Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oops!... I Did It Again

Sauerkraut gone bad, June 2012.
Nothing says, "Welcome Home!" like a batch of sauerkraut gone bad.  This pungent smell awaited my husband yesterday when he returned from a four-day trip and the first thing he did was check my youngest daughter's diaper.  When he realized that she was fresh as a daisy, he asked, "Whatcha doing in here?"  I knew that the sauerkraut I started two weeks ago was not doing well, but I didn't know it smelled THAT bad.  I guess you can get used to almost anything.

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.