Has Your Sauerkraut Fermentation Gone Bad? Three Fermentation Rules and Many Troubleshooting Tips

Are there uninvited guests lurking in your jar of sauerkraut? Most likely not.

It can be very unnerving to leave a jar of vegetables on your counter to ferment for weeks on end. It is even more disquieting to find mold growing, pink splotches – Are they from outer space? – or to get a pungent whiff of some god-awful smell when opening your jar of fermenting sauerkraut.

Do you fear that your fermentation has gone bad and you will poison your family?

In the case of fermented vegetables, such fear is unfounded.

As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables. Risky is not a word I would use to describe vegetable fermentation. It is one of the oldest and safest technologies we have. – Fred Breidt, microbiologist, US Department of Agriculture

But, you ask!

What are those nasties growing on my sauerkraut?

Why do I not see any bubbles? Does that mean fermentation is not happening?

Or, my sauerkraut is too mushy. What caused that?

Click HERE to download a PDF file of this post for reading at your leisure. No email required.

Free PDF: Click here to get access to The 5-Senses Check [Safe & Scrumptious Sauerkraut?]. See? Smell? Touch? Hear? and Taste? your sauerkraut to make sure it is safe to eat.

 

 

Three Basic Fermentation Rules

Keep these basic rules in mind as you learn this time-honored skill of preserving foods. Have fun along the way.

Basic Fermentation Rules

  1. Keep it Salty! Weigh your cabbage and vegetables to ensure you add the correct amount of salt to create a 2% brine.
    The correct numbers are 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of salt for 1 3/4 pound (800 grams) vegetables OR 3 tablespoons of salt for 5 pounds vegetables. Remember, these weights include not just the cabbage, but any vegetables and seasonings you’re mixing with the cabbage.
  2. Keep it Under the Brine! Use some type of weight to keep fermenting cabbage and vegetables submerged, especially during the first 7-10 days when the microbial climate of your jar is established.
    Put on a lid to keep out the air!
    Fermenting is an anaerobic process.
  3. Keep it at the Ideal Temperatures! This is especially important during the first few days of fermentation when the lactic acid bacteria are creating the lactic acid necessary to preserve your sauerkraut. If your kitchen is too warm or too cold, look around for a better spot. A temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) degrees is ideal.

Want to make sure nothing goes wrong with your sauerkraut fermentation? Visit my recipe How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar in 7 Simple Steps [Healthy, Flavorful, Easy] for numerous tips and step-by-step instructions with plenty of photos.

I’ve broken my troubleshooting tips into broad categories to help you figure out what is happening in your jar or fermentation crock. It is rare that you will find a situation where your sauerkraut needs to be tossed. Usually, what you are seeing is normal and can be fine-tuned by adjusting the temperature at which you’re fermenting and how long you’re fermenting.

I’ve included some images from the Comments section where readers have uploaded their pictures of moldy, slimy, brown sauerkraut. Such pictures are worth a thousand words. 🙂

Things Growing on My Sauerkraut

The sudden invasion of green and black fuzzies or a white powder on your precious ferment can be rather alarming prompting even the hardiest of us to toss it all and vow to never ferment again.

Please be patient and take the time to figure out what went wrong. Or, what went “right” to allow the mold or yeast to take hold. Molds and yeasts are rare if the basic rules for fermentation are followed.

Kahm Yeast

Kahm yeast on a batch of sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.com

Kahm can describe a number of yeasts that will sometimes show up on the surface of a ferment that hasn’t reached a high enough acidity.

Kahm yeast is a flat, thin, white to cream-colored powder and if it grows thick enough, it can almost look like velvet. The yeast can also appear as a creamy scum if it forms and then the brine level drops below the surface.

You may see Kahm yeast raised from the surface of your brine if air bubbles get trapped by the Kahm yeast layer.

Kahm yeast takes hold at the beginning of fermentation if the required high acidity level of your ferment is slow to form. It appears most often during warm weather and when fermenting sweeter vegetables, such as beets, carrots and peppers. Its growth is often an indicator that not enough salt was used.

It can look scary and unpleasant and even smell a little strong, ranging from yeasty to cheesy or even reminiscent of alcohol. Although harmless, Kahm yeast is something you don’t want to let overgrow since it affects the flavor of what you are fermenting.

Tips to Avoid Annoying, Powdery Yeast

  • Ferment at cooler temperatures. This is especially important during the first few days of fermentation when the lactic acid bacteria are creating the lactic acid necessary to preserve your sauerkraut. Look around your home for a cooler spot or ferment during a cooler season.
    A temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) degrees is best.
  • Use sufficient salt. It can be a good idea to increase the amount of salt you use when fermenting at temperatures that are higher than ideal. Use a heaping tablespoon instead of a level tablespoon, or 2.5%, if weighing your salt.
  • Give the lactic acid bacteria easy access to the sugars in your vegetables. A fast rise of acidity levels in your jar reduces the chance that Kahm yeast will take hold. Acid levels rise as the bacteria consume the naturally occurring sugars in your cabbage and vegetables, sugars that are locked inside the cells of your vegetables. By thinly slicing your cabbage, you make it easier for the bacteria to get at those sugars. Pull out that mandolin!
  • Keep your ferment submerged and sealed. Since yeasts are airborne and can only grow where there is air, be sure to submerge your ferment below the brine and use a lid on your fermentation vessel. Doing so helps to stack the deck in your favor, but even the best of us have had yeasts grow in a sealed jar.
  • Reduce the amount of sweet vegetables used. The sugars in ferments that include sweets vegetables set the stage for yeasts to take hold. If you’re fermenting during the heat of summer, you might want to refrain from using carrots, beets or sweet peppers in this particular batch of sauerkraut. Or instead, reduce the length of time that you ferment high-sugar ferments.

A few years back, I tossed a jar of sauerkraut that had strange creamy-white threads of who-knows-what working their way along the top layers. I now know it was Kahm yeast with a strong alcohol smell to it. Too far along to even consider eating. Read about it here.

What to Do If You Have Kahm Yeast Growing on Your Ferment

Due to its powdery nature, it can be hard to remove, and once it has invaded your jar, it tends to reappear after removal, even when stored in your refrigerator. To make removal easier, wait until fermentation is complete – or even cut it short – remove all of the yeast, including what is stuck to the jar and then taste the top layer. If it tastes of Kahm yeast, remove until you get down to a section that tastes fine. Then, repack your sauerkraut into a clean jar.

This is a time to thoroughly clean your jar, crock, lid or whatever came in contact with this batch of sauerkraut, perhaps using a distilled white vinegar solution.

Mold

Mold on a batch of fermented beets. | makesauerkraut.com

Mold is raised and fuzzy and can be white, black, blue, green or even pink. Mold grows from mold spores that are present everywhere in the air and on the surface of fruits and vegetables.

Mold begins growing when spores land – or already exist – on a wet nutrient-rich surface, such as bits of exposed cabbage, and over time grows into a thick layer. They can actually survive in acidic foods so it’s not necessarily the acidity that deters them. But don’t grab your bleach bottle and try and sterilize your jar and lid trying to kill these mold spores. You’ll be killing off the bacteria just the bacteria you need.

All bacteria and fungi produce what are called, in scientific terminology, ‘competitive factors.’ Lactobacillus produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that is lethal to mold spores. The faster the Lactobacillus takes hold, the less likely you’ll have mold. And a perfectly sterile environment is not good for the bacteria, just like it’s not good for the mold. – Wild Fermentation Forum

Another blogger has more on mold in ferments with lots of pictures here.

Mold in my sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.com

This picture from one of my readers shows some mold. Their cabbage floaties trap was out of the brine and exposed to air and mold grew. Toss the offending piece. The rest is fine.

First off, rarely should you have mold growing on your ferment. If you do, don’t get mad and think you will never figure out fermentation. Instead, treat the mold as a big Thank You! from the mold spores. You established the perfect home for them to grow: air, warmth and not enough little salt.

Figure out exactly why the mold grew and adjust the next batch accordingly.

Tips to Prevent the Dreaded Mold

  • Use clean equipment. Clean does not mean sterile. The trick is to provide a fermentation environment where the good bacteria can quickly out-compete the bad bacteria. Sanitizing things is overkill and destroys the bacteria necessary for establishing the proper fermentation environment. Simply clean your jars and equipment with a gentle dish soap and rinse well with water.
  • Pack jar 75-80% full. Too much air in your jar can lead to mold and yeast growth since it may take a while for the production of gases by the bacteria. These CO2 gases force oxygen out of the jar. Add more cabbage or move it to a smaller jar.
  • Ferment at cooler temperatures. This is especially important during the first few days of fermentation when the lactic acid bacteria are creating the lactic acid necessary to preserve your sauerkraut. Look around your home for a cooler spot or ferment during a cooler season. A temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) degrees is best.
  • Use sufficient salt. If you’re fermenting at temperatures that are higher than ideal, increase the amount of salt you use. Use a heaping tablespoon instead of a level tablespoon, or 2.5%, if weighing your salt.
  • Create an anaerobic environment. Mold needs air to grow. By keeping your ferment below the brine and using an airlock of some type, mold can’t get to your ferment.
  • Use fresh, top-quality ingredients. Vegetables that are starting to go bad have a higher mold content that fresh vegetables. Give a competitive advantage to the good bacteria and use super-fresh vegetables

Should You Salvage a Moldy Ferment or Be Safe and Toss It?

This is a personal question that you will have to answer. I’ll share my insights but leave the final decision up to you.

Mold spores are everywhere. We can’t eliminate them.

If the environment is right, mold spores will grow and multiply on the surface of your ferment. This is fairly common with open crock fermentation where the nutrient-rich surface of the ferment is in contact with oxygen-rich air. Usually, underneath the mold growth, your ferment is untouched and smells fresh and clean.

The few times I’ve made the decision to toss a jar of moldy sauerkraut, I have removed that top layer of nasty looking stuff to unearth wonderful, tangy and fresh smelling sauerkraut. I stop mid-toss as my hate-to-waste side kicked in and it was saved from the compost pile and enjoyed by the family.

Most find it perfectly safe to remove the layer of mold on top of their ferment. This is fine with greenish or grayish mold. However, toss ferments with black, pink or orange mold or if they have an off smell.

If you are not comfortable salvaging a ferment or are sensitive to molds, by all means, throw it all out!

Hi Holly, The last lot of Skraut smelled vile! It has been very hot for a few weeks and I thought it had gone off. I decided to put it in the Kompost and as I tipped it out I realized that just under the top it looked quite ok and smelled good. I tasted it and it was delicious. Surprise surprise, I think it is quite hard to ruinSauerkraut. I eat it every day and I think it helps to keep the cancer at bay!
Thanks! Anna
Thanks! Anna

How to Salvage a Ferment that has Mold

Remove mold or other surface growth, as best you can as soon as you see it. The longer you allow the mold to grow, the deeper it penetrates your ferment. Molds can digest pectins, leading to mushy vegetables. Molds also digest lactic acid, the crucial preservative in your ferment.

