You may also like: A simple guide on how to make Sauerkraut
Making Sauerkraut is a very easy and cost effective way of getting nutrition and probiotics in to your diet however sometimes you may come across a few slight hitches that leave you wondering if you're going to poison yourself! Please remember fermenting food has been a common practice since as far back as 7000BC! - if it was common place for people to be poisoned by eating fermented foods, I'm sure it wouldn't have been as successfully used through history or in present day.
If you are a bit dubious about your Sauerkraut, especially if you are new to fermenting-here is a guide on spotting any issues and what the solutions are.
THERE IS WHITE STUFF ON TOP OF MY SAUERKRAUT?
The white stuff is most likely Kahm yeast which has the appearance of a fine powdery layer or almost a bit like a creamy coating. If left long enough will look more like a smooth layer much like when boiled milk gets a skin on it. Sometimes it will have bubbles in it which are just trapped CO2. It is quite different looking than mould so be rest assured that it isn't mouldy.
It may look like an alien growth and not very appetising however it is not harmful to you, it may have a slight effect on the flavour but your Sauerkraut can be saved! The yeast can have a range of smells from a bit boozy to slightly cheesy depending on what you're fermenting.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
So remove the top layer of cabbage which has the yeast growing on and discard it. Taste the cabbage and if it tastes like the yeast, which may taste how it smells-remove more until you can't taste it anymore. A good general tip is if it has a foul, rotting kind of odour like your bin on a hot day, or tastes bad then it's probably best throwing it away. Once you are happy with the taste/smell of the remaining sauerkraut, repack in to a clean jar and put it back in the fridge. Keep an eye on it, as once it has had Kham yeast, it is more likely to regrow so make sure you eat it up!
HOW DO I PREVENT KAHM YEAST GROWING ON TOP OF MY FUTURE FERMENTS?
In the first few days of the ferment when the Lactic acid is being produced and the environment of your ferment is being established, certain factors can have an impact on this process that can encourage yeast growth due to the environment not being acidic enough.The following steps will help to ensure that you have the optimum environment to create a successful ferment and reduce the chances of yeast.
⦿ One of the easiest ways is to use an airlock system , which is just basically like a little chimney that lets the CO2 escape from your jar whilst simultaneously keeping the oxygen out. They are available from many outlets at very reasonable prices.
⦿ Make sure your cabbage is under the brine. Using a weight will make sure to keep it down as in the first week, the CO2 can become pretty active and push your cabbage to the top of the brine. This also ensures that no oxygen can get to the cabbage-particularly if you are using a crock pot or a vessel which doesn't allow for a complete seal. Fungus and Mould need oxygen to thrive so keep that O2 out of your jar.
⦿ Shred your cabbage finely enough so that the Lactic bacteria can access more of the carbohydrates in your cabbage-larger pieces require more salt.
⦿ Make sure to have 2% salinity to your ferment. The salt gives the Lactobacillus bacteria a chance to increase in number as Lactobacillus is salt tolerant, it can then produce Lactic acid and kick the ass of the not so salt tolerant bad bacteria. It isn't the actual salt that kills the nasties, it is the Lactic acid that is produced from the Lactobacillus. This creates the perfect acidic environment to inhibit bacteria, fungus and mould growth. The salt also helps the cabbage retain its crispness .
⦿ Sweeter vegetables such as carrots and beetroot etc tend to result in Kahm yeast so reduce the amount of sweet veggies you mix into your Sauerkraut.
⦿ Make sure the temperature is between 18-21°C. Hotter temps will speed up the ferment resulting in the PH level being effected when all of the sugars/carbohydrates have been eaten up by the Lactobacillus.
⦿ Use clean jars and lids before making your batch of Sauerkraut. They don't have to be sterilised but I generally give em a wash with soap and water and a good rinse with hot water from the kettle.
⦿ Don't double dip!! if you use contaminated forks etc, you will introduce other bacteria into the jar.
⦿ Use the freshest cabbage possible. Older veggies tend to have more yeast and mould spores already on them so the moulds and yeasts will have higher numbers in the fight to start with.
WHAT IS THIS WHITE SEDIMENT AT THE BOTTOM OF MY JAR?
The white powdery sediment settled at the bottom of your jar is a perfectly normal by product of the fermenting process. This may also be accompanied by a cloudy brine. Apparently this is a sign of a good ferment! Some say it is dead cell walls of the veg??? Not entirely sure as I haven't found the exact science behind it however there are a lot of seasoned fermenters out there that agree that a cloudy brine and sediment is a good thing and certainly will do no harm.
THERE IS MOULD ON TOP OF MY SAUERKRAUT WHAT DO I DO?
Mould is pretty easy to identify as it looks like the typical mould that you would expect to see on a mouldy loaf of bread. If its fuzzy, green, red, pink or black don't eat it. Every one has a different approach to mould, some may just remove it and eat the rest of the Sauerkraut below the brine if it tastes and smells OK. Mould, fungus and bacteria need oxygen to grow so vegetables below the brine should technically be good to eat. Other may prefer to throw away the whole batch as mould spores tend to be still present even though the fuzzy stuff has been removed. The reasoning behind still eating fermented veg with removed fuzz, is that everything (all fruit and veg, our skin etc) has mould spores on it anyway and we are all exposed to this on a regular basis without any harm so what is left in your ferment should be ok. This is a personal preference thing- do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
THERE IS A PINKISH COLOUR IN MY PARTS OF THE SAUERKRAUT.
The pinkish hue that can sometimes occur in your Sauerkraut is also attributed to yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. This can happen as result of too much salt or most likely an uneven distribution of salt when salting the dry cabbage. Some salts have quite large grains, if this is the case it is best to try and grind them down in to a finer powder so it can evenly coat all of the cabbage. The pink hue may also be caused due to dryness which again means there may be higher salt concentrations in different parts of the jar because there isn't enough liquid to evenly distribute the salt. The pinkish yeast is not considered dangerous however if you wish to remove these parts of cabbage from your jar then do so.
MY STORED SAUERKRAUT HAS TURNED BROWN
Browning of the top layer usually means that the oxygen has got to it and well oxidised it! Kind of like when you have peeled your spudz or an apple and left them for 5 mins and they start to go a bit brown in places. This can happen when you have opened your jar, let some air in and closed it again thus letting the O2 oxidise your kraut. You can eat the browned stuff and you will be fine however keep in mind that if O2 has got to it then other mould and yeast can get to it before you have chance to eat the whole jar. Again- MORE BRINE!
Please be aware that I, the author of this blog post, do not have any nutritional training or a health care expertise. The content of this blog post has not been evaluated by the (FDA)My tips and guides are based on experience and plenty of research. Please do not undertake any dietry changes without consulting a health care professional.