Sunday, December 20, 2015

Salt and temperature -- too much, or too little?

My great fermented sauerkraut experiment is still in the experimental stage. Today is day 4, and according to the recipe that I used, which included whey that accelerates the fermentation, it should be ready to eat in 3 days. That's assuming perfect conditions, I suppose, which I certainly don't have.

But, I did taste it yesterday, rather cautiously. The cabbage tasted like crunchy cabbage, and the brine was super salty, but I don't get the feeling that much fermentation has taken place. There are a few bubbles, but no tangy fermented taste. So naturally, I began to question everything again. Is it too salty? Is it too cold in that cabinet? Should I toss it and start over?  All that. Lots of reading later, I'm going with the second option -- it's too cold in the cabinet. That floor of the house gets little or no heat, so yes, it is cold up there, and cold will slow fermentation because (logically) the good lactobacillus bacteria grow better in warmer conditions. Cooler fermentation is better, they say, for taste, but I don't have forever for this experiment, people! I want to use the crock for some kimchi, and soon.

So, this morning the apparatus made the return trip here to my room, which is always warmer than the top floor -- even at night when the heat is off in here. Remember, I moved it upstairs because I thought maybe it was too warm in here! My instant-read thermometer is old and I've felt for some time that it wasn't reading correctly. For fermenting food, especially including culturing yogurt, temperature needs to be accurate, so yesterday I did some research and ordered a new one, which should arrive early in the week. My first batch of  yogurt was over-cultured, as I was using the thermometer to determine milk temp and oven/culture medium temp, both of which were clearly warmer than indicated. The yogurt is good, but since the culture environment was warmer than I thought, it ended up being in there for too long and that resulted in the whey separating from the solids. I could have stirred in back in, but I opted to pour it off and use it for fermenting veggies. So, I really need that temp to be right.

But I digress. The kraut still looks the same and this time I placed the crock in the other end of this room, near the outside wall and window, which is noticeably cooler but still warmer than the cabinet upstairs, so that seems like a good compromise.  I'd add some water to try and thin the saltiness of the brine a bit, but it needs to be unchlorinated water so the chlorine doesn't kill the good bugs along with the bad ones, and I don't yet have any of that. So we go with what we have. Hopefully, it's not salty enough to keep the good guys from growing at all. I did use Sally Fallon's recipe and instructions, so presumably the salt level is fine. Time will tell, and as I work through this batch I'm learning plenty.

I know you are all sitting on pins and needles, so I'll keep you informed as things progress.

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