Gently remove your weight from your fermentation vessel, then use a large spoon to get under the mold and skim it off the best you can. Evaluate the texture of the underlying ferment, removing any layers that are soft or discolored. If you have pH strips, test your ferment, looking for a pH reading below 4.0.

Since mold needs lots of oxygen to grow, it doesn’t hurt to then stir the brine layer a bit to submerge any microscopic mold spores you may have missed, thus depriving those microscopic beings of the oxygen then need for survival.

A Watch Pot Never Bubbles: Bubble Issues

During the first few days of fermentation, you should see little champagne-like bubbles slowly moving through the sauerkraut and rising to the surface.

These bubbles are most predominate during the initial few days when the first bacterial strain to go to work (L. Mesenteroides) are eating the sugars in your cabbage and vegetables. This produces carbon dioxide, hence the bubbles. Their work also increases the acidity of the brine. You may hear an occasional fizzy sound as the bubbles work their way out of your jar, either through your loose lid or an airlock.

Though this is one of the key fermentation signs, don’t panic and toss your jar if you don’t see bubbles. They can be elusive and not every batch of sauerkraut progresses through each stage with perfect timing. You are not fermenting in a climate-controlled laboratory!

Help! No Bubbles! My Ferment had Died

Keep Calm!

The bubbles are most likely in your jar but you can’t see them because they are trapped in the packed fermentation mixture. Remember, if it is past the first 5-7 days, you may no longer see many bubbles, if any.

Tips if You Don’t See Bubbles

  • Release trapped bubbles. To reassure yourself that fermentation is progressing, try a few solid taps on the outside of the jar. You should see some bubbles begin to move up the sides of your jar
  • Find a warmer spot. If your home is especially cool, fermentation will unfold slowly and bubble production will be reduced. Be patient or move your jar to a warmer spot.  A temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) degrees is best.
  • Check your cabbage source. The amount of bubbles you see depends somewhat on the sugar levels in your cabbage, which can vary quite a bit depending upon variety and growing conditions.
    Nutritional data shows that the sugar content in 5 types of raw cabbage ranged from 1.18 gram to 3.83 grams per 100 grams. Cabbage low in sugar provides less food for the bacteria to eat and results in a reduced production of carbon dioxide, those elusive bubbles. You won’t be able to test your cabbage for sugar levels, but if you’re concerned about an inactive batch, try buying your cabbage from another source.
    Cabbage that has been irradiated to increase its shelf life is devoid of microbial life, the very microbes necessary for fermentation. To avoid this issue, purchase organic cabbage.
  • Look for other signs of fermentation. Cabbage turning from bright green to dull yellow, a cloudy brine or a sour taste to your ferment are all indicators that fermentation is unfolding as intended.

There is a Growing Foam-Like Mass of Bubbles Creeping Out of My Jar

With some batches of sauerkraut (usually those exceptionally high in natural sugars), you may see a foam-like mass of bubbles collecting on the surface of your ferment. The bubbles may even be colored depending on what you used to flavor your sauerkraut. Beets will leave a dark-red to brownish scum of bubbles.

Tips for Dealing with a Foaming Mass of Bubbles

  • Keep your jar in a bowl. To catch an overflowing mass of brine and bubbles, be sure to place your jar of fermenting sauerkraut in a shallow bowl or tray.
  • Skim off foam. Skim any persistent foam off the surface and discard. Foaming slows down quite quickly and usually stops by the end of the first week.
  • Reduce the amount of sweet vegetables used. A good rule of thumb for a balanced batch of sauerkraut is 25% flavoring ingredients and 75% cabbage, especially when including sweet ingredients: carrots, beets, sweet peppers and corn. This not only prevents excess bubbles but also prevents the formation of a syrupy batch or the domination of yeasts common in an alcohol ferment.

Brine Issues

Brine. That essential salty, nutrient-rich fluid that keeps our ferment safe from airborne molds and yeasts. Sometimes, it is so copious that it flows out of the jar and onto our countertop. Other times, it just disappears and leaves our sauerkraut high and dry.

Help! I Have Too Much Brine. It is Spilling out the Top of My Sealed Jar

Pickled Cranberries. | makesauerkraut.com

The first week of fermentation is when visibly your ferment is most active. Gases created during this first stage of fermentation need to push their way up and out of your packed sauerkraut. If these air bubbles instead get trapped in your packed sauerkraut, the mixture will expand and move up in the jar. This is called “heaving” and results in either brine pushing up and out to make a puddle around the jar or brine trickling down into available air pockets to make the top your sauerkraut looks dry.

The amount of brine produced in your fermenting sauerkraut can vary dramatically from one batch to the next. Generally, you’ll have more brine at the beginning of fermentation and during the part of the day when your house is warmer. Ideally, you do not want to lose this precious brine. It helps to keep your ferment anaerobic and provides moisture in your jar of finished sauerkraut.

Tips for Dealing with Brine Overflow

  • Catch the Brine. Make sure your jar is sitting in a small dish to prevent excess brine from overflowing onto your countertop. Check your dish daily during the first week. Empty and toss brine as need be.
  • Leave enough head space in your Jar. Yes, it’s easy to overpack a jar – I sure did with those cranberries!, trying to avoid wasting any of that precious space. Doing so usually ends in a messy disaster.
    Try to pack your jars about 75-80% full, leaving about  2 inches (5 cm) of space between the top of your packed sauerkraut and the top of your jar. This gives a place for brine to go as your packed sauerkraut expands
  • Release trapped air bubbles. To release these trapped bubbles, first remove the lid, then either push down on the weight, slide a butter knife along the inside of the jar or poke the sauerkraut with a bamboo skewer.
    Doing so will release the air bubbles and allow the sauerkraut to condense back down into the jar and the brine to once again cover the top of it. If you no longer have enough brine to cover the top of your sauerkraut, go ahead and make a small batch of 2% brine.
  • Use a Fermentation Weight that Takes Up Less Space. I still recommend a little jar as a “weight” to keep things simple for first-time fermenters. However, one of its drawbacks is that it uses up space that would be better left for the brine. This is where the weight and size of a glass Pickle Pebble weight comes in handy, though I’m not convinced it is always heavy enough.
  • Invest in a Fermentation Gate. “Fermentation Gate” is a term I’m using to describe something “locked” into the neck of your jar that can’t be moved by the force of the expanding sauerkraut mixture. The gate stays locked and your ferment then has to remain in place below the brine. Currently available examples of Fermentation Gates are the Pickle Helix, the Kraut Source Fermentation Lid, ViscoDisc Canning Buddies and the Pickle Pusher also shown on my Fermenting Supplies page, which is kept up-to-date with the latest gizmos.
  • Enjoy the free entertainment. Watch the bubbling action and enjoy and observe how the brine falls and rises with temperature in your home.

Cloudy Brine

Cloudy brine is perfectly normal and actually a sign that fermentation is progressing. You may also notice some white sediment forming at the bottom of the jar. This white powder is from the bacteria and is perfectly normal. Some say it is caused by dead cell walls from the vegetables floating around. Others say it is from iodine or anti-caking agents found in some salts.

If your sauerkraut contains beets, turmeric or other deeply colored vegetables, you may see the brine change to match the color of what you are fermenting. You may also notice dirty specks of color – especially when using carrots or beets – forming at the top of your jar. All is good.

It is fine to consume cloudy brine; it is loaded with B-vitamins.

Brown Brine

Sauerkraut with brown brine. | makesauerkraut.com

This picture from one of my readers shows some brown brine.

When fermenting during warm weather, you may notice that your brine turns brown. Harmless but rather unappetizing. Try to cool things down with one of these tips.

Slimy Brine

Slimy sauerkraut. | makesauerkraut.com

This picture from one of my readers shows some slimy brine.

The first time slime found its way into one of my jars of fermenting goodness was with the popular Ginger Carrots recipe in Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions. Many of us have had a similar experience. We’re lured in by the opening of the recipe: “These are the best introduction to lacto-fermented vegetables we know.”

The high sugar content of the carrots invites in unwanted microorganisms that prefer the high sugar vegetables.

Sauerkraut with thick, stringy, slimy brine occasionally develops early on in the fermentation process due to the production of dextrans by rapidly growing strains of Lb. cucumeris and Lb. plantarium bacterium. Dextrans are high molecular weight polysaccharides made from glucose molecules, hence the slippery, syrupy brine.

This occurs especially at elevated temperatures or when fermenting vegetables high in sugars, like beets, carrots or sweet peppers.

Banish Slime with These Tips

  • Ferment at cooler temperatures. This is especially important during the first few days of fermentation when the lactic acid bacteria are creating the lactic acid necessary to preserve your sauerkraut. Look around your home for a cooler spot or ferment during a cooler season. A temperature range of 65-70°F (18-21°C) degrees is best.
  • Reduce the quantity of high-sugar vegetables. Since slimy brine is most common with high-sugar vegetables, keep them to a minimum especially if fermenting during elevated temperatures.
    Leave it to ferment longer, up to a month or move to the fridge for a few weeks. See: Which Vegetables and Seasonings Should I Use to Make Sauerkraut?
  • Consider the use of a starter culture. If you live in a warm climate and are having repeated batches of sauerkraut with slimy brine, look into using a starter culture to ensure that the necessary strains of bacteria populate your ferment. I’m not a fan of using starter cultures, but I know some living in tropical countries have had success using them.
  • Give the bacteria some time. Place in refrigerator for a few weeks to give the various bacteria a chance to rebalance.
  • Add a 2% brine. If you’re fermenting just grated carrots, cover them in a 2% brine (1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups water) before fermenting.
  • Shorten fermentation length. If your sauerkraut has more than the recommended amount of sweet vegetables or fruit, move to your refrigerator after just 10 days and leave there for a couple of months to finish fermenting.

Not Enough Brine

When you are massaging the salt into your cabbage you may notice that you have to work harder and longer to get a puddle of brine. The cabbages you used to make your sauerkraut could have dried out in storage. I have a whole post devoted to dry sauerkraut.

There are two times of the year cabbage is grown: spring and fall. In the spring, cabbage is ripening during longer, warmer days, which drys it out. In the fall, cabbage is ripening during shorter, coolers days which makes for sweet, densely packed heads.

