|Sauerkraut gone bad, June 2012.|
I looked at the "bad" sauerkraut this morning and finally admitted the truth to myself. The kraut is a funny color and the liquid level has dropped significantly-- the salty brine no longer covers the cabbage as it did when I started. It's time to throw it out, but I can't help wondering what I did wrong and wishing that the stinking, rotten cabbage could tell me how I killed it's beautiful fermentation process. I guess that's why I kept the stuff even though I knew it wasn't edible. I thought that if I stared at it long enough, I might figure out what happened.
This is not the first batch of kraut I've killed recently. The first time around, I made the mistake of keeping the container on the window sill. I knew that sauerkraut ferments best in a dark, cool space, but I'd plopped it up there the night I made it and simply forgot to move it the next morning. I don't have that excuse for the second batch.
I discussed the problem with my friend Daniel, who makes gallons of sauerkraut on his front porch and always seems to have a steady supply of kraut at his house. In fact, he recently loaned me one of his crocks to make sweet pickles. I should have known that if the crock was free of sauerkraut there must be a reason for it. He told me that his mother said you could only make sauerkraut with winter cabbage, but he didn't know why. I can understand why you need to make sauerkraut in cool weather, but since I was keeping my crock indoors, I didn't think this would matter. Maybe there is something magical about winter cabbage.
To be honest, I'm running out of dark corners in my house. I have vinegar mothers, a ten-gallon crock of pickles, and a load of already canned goods crowding my shelves and pantry. My sauerkraut container is tall and I thought, "what the hell... I'll put it on top of the microwave until I find a better spot." I never did. I'll admit that I secretly wondered if the microwaves from my microwave oven might kill the fermentation process. All evidence supports this theory, although I know it's not supposed to work that way.
I'm off to toss out the rotten cabbage and sanitize the container. And I guess I'll wait until Fall to try another batch.