Kraut gone wrong?
May 8, 2020 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Trying my hand at sauerkraut for the first time with red cabbage, beets, and carrots. Please look at this picture and tell me: Will I die because there are bubbles in what is supposed to be an air-free environment? (Bottom left of the jar.)

I am using an old IKEA jar with a lid that fits well enough but is not an air lock or anything. There is pink foam on top, just a bit, and I have tasted the kraut a few times but now I'm worried about those bubbles on the bottom left of the photo and elsewhere that you cannot see but I can. (Please note: the huge bubbles on top are not air bubbles, that's my plastic bag filled with water to keep the kraut submerged.)

Nearly every day I tap the jar (which I keep in a cupboard for darkness) to encourage bubbles to migrate up (and they do). I often open the jar to taste the kraut and also let out any built-up pressure (not that there ever seems to be) but that's kind of it. I used this recipe.

I don't want to get sick. I am kind of a scaredy cat about homemade stuff. Am I doing kraut wrong? Thanks, hive mind.
posted by Bella Donna to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Aren't the bubbles from fermentation as the cabbage becomes kraut?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

The bubbles are a very good sign! Fermenting vegetables produce CO2 that bubbles up through the brine. The bubbles mean that it is alive and doing its thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2020 [11 favorites]

Just looks like fermentation, as it should. You can use a spoon to push the veggies down and the CO2 up.
posted by Neekee at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

I mean traditionally you’d ferment sauerkraut in a crock and not even be able to see any bubbles, so I wouldn’t consider that a danger sign.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:40 AM on May 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Check out It's Alive on youtube!
posted by wpgr at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bubbles are absolutely an indication that you are doing it right!

Take a look at this kraut troubleshooting site if you want to see what can go wrong with your fermentation and how to avoid it.
posted by blurker at 8:58 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I won't threadsit after this, I promise but those bubbles don't seem to be moving up. Maybe they aren't the same bubbles every day but they look the same to me and I am worrying that they are somehow air bubbles instead of fermentation. I truly hope I am mistaken.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2020

Another vote for really don't worry about it; that is almost certainly a biproduct of fermentation.

It's worth looking up the failure modes of this sort of fermentation. The cabbage will be slimy and will smell awful rather than being sour and crisp and funky-smelling. If this has gone wrong, you won't wonder; you will absolutely know and won't want to put it anywhere near your mouth. Trust me on this.
posted by gauche at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Air pockets are truly a good thing and it is almost impossible for kraut to go wrong if it's below the brine line. The reason to push the kraut down is just a best practice to keep it from poking out when rising from the CO2.

I recommend the book Fermented Vegetables. Great recipes, and also a clear troubleshooting guide with pictures to help you gain confidence when the garlic inevitably turns blue (totally normal!) and a weird surface mold shows up (nearly always fine once you remove).
posted by veery at 9:23 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

They're definitely from the fermentation.

To further put your mind at ease, spoiled ferments are usually *very* obvious. You'll see actual mold growth, and the smell will be distinctly "wrong". Canned goods can be sneakily off sometimes, but ferments are not so sneaky.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have had saurkraut go wrong, and let me assure you if it has, you know. As everyone else has said, it smells and look deeply wrong; like, your lizard hind-brain will definitely protect you here.
posted by kalimac at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Take the bag out, push the veggies down with a spoon, the bubbles will squish out -- then leave until later. Do that occasionally if you like. It's fine.
posted by so fucking future at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, CO2 bubbles can get trapped, and they look exactly like your bubbles when they do. Think about how the CO2 bubbles in a glass of soda can get stuck under an ice cube. If for some weird reason you stuffed a bunch of cabbage into a glass of soda, there would be bubbles stuck under all the pieces of cabbage, just like you're seeing. This is a thing that CO2 does and it's not weird or alarming.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

The bubbles get trapped in the folds of the cabbage. It’s what they’re supposed to do. You can squish the cabbage down and enjoy the escaping funk! It’s very fine by the looks of it (now I’m HUNGRY!)
posted by Namlit at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

You’re fine.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, this looks fine. Great even!

If it goes wrong, you will really, really, REALLY know it. It will smell like very rotten, very stinky, very well seasoned, dog poop.

If it smells good or even just more or less neutral you're 100% OK.
posted by flug at 4:46 PM on May 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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