Here are a Few Ways to Ensure you have Enough Brine

  • Use fresh cabbage. Even though cabbage is approximately 92% water, if it is June and you’re about to make a batch of sauerkraut, that cabbage has most likely been in cold storage for 6 months and will have lost some of its moisture. Loss of moisture means less brine. The closer to harvest that you purchase your cabbage – and make sauerkraut – the more brine it will produce and the less chance of dry sauerkraut.
    When purchasing, select cabbages that seem heavy for their size and show tightly packed leaves when sliced open.
  • Include watery vegetables. Grated radishes, carrots, beets, thinly sliced onions, or turnips will all give off a lot of liquid and help make copious brine.
  • Add citrus juice. This tip comes from Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, authors of my favorite fermentation book: Fermented Vegetables.
    “A few tablespoons of lemon juice, bottled or fresh, can save the day. The lemon flavor will be subtle, as it gets lost in the acidity that you are creating with the fermentation. If you want to taste the lemon, add the zest also. You can also add fresh-squeezed orange, lime or grapefruit juice.”
  • Slice Cabbage Thinner. Thin thread-like cuts of cabbage about ⅛ inch thick (2-3 mm) make for easy brine production along with an overall improved quality of the finished product.
    Thread cuts expose more cabbage cells. More exposed cabbage cells release more fluid and more lactic-acid bacteria. More lactic-acid bacteria creates more lactic-acid.Lactic acid helps to maintain a good pH which preserves flavor, texture and color. What is the best way to get those thread cuts? A mandolin! Or, a food processor
  • Ferment in a water-sealed fermentation crock. Sauerkraut fermented in the larger ceramic fermentation crocks tend to retain more brine.

Texture Issues

The texture of your finished ferment can range from melt-in-your-mouth soft to hurt-your-teeth hard with everything in between. Variations in batch occur throughout the year usually due to the temperature at which you are fermenting.

Sauerkraut that is Too Soft

If you prefer sauerkraut with a nice crunch, it can be heartbreaking to open up your jar to find mush.

Soft sauerkraut results when bacteria that normally do not initiate growth until the later stages of sauerkraut production actually grow earlier usually due to too high of fermentation temperatures or not enough salt. You can’t rescue the current batch but for future batches, adjust one or all the Salinity, Temperature and Time dials. See also How Long To Ferment Sauerkraut?.

Tips for Preventing Soft Sauerkraut

  • Salinity. A higher salinity will slow down fermentation. Bump up your salt numbers just a tad. For a one quart (liter) batch, add a tad more salt: ½ teaspoon (4 grams).
  • Temperature. Ferment at cooler temperatures. This is most crucial during the first week of fermentation. This makes it hard if you’re are fermenting during the summer. Sauerkraut is traditionally fermented during the fall when temperatures are cooler. See 11 Cool Fermentation Tips for Hot Weather
  • Time. Ferment for a shorter time period. Sample your sauerkraut at the one-week mark and then every few days until it is at your preferred texture.

Sauerkraut that is Too Crunchy

To achieve a softer texture, adjust one or all the Salinity, Temperature and Time dials. See also How Long To Ferment Sauerkraut?.

Tips for Dealing with Sauekraut that is Too Crunchy

  • Salinity. Use a tad less salt for future batches. For a one quart (liter) batch, 2½ teaspoons (14 grams) total.
  • Temperature. Ferment at warmer temperatures.
  • Time. Ferment for a longer time period.
  • Pound! When you are making your next batch and once you have mixed in your salt, spend some time actually pounding your cabbage mixture to break down the cabbage more than is possible by just “massaging the salted cabbage mixture with strong hands.” You’ll need a kraut pounder for this or you can use the end of a rolling pin, potato masher or similar device.

Flavor Issues

Kimchi Style Sauerkraut Recipe. | makesauerkraut.com

Be mindful of how your sauerkraut tastes and work with fermentation parameters until you get it right. Life is too short to eat blah sauerkraut!

Not Enough Tang

The sour flavor in sauerkraut comes from lactic acid produced by the lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) eating the sugars in your cabbage and vegetables. Once all the sugars have been converted to lactic acid, your max levels of tang have been reached.

Try These Tips for More Tang in Your Sauerkraut

  • Time. If the cabbage you used wasn’t especially sweet you may not find your sauerkraut to be sour enough. Let it ferment a few days longer, then sample once again. If you don’t notice any increase in tang, then sugars have been used up and this batch won’t get sourer.
  • Provide more sugar for the LAB. For future batches under similar conditions, experiment with adding a touch of sugar to your ferment, say ½ teaspoon for a 1-quart jar, which will provide more food for the LAB to then create higher levels of lactic acid.

Too Salty

Sometimes too much salt gets mixed into our ferment, resulting in overly salty sauerkraut. Or, if you have been restricting your salt intake, sauerkraut may seem overly salty to you. Some sources say to rinse the sauerkraut. Doing so rinses off some, but not all of the beneficial probiotics. Personal preference along with the type of salt you used will play a factor in how salty your finished sauerkraut tastes.

Tips for Dealing with Salty Sauerkraut

  • Use a mineral-rich salt. Himalayan Pink Salt and Redmond’s Real Salt are mineral-rich salts that contain a bit less sodium and impart a greater depth of flavor to foods than ordinary table salt does.
  • Use a bit less salt. Decrease the percent of salt used down to 1.5%. (2 ½ teaspoons; 12 grams)
  • Add a potato slice. I have not tried this, but culinary experts often add a raw potato slice to dishes that are too salty. In theory, it will act like a sponge, absorbing excess salt.
  • Rinse. Just before eating, you can give your sauerkraut a quick rinse. This will wash off some but not all of the beneficial bacteria.
  • Disperse the saltiness. Mix your sauerkraut into a salad or stir into a dish just before serving.
  • Ferment longer. Sodium levels in sauerkraut are not changed by fermentation. However, as your sauerkraut ferments, acid levels rise that will mask the salty taste.
  • Dehydrate. You can salvage a salty batch of sauerkraut by dehydrating it into a “Flavoring” Salt. I use my Kimchi-Flavoring salt in deviled eggs, pasta dishes and on sauteed greens. See the last tip on my 5 Ways to Store Fermented Sauerkraut [One is Controversial] post.

Color Concerns

As sauerkraut ferments, the bright green of the cabbage slowly fades to become almost pale white at the end of fermentation. This is normal. What if your sauerkraut turns pink? Brown?

Pink Sauerkraut

Pink sauerkraut can be quite beautiful and is great if it comes from red cabbage, beets red kale or even some fruits. But sometimes, pink color in sauerkraut is caused by pigments produced by the growth of certain types of yeasts. These yeasts may grow if there is too much salt, an uneven distribution of salt or if the kraut is insufficiently covered during fermentation. The yeasts that cause pink sauerkraut are not considered harmful and the sauerkraut is perfectly safe to eat.

Brown Sauerkraut

Over time, a jar of sauerkraut stored in your refrigerator will darken slightly. This is normal and perfectly fine to eat.

If instead, there is a brown layer of sauerkraut at the top of the jar, that portion of sauerkraut is oxidized. Air got to that section of sauerkraut and caused it to turn brown.

Since it is protecting the sauerkraut below, leave it alone, move your jar to the refrigerator and when you are ready to eat from the jar, remove and toss the oxidized layer.

Tips to Prevent Brown Sauerkraut

  • Create an anaerobic environment. Use a fermentation weight and airlock to prevent air from getting into your ferment. Also, see these tips for dry sauerkraut.
  • Invest in a Fermentation Gate. “Fermentation Gate” is a term I’m using to describe something “locked” into the neck of your jar that can’t be moved by the force of the expanding sauerkraut mixture. The gate stays locked and your ferment then has to remain in place below the brine. Currently available examples of Fermentation Gates are the Pickle Helix, the Kraut Source Fermentation Lid, ViscoDisc Canning Buddies and the Pickle Pusher also shown on my Fermenting Supplies page, which is kept up-to-date with the latest gizmos.
  • Don’t introduce excess air. Wait at least until the end of the first week to sample your sauerkraut. By this time enough lactic acid has been produced and the pH has dropped sufficiently that introducing air into your ferment at this time should not cause oxidation.

Blue or Green Garlic

Blue green garlic in my ferment. | makesauerkraut. com

This image from one of my readers shows a clove of garlic that has turned bluish green. Alarming!

In acidic conditions – fermenting – a compound found in garlic, breaks down and reacts wit6h amino acids to produce the blue-green color. Dramatic, but safe and no change in flavor.

Smell Issues

Funky old socks? Gym sweat? Farts? Rotten eggs? Stinky Swiss cheese? Sulfur? Even bleach! Those are a handful of the terms used to describe what fermenting sauerkraut can smell like. Thankfully, not every batch will produce these off-putting odors.

Natural Fermentation Odors

According to Kirsten and Christopher Shockey, authors of Fermented Vegetables – that I reviewed here, most of the stink periodically experienced in fermentation is caused by the production of naturally occurring fatty acids. For reasons unknown, some batches produce one or more of these acids in quantities that affect the smell.

Propionic acid is often described as smelling like human sweat or dirty socks or can also smell sulfurous like flatulence. Caproic acid smells like goats. Butyric acid smells like rancid butter. Isovaleric acid smells like a stinky locker room

Sulfur-containing compounds found in cabbage – and other cruciferous vegetables – can also produce strong and pungent odors.

Just remind yourself the numerous nutritional benefits they are packed with as your nose adjusts to the odors. Rest assured, however, your sauerkraut is still safe to consume.

Pungent Odors

If, however, your sauerkraut smells like rotting or putrid food, you’ll want to toss it. Putrid is an unmistakably awful odor that might even make your eyes water. Usually, molds, yeasts or an off-color accompany truly putrid smelling sauerkraut.

What to Do When Overpowered by Smelly Sauerkraut

  • Be patient. The strongest odors occur during the first few days when the various acids, are finding their way out of your jar. After that, odors will be less noticeable.
  • Compare odors with some store-bought sauerkraut. If you are totally new to sauerkraut and not sure how if what you smell is putrid or normal, buy a jar of sauerkraut to get a sense of what sauerkraut smells like. Look for raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of a natural foods store. Compare its smell to what you have fermenting and nibble on it while you wait for your sauerkraut to ferment.
  • Trap odors. Keep a dish of baking soda next to your fermenting sauerkraut where it will absorb some of the odors.
  • Relocate. Move your ferment to another room in the house – or even the garage –  where it is out of the way, or even ventilated.
  • Use water-sealed lids. Invest in water-sealed fermentation lids or a water-sealed fermentation crock that tend to trap most of the offensive odors.

Invaders: Fruit Flies and Maggots

If you are fermenting in an open crock or not able to put a lid on your jar of fermenting sauerkraut, both flies and fruit flies can find it and lay their eggs on the surface. The result? Maggots crawling out a few days later.

Though most prevalent during warmer months, fruit flies can be a problem all year-round. They are attracted to ripening fruit, fermented fruits, tomatoes, melons, squash, bananas, potatoes and onions. If I notice fruit flies, I set a few fruit-fly traps around my kitchen. I share two favorites, below.

