How to make sauerkraut

I’ve been making sauerkraut for many years now, but i’ve always wondered how to make sauerkraut with the maximum number of good bacteria.  Recently I stumbled across a scientific article entitled “Fermentation of the Yugoslavian Pickled Cabbage”.  The paper was published in in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 1962 and I found it fascinating.  The study can be read for free from from NCBI, some take away points for me were:

  1. The more finely the cabbage was chopped, the faster the Kraut fermented.
  2. The “sweet-spot” for maximum bacteria count in the Kraut seems to be about 7 days.  Any less than 7 days and the bacteria count is still increasing, any more than seven days and the bacteria count was starting to decrease.
  3. A 3% salt brine gave a better texture to the Kraut than a less salty brine

These conclusions formed by the authors of the study match up really well with what we’ve found by experience.  We have found most fermented vegetables to be most tasty when they are sliced very finely.  If the vegetable is cut finely, the bacteria that we are trying to culture have better access to the naturally occurring sugars in the vegetable. This allows things to ferment faster and more thoroughly.

When we ferment our veggies, we usually allow them to ferment until they stop bubbling.  During fermentation bacteria feeds on the sugars in the vegetables to give it enough energy to reproduce.  One of the by-products of the bacteria reproduction is carbon dioxide (and other gasses), so when the bubbles slow down, the reproduction is slowing down.  When this happens depends on room temperature and the type of vegetable being fermented, but 7 days seems to be a pretty good average for most veggies.

We have also experimented fermenting with salt and without salt.  When fermenting veggies without salt we have found that they very quickly become mushy and soggy.  When there is no salt mold seems to form pretty quickly on the surface of the ferment (we found that before we started to ferment only in anaerobic containers).

Have a read of the study and I hope you find it interesting and useful.

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