREAT for compost.

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