Protecting Your Ferments from Things That Fly

  • Lure them with apple cider vinegar bait. Pour a few ounces of apple cider vinegar into a shallow bowl. Plain vinegar does not work.
    Add a drop or two of dish soap. The vinegar attracts the flies and the soap reduces surface tension causing them to drown.
  • Set a fruit trap. Place apple cores or other fruit bits into a small bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Use a toothpick to poke a set of holes in the plastic.
    The fruit attracts the flies and they find their way into the bowl through the tiny holes but they can’t find their way back out. If you’re feeling kind, you can take the trap outdoors to release them.
  • Protect your ferment. In the summer months when flies are most plentiful, It is imperative that you protect your ferment. Use a lid if fermenting in a jar. Or, if fermenting in an open crock, cover it with a finely woven cloth and tie a string around its edges to secure it.

Remove Infested Layer

If you do find maggots in your crock of sauerkraut, there is no need to panic or discard the whole batch.

As they hatch on the surface of a ferment, maggots migrate up and out of the food; they do not burrow farther down. Remove the top inch or so of the fermenting vegetables, and go as deep as necessary until you reach sauerkraut with no signs of maggots, no discoloration and a pleasant aroma. Be sure to wipe the interior sides of the vessel to remove any lingering maggots or eggs. – Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation

Free PDF: Click here to get access to The 5-Senses Check [Safe & Scrumptious Sauerkraut?]. See? Smell? Touch? Hear? and Taste? your sauerkraut to make sure it is safe to eat.

WOW! That should cover just about anything that could go wrong with your ferment. Let me know if I missed something.

Remember the Basic Fermentation Rules

This should cover any imbalances you might encounter in your jars as you explore the wonderful and wild world of natural fermentation. Do not let them scare you away. Follow the basic rules of fermentation:

  • Keep it Salty!
  • Keep it Under the Brine!
  • Keep it at the Ideal Temperature!

You will be successful! My recipe covers it all. Go give it a try and you might never need to visit this post again.

963 thoughts on “Has Your Sauerkraut Fermentation Gone Bad? Three Fermentation Rules and Many Troubleshooting Tips”

  1. What a wonderful, amazing summary of fermentation! I have a bunch of jars going right now and get sketched out by the thin, white film that I am taking off every few days, giving my ferments love 😉 now I feel so much more encouraged and happy knowing that my fermentation went well. thanks!

    • Hi Kris,
      Nice to know I’m helping you realize that your ferments are happy and safe! They’re fun pets to have in the home. If you’re using lids and have the salt ratio correct, you’ll find that there isn’t be much in the way of white film. Happy Fermenting!

  2. Hi! Thanks for your tips. I just made my first batch of sauerkraut yesterday, in a 2 gallon crock. The plate I intended to use to hold it down, ended up not fitting in the crock. So in a pinch, I used the brine inside the Ziploc weight I have read about. After weighing it down, I couldn’t quite tell if I had enough brine so I made some up and added it. I checked it today and it just seemed like way too much brine (several inches). I removed some with a ladle and am now down to an inch or so. My question is…I’ve read a lot about not having enough brine, but can you have too much? I don’t want to mess with it too much, but it’s hard to tell what’s going with this Ziploc full of water. Thanks!

    • Hi Jenn,
      Congrats on a getting a crock of sauerkraut fermenting. Good troubleshooting to keep it below the brine.
      I wouldn’t worry about too much brine. I only have experience with the closed water-moat crocks where evaporation of brine is not an issue. I would say the extra brine is good in case you do lose some to evaporation. Also, it is nice when packing the finished crock into jars to have the extra brine.
      Just keep your crock inside some type of container to catch any brine that spills over.
      Happy Fermenting,
      Holly

  3. Hi, I’m really glad to find someone knowledgeable that I can ask questions about fermenting vegetables . I’m just now fermenting for the very first time. I used a recipe I found online for ginger/garlic baby carrots. I bought the pre-cut packages and am fermenting them whole with chunks of ginger root and garlic cloves in salt water.

    My problem is the mold. It’s growing all over the top of the large cabbage leaf that I have stuffed in the top of the jar to keep the carrots down under the brine. There is a lot of the cabbage leaf that is not covered by the brine and that’s the part that is getting moldy. The leaf in one jar looks kind of brownish w/some black mold and some white chunks that are loose and floating in the top of the jar.

    The leaf in the other jar still seems to look healthy green but is starting to show some black spots of mold. There are no white floating chuncks in this jar. I’ve been fermenting at around 70-78 degrees F room temperature as I have not been running the AC. According to the instrux, you only ferment these carrots for around 7 days.

    So far 6 or 7 days in there have been only a few bubbles. The brine has never overflowed the jars.

    I’m afraid to eat them and don’t know if the mold on the cabbage has affected the carrots below. I know mold spores can put off micotoxins and you can’t see the toxin but some people are sensitive to the toxin even more so than the mold.

    What do you think, are they safe to eat?

    Thanks,
    Lori

    • Hi Lori,

      First off, my expertise is with sauerkraut. That’s what my family loves and eats; the rest tends to go to waste. I have limited experience with brine fermentation, but I’ll share what I can.

      A couple things come to mind. One, there might be some preservatives or coating on the pre-cut carrots that are interfering with creating a lactic-acid rich environment for safe fermentation. Try peeling and cutting into sticks fresh whole carrots.

      Two. What percent brine did you create? For fermenting carrots and other vegetable chunks, you’ll want to use 1 tablespoon salt for 2 cups of water. Was there iodine in your salt?

      Three. It is hard to ferment in a warm house. So, if you don’t want to wait for cooler weather, try fermenting for just 3 days.

      Use a smaller jar or cleaned stone to hold everything below the brine. Put on a lid, it you can.

      You might not see as much bubbling action with the brined carrots as you would with sauerkraut and it tends to peak around day 3.

      It sounds like more mold that I would want, especially the black mold. I would toss, learning what you can and try again with a small batch until it works for you. In the right environment with everything below the brine, there should be no mold.

      Keep my posted and best of luck,
      Holly

      • Holly, Thanks for your quick response! The recipe called for 2 Tbsp salt with 2 cups of water. I used deionized, RO, filtered water and pink himalayan salt. It also said ferment for 7-10 days at temp of 65-80 degrees.

        So black mold is an absolute no no? I’ve read in different blogs that mold on top can just be scraped off, but they don’t go into detail about the mold. I know there are black, pink, green and red molds that can grow on food. There was even one blogger who claimed she just ferments her cabbage on the counter top with only a tea towel covering it and she also said she scraped the mold off the top.

        I agree with your point about the preservative on the pre-cut carrots possibly interfering. The carrots were organic but I think I recall reading somewhere that when they bag even the organic carrots, they put something on them, I just don’t remember what.

        Can you go into what is an acceptable amount or color of safe mold?

        Thanks again,
        Lori

        • Hi Lori,

          It sounds like you used too much salt – double what I’ve seen recommended – and that prevented any fermentation from happening.

          Like I said above to “Gentle Reader,” Life is too short to eat questionable sauerkraut! or… fermented carrots! You want yummy mouth-watering ferments that you and and/or your family relishes.

          If the conditions are right, there should be no mold growing. I deem the mold unsafe-microorganisms are growing improperly. I’ll continue my own research…

          I want to keep you healthy and alive and am not comfortable telling you to eat black, moldy foods. You can ferment without molds. Keep it clean, below the brine and use the right amount of salt.

          Press on and try again!
          Holly

      • Forgot to mention that they are in narrow neck jars with lids and I have been burping them. Also, I rinsed the carrots in filtered water prior to fermenting them, just in case there was some additive or preservative on the carrots.

  4. Help! No one seems to have an answer for my sauerkraut problem. After seven weeks of sitting, my brine is turning dark brown. I don’t mean yellow or golden, I mean dark brown. The batch never seems to be really fermenting, never bubbled, would show separation and push up occasionally but never did so very assertively, always remained under the surface of the brine, and recently started to only vaguely smell like sauerkraut. The cabbage tastes like salt. There’s been no mold or ickies growing, but the dismally poor fermentation and now darkening brine is telling me that this batch needs to head off to the humus pile. Any ideas?

    • Hello Gentle Reader,

      Not to disappoint you, but fermentation is not an exact science and we can’t always pinpoint where things went awry. Life would be so simple if we could.

      I want to eat delicious mouth-watering foods and that is why I worked for so long to perfect my sauerkraut making process, but even I have a few rare, “head off to the hums pile” results. Life is too short to eat questionable sauerkraut!

      My wild guess is too much salt or something else that interfered with the activation of the fermentation process. It sounds like fermentation never happened and you are left with a salty jar of cabbage. Toss it and try again.

      Do weigh your vegetables and cabbage to make sure you are using the right amount of salt.

      My Master MakeSauerkraut recipe takes your through all the necessary steps. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-to-make-sauerkraut/

      For your efforts, you’ll soon be rewarding with yummy sauerkraut. It’s worth the struggle through the unknowns.

      Happy Fermenting,

      Holly

  5. Hello, I’ve recently made a batch of sauerkraut for the first ever time however I think I’ve made a mistake! I have left it for around 1 month in a warmish cupboard and it smells a little bad. Not awful, but it’s certainly off. There’s mo visible signs of mold or anything but I’m guessing I should err on the side of caution? Just seems a shame to throw out 3 jars, yes I got carried away making it 🙂

    Thankyou,

    Paul

    • Hello Paul,

      Congratulations on your first batch of sauerkraut, even if it was “off.” Yes, I would error on the side or caution and toss. I tossed many jars early on in the learning process.

      But don’t be discouraged. You want your first experience with eating sauerkraut to be delicious.

      You hit on the factors involved:

      Temperature. “Warmish cupboard” would call for a shorter fermentation time, more like 10 days. I like to leave my ferments on the counter – out of direct sunlight – so I don’t forget about them.

      Try again. One jar. Follow the steps in my recipe https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-to-make-sauerkraut/

      It works like a charm, with the right amount of salt.

      Happy Fermenting,
      Holly

  6. I want to attempt sauerkraut for the first time and I have harvested several heads of cabbage from the garden. My usual wash routine is to fill the sink with cold water and a couple glugs of vinegar and soak everything. For the last week I have been reading about sauerkraut like crazy and not sure what to do now that the cabbage has been cleaned this way? Can I still proceed like normal or should I add whey as a starter? Or just not use these heads?

    • Hi Megan,

      Sorry for the delay in answering your question. I was on holiday without internet access.

      I would use this opportunity for an experiment. Go ahead and make 2 jars of sauerkraut. One using the vinegar-washed cabbage and one with an unwashed head of cabbage. Or, even try one of the vinegar-washed cabbages with the whey to introduce some beneficial bacteria, as you were probably thinking.

      I don’t like to use whey – though in this case it makes sense – since it introduces dairy into a vegetable ferment and is usually not necessary.

      If you washed the cabbage whole, I doubt many of the good bacteria would have been killed off by the vinegar.

      Follow my recipe (https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-to-make-sauerkraut/ and use the correct amounts of salt (1 tablespoon salt for 1 3/4 pound cabbage/vegetables) since I’ve had so much success with that brine ratio.

      Let us know how your sauerkraut turns out.

      Good Luck,
      Holly

  7. a couple weeks ago we made a crock of sauerkraut but its really green was the cabbage too young. it smells great tastes great but the color looks funny.

    • Hi Jim,

      Sorry for the delay in replying. I was on holiday without internet access.

      Smells good! Tastes good! Enjoy it!

      I’ve seen beautiful green in my sauerkraut with fresh cabbage but wouldn’t ever say the color looked funny. As long as you used the correct amount of salt (https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-much-salt-use-to-make-sauerkraut/) and kept your ferment under the brine, all should be fine.

      I do not know of anything to add to the ferment to help it retain its color. I do wish the beauty and brightness of the sauerkraut in its first few weeks of ferment would stay, but it does fade over time. Carrots keep their color along with beets (though not forever).

      I do not can my sauerkraut – it kills all the beneficial bacteria that I want for good gut health – so I can’t tell you how long to water bath the jars. Save yourself a step and store the jars in the back of your refrigerator. They’ll keep up to a year.

      Holly

  8. Hi,
    I made my first batch of sauerkraut and the lid popped off a couple of times on day 2 of the fermenting process. I had it stored in a box on the floor of my pantry.. My baby daughter crawled over and put her hand in a I caught her eating some. Needless to say I’m now concerned that the jar may have been spoiled since she’s put her hands into it?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Toni,
      No worries. Be glad your daughter sampled your sauerkraut. If we can get our children used to the “sour” taste of fermented foods when they are young, they’ll be eating the great stuff for life.

      What little “contamination” she may have introduced will be “gobbled-up” by all the active lactic-acid bacteria that are at work in your jar.

      Question? I haven’t heard of lids popping off jars. What type of lid and how tight/loose was it on? Did you just sit a lid on top? Usually, especially with the white plastic lids I recommend, any excess buildup of gases escapes on their own. Or, if one is using the canning lid and rim that comes with canning jars, I make sure that is not on too tight so gases can escape.

      • Thanks for your reply. She loves the store bought sauerkraut so I thought I’d start making it myself.
        This morning after a week of fermenting I chevked my jars and due to leakage after the bubbling etc some of the liquid has escaped and is a bit dry on the top layer so I pushed down with a spoon and found there’s still plenty of liquid so I’m hoping I can just add extra salt water to top it up?
        The jar I used was a large Moccona coffee jar.. Not a screw lid so it’s popped off with the pressure a few times?

        • No worries with the popped lid. Treat yourself to some mason canning jars, if available, and use the screw on lids that come with the jars or buy the white plastic lids I recommend in my SureFire Sauerkraut recipe.

          Often, by the end of the first week, the sauerkraut can look dry and I haven’t yet figured out a way to keep all the liquid in the jar.

          You can add more salt water, but I find it dilutes the flavors, so I don’t. If you used the amount of salt called for in my recipe and had a good ferment going through the first 5 days even, there should be enough lactic acid for scrumptious, well-preserved sauerkraut.

  9. Hello, I currently have a gallon jar full of cabbage that’s slowly turning to sourkrout. My setup is gallon jar packed full of shredded, well massaged, cabbage and salt. Then I covered with cabbage leaves and a pint jar. Then brine added to gallon jar to go to lip of jar. The pint jar is pushed down and held down by the ‘ceiling’ of the cupboard. It is fermenting perfectly but I’ve noticed the fermenting smell has weekend dramatically. I also have to add more brine every few days. It’s still fermenting because I see bubbles form on side still. Its clear with no signs of mold 🙂 Is evaporation and lack of any smell especially fermenting smell a reason for concern?

    • Hello Shelly,
      All sounds good to me. The smell does decrease after the first few days. One also grows accustomed to it.

      The brine does evaporate and adding more brine is a good idea, though it can “dilute” the flavors. If possible, I would put a lid on it – if you have one that fits – to keep air out.

      Depending on the cabbage I’m using, brine will “disappear” (around day 5) in the quart jar – weight – lid setup I have on my recipe. It depends on the temperature. When it’s colder, it’s pulled down into the jar. When it’s warmer, it expands and fills the jar. Once I’ve gotten past day 4 or 5 with it covered in the brine, I don’t add any additional brine. I’ve created a safe and bacteria-rich environment and no spoilage happens even with the brine levels fluctuating.

      Bubbles are a sign of the lactic-acid bacteria at work = good!

      All is good. Rest well 🙂

  10. I have a ferment going right now in the first week and it has a strong ammonia smell. Fermenting temp is around 74 degrees. Any ideas?

    • Hi Phil,
      A strong ammonia is not something I’ve experienced nor should you. You will notice an odor, but it should be somewhat pleasant. I would guess fermentation progressed too quickly with the 74 degrees, ideal is closer to 68.

      I would also want to know how much salt was used. In warmer weather, it doesn’t hurt to use a little more salt. Say, a heaping tablespoon for the 1 3/4 pound I recommend in my SureFire Sauerkraut recipe.

      Try again with my recipe and find a cooler spot or wait until you have some cooler weather.
      Good Luck

  11. Hello Holly. My first batch of kraut is being done in a 5 gallon food safe container. It is going on 14 days now in my spare bathroom between 70 and 74 degrees. The first week we saw a significant green mold growth on top and the smell was a bit rough. We scrapped the mold off and left to sit. 4 days later it has started to “bloom” with the white yeast. I’ve scrapped this off and my brine has dropped within 1 inch of my dinner plate covering the kraut being held down by a huge pickle jar with water. 2 part question….1. With that much mold (brine was high then) should we toss it without tasting it for safety measures and 2. The bubbling has decreased dramatically, should we add more brine to it and see what happens (when I skimmed the yeast off it took a lot of the brine also with it). Thank you, Steve

    • Great for diving into making sauerkraut. It should be clean, yummy, mold-free sauerkraut – in my opinion – however. Some advocate scraping off the mold and eating away. I feel factors should be correct that you never get mold.

      70-74 degrees is on the warm side. Might??? be some molds in the bathroom that hopped into the ferment and wreaked havoc. The smell should not be a “bit tough.” Yes, it will smell like sauerkraut, but not be offensive.

      Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I would start over. Sadly, 5 gallons of kraut is a lot to waste. It’s your call on whether you taste it or not, but Life is Too Short to Eat Moldy Sauerkraut!

      In the open crock you’re using you do want to keep it covered in brine. Sounds like you were able to. You might have some the white powdery mold, but it shouldn’t be significant. I’ll do a post on the crock I recommend. See it on my resource page. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/resources/ Such a crock with the water seal prevents all these issues.

      I would get good at making sauerkraut in a quart jar using my SureFire Sauerkraut Method, https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/ then graduate to the large container or crock.
      Best of Luck

      • Thank you Holly for the speedy reply. I’m going to try it tomorrow and post the results. It’s a confusing craft as the way I’m doing it, seems to be the way it’s been done around here for hundreds of years, but yet, I’m also hearing that you should be using an air tight seal. The “very popular” site I read up on how to make it, said that the room temperature should be between 70 and 75 which as stated, mine was usually lower 70’s to mid 70’s. Could be a number of things. It’s also very confusing that people say “scrap it off” it’s part of the process and others are saying you die if you eat that! Surely there is an exact science somewhere….lol! Thank you again, Steve

  12. Hello, I made cabbage+some carrots sauerkraut and didn’t have a lid on it, but rather a cheesecloth (my mistake). So it was NOT AIRTIGHT the entire 5 days I’ve had it sitting…It tastes alright kinda smells like kraut…I put an airtight jar lid on it tonight.
    SHOULD I try to salvage this batch, or start over?
    Thanks!

  13. Hi, thanks for all your knowledge! I have 2 batches of kraut going and I definitely have Kahm yeast growing. I have a 20 gal crock with about 9 heads in it . It has a rotting smell. . My other batch is in a 3 gallon crock with dill and is alot less stinky.. I’m sure the dill is masking the smell. Both batches have been fermenting for 2weeks.. I pretty sure your nailed it with the yeast . Can it smell to bad? Temp was probably more like 74-76.. Do you think it’s ok? Can I can it ? Thanks Joe

    • Wow! Two big batches of sauerkraut! First off, let’s see if we can salvage what you have. Unless the smell is make-you-gag, and if you trust your instincts, take off the yeasty layer, and take a small taste (Don’t hold me responsible :-). If it is real bad, spit it our and rinse your mouth. It should taste pleasantly sour, have some crunch and no slimy-slipperiness.

      Basic questions.

      How much salt do you think you used? (3 tablespoons for 5 pounds cabbage is the basic guideline.) Weighing really does make a difference. If you didn’t use enough salt and since you fermented in a warm environment, you might have rot going on instead of fermentation. That taste should let you know.

      Fermentation proceeds much more rapidly in warm weather.The 2 weeks is enough. If you like the taste, go ahead and put it into quart jars and put in the refrigerator.

      Did you slice the cabbage and mix the salt in evenly and completely?

      Pressure cooking will kill all the probiotics.

      Next, get comfortable with making sauerkraut in small batches (https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/), and then when you know what you like and have every batch work, THEN graduate to the crock.

      Hope this helps.

      • Thanks Holly, This is the third and fourth batch of kraut were making. The batches I made around St Patricks day were great, I bought a case of cabbage cheap!! The kraut tasted and smelled yummy from day 1.
        This batch of cabbage I picked and shredded with my 10 year old daughter.
        Things I did WRONG!!!!!
        1 Problem is they were 85deg /outside. I remember how hot they were when i was mixing sea salt in.. felt almost hot!!! I bet it took a couple of days to cool down in the 20gal crock. I
        2. i was a little lite on salt. 2tbs per head.
        3. indoor temp was high 70’s a few times.
        Next time i will cool hot cabbage if its hot with water bath , weigh the cabbage and keep temp. below 72deg…….
        Thanks Holly!! I am tossing this batch!! I will start over soon thanks Holly!!

  14. Hello, I Just made sauerkraut but after 2 days I do not why but a little black bug appeared at the top part, within the large cabbage leaf that separates the shredded cabbage and the salty water. Now it seems to be ready, I tasted very little because I am afraid it can be spoiled because of the bug, but it doesn’t smell bad.
    Any suggestion?

  15. Does sauerkraut seal after fermented? My kraut is 2 weeks old, looks good, no bubbles, veggies below the brine, smells good too.. I keep expecting jars to seal, I used rings/ lids. I left the loosely on, when can I tighten the rings? Do they seal with indentation on lid flat? I’m a first timer as you can tell.. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Dana, Welcome First Timer!

      Knowledge from the world of canning where there are all sorts of warnings and checks to make sure jars are sealed can be confusing when just starting out fermenting.

      Your jars will not seal. Gases are produced by the bacteria that are working hard to change your cabbage into sauerkraut and will escape through any opening at the lid (or through an air lock if you were using one). The gases need to escape so lids are kept loose during the first 5 days when there is the greatest amount of microbial activity. If the lids are on tight, you might even see a bulge in the lid, which is a sign to ever-so-slightly loosen the lid and let the gases escape. After about 5 days, feel free to tighten them. Enjoy your sauerkraut!

  16. I need help. We are trying to make sauerkraut. Used the correct amount of salt, clean crock, plate to keep the cabbage submerged, good temp of 70-75. After a couple weeks the brine is turning a dark brown. What is going on? Doesn’t seem to have a bad smell.

    • I will try my best to help. From what I’ve learned, brown brine comes from oxidation or exposure to air (which can happen with an open crock). The newer crocks have a lid and are sealed by a water moat. See some on my Resources page. You’re also fermenting on the warm side.

      But, you did well with the right amount of salt and keeping it under the brine. Give it a taste and if you like it, pack it into jars. You might find that the dark brine is just at the top of the crock.

      At a warmer temperature, 2-3 weeks should be enough time. I tend to ferment my large crock for 3-4 weeks at around 68-70. Hope you have some yummy sauerkraut!

  17. Hi Holly, my kraut was fermented in a Harsch crock for 1 month. I live in S. CÁ & it has been extremely hot this summer. I kept the kraut on my counter near an air conditioning vent and made sure the water seal was always above the air holes. Yes I’m sure it got below 72 degrees on many days. The last two days I got extremely busy and forgot to check the water seal. On the day I opened my crock the seal was dry 🙁 my kraut had mold on top. The kraut looks its usual great color, smell seems ok but the garlic cloves have an off taste & the kraut has a slightly off taste but otherwise crunchy. I know there is lots of controversy out there with arobic and anaerobically fermented veggies as far as mold and its affects on contaminating the brine but I’m not sure if I should compost it anyway. Please help! Mary

    • Hi Mary. Reading your experience brings back memories of my first few fermentation attempts when I first got my Harsch crock. It’s your call. To be honest, when I ended up with mold on my first batch (It was a thick mat just on the top.), I peeled back the top layer and ate what was below because it tasted fine and I felt fine doing so. This is probably what the elders did with those crocks in their basement. I have a hard time wasting food which is why I ended up toying with factors until I got perfect kraut every time.

      IF you have health issues you’re dealing with, then having the worms in your compost pile might be a better option. Otherwise, try it and see if it’s yummy enough to enjoy. Brine contamination is all over the map and I gave up going down that path and instead use a scale and learned how to make sauerkraut without mold issues.

      One or two days without water in the seal would not have hurt anything, especially at the end of a month of fermenting. My guess is not enough salt. I don’t know what the temp. in your house was on a consistent basis. If it got too hot, you would have ended up with some mushy kraut, fermenting for a month.

      This is how I do my crock… When you do your next batch, mix up 5 pounds of cabbage/vegetables at a time, adding 3 tablespoons of salt. Mix well, get your brine, then pack all that into the crock, pushing down tightly to avoid air pockets. Repeat with additional batches until a few inches from the top. Best of Luck, Holly

  18. I started a new batch of sauerkraut about 16 hours ago. It is now overflowing from the jar. Will it hurt the fermentation process if I take some of the kraut out of the jar and put it in another jar(in a clean and timely fashion of course)?

    Help!

    • Hi LJ, Not it won’t hurt anything. Just keep the sauerkraut in both jars below the brine. It is common to have brine overflowing in the first couple days – when the bacteria are most active – and it will subside and then look like there is no brine. Someday, I’ll come up with a fix for that because I hate to lose brine. Enjoy the sauerkraut!

  19. I did my first batch of sauerkraut a few months ago … slight learning curve, and a little bit scary the very first time. I opened my fermenting crock a couple of times, not being sure if things were working right, and when I finally decided it was time to jar it, I found a small layer of white ‘stuff’ on the top. I skimmed it off the top as best I could, bottled five jars of kraut, and ended up leaving them in the fridge for perhaps four months, afraid to use them.

    Finally ran out of the three jars I had already bought of store-bought kraut, and figured I’d check and see what things looked like. After four months in the fridge, the kraut looked the exact same as when I put it in there. It had a slightly milder smell than I expected, but otherwise looked fine. Upon eating, the taste was again a bit milder than expected, but in no way unpleasant or inedible. Looks like my first batch of kraut turned out fine, in spite of my worries!

    Have a question or two, though. I got into sauerkraut because I had a problem with acid reflux (had been on an acid reflux medicine for two years or so), but lost my access to a doctor, and couldn’t afford the over-the-counter remedies. I looked for possible solutions online, and found a mention of sauerkraut. Tried some, and found it worked fairly well, even if partially pasteurized, so it seemed like a good way to deal with things.

    Unfortunately, while there are cheap brands of sauerkraut out there, the ones that are either raw or low heat pasteurized (Bubbies) are also fairly expensive if you want to eat them frequently, which is why I decided to make my own.

    So what I have found is that if I start to have issues with acid reflux, I eat a small bit of kraut (perhaps a quarter of a cup or less), and within the hour, no more acid reflux. In a perfect world, with no concern about cost (now that I find my homemade stuff seems to be safe) I would probably eat a small amount every day, but so far it has just been when I start to feel uncomfortable, I have some. Have been surprised at just how well it works.

    Anyway, I originally found I preferred a much drier kraut, because I was originally eating it on hot dogs, and drier kraut did much less damage to the buns. But now that I am eating it straight out of the jar at night right before bedtime, I am wondering if I am losing out on some of the probiotic goodness by draining off most of the juice. Or is there enough directly on the surface of the kraut to keep things good, regardless?

    Something tells me I have blathered on far more than enough by now.

    Jon

    • Hi Jon, What a wonderful journey down the kraut path you share. You are not alone and it is SOOO common to be fearful of eating the stuff. It is scary to leave food on our counters to “rot” in a controlled fashion. The white “stuff” was probably Kahm yeast, harmless. I even experience the same fears when delving into a new ferment.

      Yes, when you start eating the expensive store-bought sauerkraut on a daily basis, it can get expensive. Good to hear it’s working for your acid reflex. The milder taste after leaving your sauerkraut in the fridge is due to it continuing to ferment in there though at a much slower rate.

      The benefits of the sauerkraut are both on the surface and in the brine, so if you don’t care for the brine no worries. If you don’t want to waste the brine, you can use it in salad dressings, or just drink it… when you’re ready to. Or, use it as a “starter” in a new batch of sauerkraut.

      All the best, Holly

  20. Hello, I just made my first two jars of sauerkraut. I used quart size Mason jars with the special adapter for letting the gases out so that it doesn’t bubble over or spoil.
    I used a heaping tablespoon of pink Himalayan salt and a pinch extra for each head of about 2 lb. cabbage. I putt two thick outer leaves on top( cut in a circle to cover the cabbage perfectly) and I added a small pottery ramekin dish for a weight and for over flow. The liquid level is still over the leaves and has not traveled up into the overflow tube.
    Well, I have check my jars every day for 7 days now and there are NO bubbles! I am so sad as I know that without the bubbles there is no fermintation and no probiotics.
    Please help me, what have I done wrong so that I don’t do it again on my next try.
    Thank you all so much. I truly want to learn how to make sauerkraut for the natural probiotics.
    Thank you again and God Bless.

    • Hello Dawn, Apologies for the delay in responding as I was on vacation.

      It sounds like you did it all correctly. Bubbles are usually most visible days 2-5 (though you might have to jostle the jars to see them) and by day 7 the jars can look pretty quiet.

      Taste your sauerkraut and see if it has some tang to it. You might be pleasantly surprised that you have good sauerkraut. If it tastes just like salty cabbage, my guess would be too much salt, but from your explanation, you’re in the ballpark. Using a scale will ensure correct amounts. I take you through it step-by-step here: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      What type of cabbage did you use? If you used a non-organic that was heavily sprayed, that might have stopped fermentation, but most people are successful with non-organic.

      Hopefully, this gives you a few idea for you next batch. Probiotic-rich goodness awaits you!

  21. I’m making sauerkraut for the second time. First time was good but a little salty. But I never see bubbles coming out. I put it into a crock with small plate to keep the cabbage under the liquid and then put a zip lock bag with some cans in it to weight it down. Then I cover the crock with towels held in place with a small bungee chord. Why no bubbles?

    I also have a jar with hot peppers that went through the food processor (and added salt, ginger, garlic and sugar). That is about 4 days old and not bubbling.

    I find it confusing. The first batch of sauerkraut was fine, we ate it all.

    I’ve made pickles a few times too. They never bubbled either. And the most recent batch, while delicious, were a little soft.

    I’d appreciate any advice.

    • Hi John, Apologies for the delay in replying as I was on vacation. Your hot peppers sound delicious with the added ginger and garlic. Yumm!

      What temperature are you fermenting at? If you’re below 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, it might be too cool for the process to get started. Try a warmer spot, at least for the first week.

      How much salt are you using? There is some leeway, but if you end up with way too much salt, fermentation won’t happen. Take the time to weigh. You want 1 tablespoon salt for 1 3/4 pound of vegetable/cabbage mixture or 3 tablespoons salt for 5 pounds.

      Are your hot peppers a paste or have lots of brine? Mine end up as a paste and I never see much bubble action.

      I haven’t done much pickles, but you’ll want to use 1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups of water when preparing a brine for them. The book Fermented Vegetables by Shockey is excellent for exploring fermentation beyond sauerkraut.

      Hope this helps.

      • I’m kind of dependent on the weather for temperature. Lately here in NE Pennsylvania its been pretty cool at night but gets up to 80 during the day. But it seems like it should hit the right temps at some point. So long as it doesn’t start to smell bad I’ll keep going. I tried to use the correct amount of salt but after pounding 5 pounds of cabbage there was still more room so I added another pound or so of cabbage and guessed at the salt addition. Maybe I used too much. Live and learn. Next year I’ll add a few more crocks. One isn’t enough, I’ve still got a few heads of cabbage in the garden.

        I added a little spring water to the chiles to thin it out.

  22. Hey, I need some help please! 🙁
    I made some large batches of sauerkraut, 30 heads of cabbage, in 2 containers with airlock, they’ve been fermenting for a while, and i tasted the brine today ( tastes nice, but has a light smell of something rotten) So i think there is an inbalance with the bacteria and it might turn bad.
    Is it possible to fix this inbalance by adding some “healthy” brine from a sauerkraut batch that has gone well? Hope there is something I can do before it is too late.

    • Hello Marco, Let’s see what we can do to “salvage” all your sauerkraut. After all, there’s a lot of hard work in those containers.

      First off, the “rotten” smell might just be the smell of sauerkraut. Sometimes, a few smelly – but safe – bacteria can get in there and change the odor.

      Unless, it’s knock-your-socks-off putrid, slimy and moldy that you have no desire to try, give it a taste. If you like it, pack it into quart jars, put it in your fridge and consume. Even leaving it alone in the fridge for a few months first, can stabilize flavors. Try it again in a few months.

      You say it’s been fermenting for awhile, it might be done and switching to being over fermented.

      Unless you were way off in salt ratios or fermenting in a way too warm environment, or had it exposed to air, it’s hard to totally mess up sauerkraut.

      I’ve never added “healthy” brine to a batch to try and fix it. The problem would be with getting it mixed in well and then packing it back tightly enough to remove air pockets. Hope this helps…

  23. Hi there!! We shredded 350 lbs of cabbage for our kraut this year. We’ve done this for years so this last crock I’m bagging (we freeze the kraut from our red wing crocks) I have a question. I took the bag of water (we use this to “seal the top of the kraut) off the 10 gallon crock and it is REALLY juicy. Ive never had this much juice on the top of the crock before. Is it ok? I’d hate to lose this 10 gallons. I have a picture of the top if you want to see. Could it go bad??

    • Hi Jackie, Wow! 350 lbs. That makes for a LOT of sauerkraut.

      If you’re using freshly harvested cabbage, you can end up with a lot of brine. It is GOOD! No strong odor? No mold? All should be fine.

      Mix in some of the excess brine as you’re “bagging” the sauerkraut and then any you have left over in the end can be kept in a jar in your fridge and sipped for its probiotic benefits. Enjoy!

      • Great! Thank you! That’s exactly what I did! We grew 100 heads of cabbage….needless to say it was a lot of shredding! Well worth it!

  24. Phi, I have a quick question. This is my third go at sauerkraut. I love it. So… I process (water bath) my jars for a heated seal. Move the to my basement storage area. I always remove the bands as to have easy opening. I’ve had a few jars lose their seal, completely ??? I’ve replaced the bands, but I did find one more today. I make it in the crock with a plate and weight to hold it down. Skim, cook, jar, process in wAter bath. They were sealed 24 hrs before I removed bands and gently moved them. I do a bit of canning every year. I’m baffled? Help?

    • Hi Chrissy, I’m unable to help you. On my website, I teach how to make naturally fermented sauerkraut which I don’t recommend canning. I eat sauerkraut for the gut health benefits. If the sauerkraut is canned, all the beneficial bacteria get killed.

      Make your life easy. Ferment some sauerkraut using my step-by-step recipe and then just store in your refrigerator. No fuss. No hot water baths. It keeps for at least a year and will do wonders for your health. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

  25. I’ve made sauerkraut in the past but this year something different happened. I believe I let it ferment in an area that was too warm and the sauerkraut is now lacking any bite or sourness is very mild and is very soft. Is it still okay to eat?

    • Hi Catherine, I hate when that happens to me because I love my sauerkraut with a crunch. It is fine to eat. You could mix it into dishes – like pasta – where it can add a nice flavor, and save the “good stuff” for eating as a condiment.

          • Catherine, Many of us grew up with the notion that it has to be canned to be safe. Canning is a modern way of preserving food. Fermentation is ancient and keeps our food alive and able to nourish us.

            As long as you made your sauerkraut with just salt and maybe some other vegetables and seasonings, it can be stored in the refrigerator and does not need to go through a water bath or heat processing. Enjoy its goodness.

  26. I made 6 quarts of sauerkraut in a 4 gallon crock totally submerged in brine. After completion of fermentation process I transferred all into three 6 quart jars but strangely there was only enough brine to fill each jar half way. All is in the fridge but I’m wondering if the kraut not submerged will be OK.

    • Hi Daphne, That happens. Mysterious brine:-) All is good with your jars in the fridge. It is well preserved and will be fine. I used to add my own brine mixture to top off each jar but found it diluted the flavors. And, if your press down on the jars with a fork, you’ll see that there is plenty of brine. Enjoy that yummy sauerkraut!

  27. First time kraut, I made it at 8pm. Woke up at 6am and checked on it. The brine that was above the weighted plate was pinkish. The brine surrounding the cabbage is clear. What does this mean?

    • Hi Erin, Hard to say. Pink (with no red cabbage or beets) can indicate yeast, but just overnight is rather quick. It can also be from uneven salt distribution. I don’t know how much salt you used. I always refer people to my recipe with the proper salt ratios. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      I would leave it to continue fermenting and see how it progresses. Keep the temperature somewhat consistent and cabbage under the brine – as you are with the weighted plate – and see where it’s at after a week.

  28. I am making kraut in a 3 gallon crock and have it setting outside. It was started on Oct. 4th. The kraut is covered by a couple layers of cabbage leaves and an inverted plate and a cover tied over the top. The plate is snug, almost tight. Will this be ok? The brine came up over the plate as I push the plate down over the kraut but the plate is tight. I have to push one side down so the other side lifts up if I have to take the plate off. Also, It’s been cold during overnights, maybe below 40 degrees and during the day the temp gets about 50 or 60 (today was even warmer, hitting the 70’s). There hasn’t been too many bubbles forming, if any. Mostly when I move the container or push on the plate. The brine is clear, no mold or slime. It taste alright, but still salty. Will this affect the fermentation or the quality with the temperature changes? I know it will take longer to finish and that’s ok. I just don’t wanna ruin it leaving out with the temps going up and down.

    • Hi, Your guess is right. The big variation in temperature is not allowing fermentation to happen. Fermentation is most active at 65-75 and stops fermenting at the 40-60 range. You really don’t want more than a 5-degree swing in temps.

      It sounds like you have it covered well and under the brine. I would find a place inside where it can ferment undisturbed for a few weeks. 65-68 being ideal. Even above 70 for a week to hopefully get the fermentation process to start, since it has been a week since you started.

      The salty taste can also be from fermentation not taking place yet due to the cold temps. – Hope this helps.

  29. From reading the article, the slimy brine is not for tossing out. Can I still eat my sauerkraut if it tastes fine? I fermented it for over a month, and the brine is just slightly slimy.

    • Hello Aiko, Slimy brine can happen, usually due to ingredients used with a higher sugar content. Yes, you can eat your prized ferment. However, if you want, you can store it in your refrigerator for a month or two and the wonderful bacteria in there can rebalance resulting in the slimy brine often disappearing.

      Next batch, try fermenting for a shorter period and if need be, at a lower temperature. – Enjoy

      • Thank you, Holly. I did not put anything with high sugar content. Just cabbage (both green and red mixed) and caraway seeds. I will try leaving it in the fridge as you suggest, but I’m also wanting to ferment it longer outside the fridge since I don’t think it was fermented well enough during the first stage, as the room temperature dropped as the season was changing. I could put it in a warmer place to re-ferment? Please let me know what you think.

        • HI Aiko, Thanks for the additional information. Is this in a big crock or a small jar? For a small jar, a month should be long enough. For a large crock, you can go longer period depending upon the temperature. I like my sauerkraut with some crunch, so I don’t ferment for too long, even in a crock.

          It could be that you never established proper bacteria levels during those first crucial days when it was on the cold side. Personally, I wouldn’t try to re-ferment it. I would learn from this batch and then use what you’ve learned for the next batch. See if you can find a warmer spot in the house.

          Follow my SureFire Sauerkraut recipe where I ensure proper salt ratios. Then, you just play with how long it ferments which depends upon the temperature. But, if it’s much below 65 degrees F., you’ll struggle with establishing the good bacteria.
          https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

  30. I have 3 week’s sauerkraut but bride turned in yellow cloudy thin film. You said about sealing container.I did it . Closed the lead but how can I check what is going on there ? I used to open and pierced multiple times by knife and closed again. Thank you

    • Hi Igor, Since you have fermented your sauerkraut for 3 weeks already, I would open it all up and see what it tastes like. The yellow, cloudy film might be from yeast overgrowth, but hard to tell. Make sure it doesn’t smell putrid, clean off the film and maybe the top layer. Then, taste. If it’s to your liking, put into jars and put in your refrigerator.

      Then, practice a few small batches in quart/liter jars (or whatever you have in your area that is close in size) following my recipe:https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/.

      It will teach you the basics, ensure that you’re using the right amount of salt, and soon you know it is all good without having to check it. Opening the lid often, allows in air and disturbs the fermentation. Then you will have the confidence to make sauerkraut in a large crock.

      Let me know if I can be of further help. Good Luck!

  31. Thank you Holly for email! But the fact is that for 3 weeks it had been staying opened, without lead and I was able to watch and check every day, piercing and tasting . Taste was good even with a film I mentioned. Two days ago I took care of the film as you said and closed my 40 quarts stainless-steel pot with the lead , adding more solt. and I had not opened the pot since ( only 2 days). I ‘d like to keep it for 5-6 week. If I understood for a better quality I shouldn’t open the lead to check brine even for a short time.,Right? Thank you so much. Igor

    • HI Igor, It seems that you’re doing fine with opening the lid and checking on it. Sandor Katz (Art of Fermentation) teaches closer to your style of fermentation, checking on it frequently and he’s had great success with that. So keep it going, checking on it periodically. I like to keep my crock closed and not disturb the bacteria or let in additional oxygen. We each will be drawn to a different method. Enjoy what works.

  32. Hi Holly, I just opened a jar of homemade sauerkraut (red cabbage and salt) which has been in the fridge for well over a month (it had been opened and tasted prior) and today, upon opening, the jar contents are bubbling up a storm! Is it ok? What’s happening?

    • Hi Barbara, Thanks for your question. I can only guess that the bubbling is coming from trapped oxygen that was released when the lid was opened, especially if it was left on the counter to warm up. I don’t know how long it fermented before putting into the fridge, but if it was still quite active, the bubbling could be from then. Just guesses. If it smells fine, give it a taste and enjoy.

  33. Hi Holly, I love garlic but have never added it t the ferment in fear of killing off some of the good bacteria. Can’t find any studies on it so wonder what you think?

    • Good question Norm, What I’ve recently read is that garlic has benefits as a prebiotic. The inulin found in garlic (and onions, leeks and carrots) nourish and feed healthy bacteria already in your gut along with kick-starting the fermentation process. The opposite of killing off good bacteria. Google prebiotic for additional information. These discoveries are a result of all the research being done for the Human Microbiome Project. Fascinating gut-health discoveries that I’ll be covering in greater depth as time goes on. Hope that helps.

  34. SO I made a large crock of Sauerkraut and it fermented fine and all seems good. It does however have all these little seed like things around the edge of the crock but not in the kraut itself. No seeds were added at any time just cabbage and canning salt. Any ideas?

  35. Hi Holly, I’m back again 🙂 Since I last messaged you 17 days ago, I had brought my crock inside and placed it in my bedroom where we have a temp. controlled heater and still no bubbling. It smelled fine (like sauerkraut) until today. I noticed it was “off” just a bit and also noticed a bit of white “stuff” floating on top of the brine. I have a picture attached of the white stuff. I don’t know or don’t think it should be there. Anyway to save the kraut even if fermentation has not happened? I don’t know what’s going on under the cabbage leaves that’s under the plate, as I have not opened that up yet. When I push on one side of the dish, it seems like air bubbles come up with bits of shredded kraut and the kraut smells stronger for a few minutes. It’s never had a “Strong” smell, just get a a whiff when walking by it. The color has changed from clear to a kind of yellow-ish color (like kraut color should look I think). It’s been in the crock since Oct. 4th, I guess my questions are 1. Why hasn’t it started to bubble 2. Should the plate be “tight” fitting over the cabbage leaves but under the brine? 3. Is it going bad with that white stuff floating? and 4. Should I move it to another spot, like my kitchen?

    • Hi, I would look inside the crock and sample the sauerkraut. It would be the quickest and easiest way to see if it’s what you want to eat. The odor shouldn’t be super-strong, make-you-sick. The texture should be nice with no slime or molds. I can’t say for sure from the picture, put the white film I can see might just be Kahm yeast, which is fine as long as there is not too much.

      You might be trying to hard to make this batch work and be best starting fresh with what you’ve learned. Weigh your cabbage/vegetable mixture (5 pounds for 3 tablespoons salt). Ferment at 65-75. And, keep under the brine.

      Most of the bubbling is normally seen just during the active phase during the first week. You had it pretty cold then, so fermentation may have never started.

      The plate is holding the cabbage below the brine. I wouldn’t want it super tight. Bubbles and brine need to be able to escape.

      Best spot is where temperatures are withing range without dramatic fluctuations. Good Luck!

      • Thanks so much for the help. I will check it tomorrow and take the plate out and see what’s going on underneath everything. I will let you know how it goes.
        The odor isn’t very strong at all, just …a little different. I did weigh and measure 🙂 I’m pretty sure it was all weighed and measured correctly, that part I’m not worried about. I did skim off the juice and filtered it through a coffee filter and it cleared up for the most part so I dumped it back in. So far it hasn’t come back yet (at least I don’t think it has). It’s hard to see unless I take a picture of it. I know strange lol but it’s easier to see in pictures.
        The plate is sorta tight. I can get a thin sharp knife between the plate and the side of the crock but not a butter knife without working at it. That might be my problem. I don’t think the bubbles and gasses can escape without me “burping” the plate.

        I can chalk it up to lesson learned and try again 🙂 The cabbage only cost $3.75 so it’s not a horrible loss.

  36. Thanks for the post Holly. I made two batches two weeks ago: 1.) 6 gallon crock that I tasted today and is very good (3 tbsp salt / 5lbs), and 2.) 4 gallon that I put a bit less salt in (2 tbsp salt / 5lbs). The 4 gallon batch tasted very very spicy that it set my tongue on fire! I pounded the beautiful organic cabbage down to make sure the brine came up over the plate immediately upon making, put a 20lbs weight on the plate, but no lid after that. The brine looks fine – no mold, slime or anything. Just healthy bubbles/foam that I scrape off. My question is, what could this spiciness be from? I’ve been reading and perhaps there is too much oxygen and not enough vitamin C. Should I sprinkle some vitamin C? I’ve been fermenting at 55-65F. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Gisgo, I have no idea and have never experienced a spiciness unless it was due to an ingredient I’ve added (e.g., red pepper flakes).

      I wouldn’t mess with and wait to see if it mellows over time. At the temps you’re fermenting, I would check it in one week, and then if necessary a week later. I don’t like to open crocks for testing, but initially if you don’t know what’s happening it’s a good way to learn.

      In addition, since you used less salt, fermentation will proceed faster. So, be aware of that. I’ve found the greatest success with the 3 tablespoons salt to 5 pounds and recommend sticking to that. Don’t fear the salt, especially if it’s a mineral-rich salt.

      You’re keeping everything below the brine so too much oxygen shouldn’t be an issue.

  37. I’m on my 10th batch of kraut, and I’m not sure if my memory is playing tricks on me, or what, but it never seems as good as the first batch I made. This latest batch is 3 weeks old, (we make it in a 3 gallon Ohio Stoneware Crock) and was smelling fantastic up until 2 days ago, and the brine got kinda yellow-y (maybe yeasty) and dark looking all of a sudden with a slight hint of yeast/alcohol? The funny thing is that our kitchen never gets above 65, and gets down to 57 at night, and I thought I had use plenty of salt. So, I pulled it, and jarred it up into a huge glass jar that used to hold kimchi, and covered it in new brine. Attached are pics of how dark the brine was at the bottom of the crock. Look okay-ish?

  38. I’m on my 10th batch of kraut, and I’m not sure if my memory is playing tricks on me, or what, but it never seems as good as the first batch I made. This latest batch is 3 weeks old, (we make it in a 3 gallon Ohio Stoneware Crock) and was smelling fantastic up until 2 days ago, and the brine got kinda yellow-y (maybe yeasty) and dark looking all of a sudden with a slight hint of yeast/alcohol? The funny thing is that our kitchen never gets above 65, and gets down to 57 at night, and I thought I had use plenty of salt. So, I pulled it, and jarred it up into a huge glass jar that used to hold kimchi, and covered it in new brine. Attached are pics of how dark the brine was at the bottom of the crock. Look okay-ish?

    • Hi Thomas, From what I can see, it looks lovely! Good way to trouble shoot and just jar up the kraut before it does turn bad. I would put it in the fridge, if you haven’t. Even in the fridge, jars can stabilize and flavor further develop.

      Next time, you might want to find a bit warmer spot for the first 5-7 days to build up a good active family of bacteria. You’re on the cool side at night and that might be interfering with a stable ferment. Also, weighing and adding the proper amount of salt makes for a more repeatable ferment. Then, you’ll be able to get that “first” batch taste again. 🙂

  39. I put my salted cabbage for kraut in crock and this last weekend went to can it. I check it every day pretty much but I noticed few spots of mold on top of the brine, then I had a plate and cabbage leaves over the top of the kraut. I scooped off the mold off top, it was around the vinegar jug I had on top of the plate that weighted down the kraut. We brought the kraut up to 180 degrees and then canned it in water bath. I have been seeing that mold is not a good thing. The kraut tasted fine, the brine was a little more cloudy than I have seen it in past years.

    • Hi Kathy, As long as you removed the mold, I wouldn’t worry. Mold is not ideal and there are two schools of thought on it. One: toss it; and two, scrape it off. I have a hard time throwing food out and so I worked to find a way to make sauerkraut without mold so I don’t have to deal with it.

      Consider keeping your life simple and not even canning your sauerkraut. I promote the consumption of raw lacto-fermented sauerkraut that is full of probiotics and so good for your health. And, you don’t have to deal with a hot water bath. Such a time saver.

  40. I made sauerkraut a week ago. Covered it with a glass plate and then a glass lid which doesn’t unite reach the walls of the crock. There is about half an inch of brine showing and i put a weight on it. A few very teeny tiny pieces of cabbage are floating around. After thee days there was a translucent scum on parts of the brine that I removed. It has now been over a week and the brine is a tarnish color but it smells fine…is something wrong?

  41. Just wanted to update you on my Kraut. Since my last post, I had uncovered the kraut and it looked beautiful, smelled like kraut but a little yeast-y, no mold or slim. I submerged and recovered. (I have pictures of what the kraut looked liked then).The next day, the brine started to have a few little bubbles (I did the happy dance lol). Since then, there has been that layer of I guess Kahm Yeast. I keep taking it off, I even took out most of the liquid and strained it. Made new brine and recovered. The new brine didn’t seem to wanna bubble so I added some of the “old” stuff back into it. (I kept the old brine) Now it’s bubbling and the layer of Kahm Yeast has grown (pictures attached). I will remove this layer and keep going. I am curious if I completely ruined this batch or if it is actually ok. Seeing the pictures, what are your thoughts? Should I keep going with it or give up? The taste is still off.

    • Hello again, Wow! That’s a lot of Kahm yeast. The sauerkraut looks good, however, from what I can tell.

      How long have you been fermenting this batch? I think it’s been a few weeks. I would call it done and put it into jars and into your fridge. Leave it the fridge for a few weeks and then see if the taste is to your liking.

      Then, start a new batch. Weigh out the cabbage (5 pounds for 3 tablespoons salt) and try again, keeping a cloth over the whole thing. Maybe try with my recipe in just a jar and see how that works for you. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      Or, consider treating yourself to a water-sealed crock like on my Resource page. It will make your life so much easier. It makes a world of difference when you’re fermenting in an anaerobic (no air) environment. No Kahm yeast!

      • Thanks for all your help. I will jar it tomorrow and put it in the fridge. I did remove the yeast layer and checked the kraut again. It smells great 🙂 Still no signs of mold or anything slimy, even with all the Kahm yeast brewing. (Thank Goodness!) I even dug up and checked the kraut at the bottom.

        I am definitely going to try again with just 5 lbs in a glass jar. I find it fascinating watching the bubbles for some strange reason lol I do have plans for a new water-sealed crock, it’s on my Christmas Wish List 🙂

  42. Hi Holly, I need help 🙂 first time making sauerkraut, traditional recipe. After 10 days there is gray mold on one side. Can l still fix this problem? Or do I need to start over? Should I just remove the bad stuff? On the other side i see only bubbles. It smells good, like sauerkraut.
    Thanks, Edina

  43. Hi Holly. I have a question. My husband and I made our first bath of sauerkraut in a crock that belonged to my mother. We decide it was ready after three weeks, and after we tasted it I noticed the white skim on the top that you called a yeast, but there was also a green powder of mold around the top sides of the crock, which we carefully removed, and removed the yeast film. We put a weght in it and made sure we had it covered with brine. We both tasted it and thought it was delicious. We put it in containers and put it in the frig, and freezer. My son is hesitant to eat it because of the powder mold and the yeast scum, and we just want to make sure it is safe, as we wanted to give some to our children.

    • Rosalee, Ideally, you will learn to make sauerkraut without any molds or yeasts. This is hard to do in the open-style crock, due to the air exposure. But using the right amount of salt will help. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/how-much-salt-use-to-make-sauerkraut/

      They now make water-sealed crocks that make yeast and molds a thing of past. However, working with what your have…

      you’ll have to decide if it is safe to eat. If it smells good and has that nice tang, it most likely is OK to eat, but you have to be the final judge.

      Maybe, go ahead and make a small 1-quart batch following my recipe and use that to introduce your son to the wonderful flavors and benefits of sauerkraut, while you eat the other batch. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      He could be eating it in as little at 1 week. You can then with another batch increase the fermentation time. Hope this helps.

  44. Ok. I think I messed up on my first attempt to post. So please excuse me if two pop up! Thank you for your blog. Its helpful for newbies. I made my first batch of kraut this fall almost 3 months ago. Everything was going great. Once I did add more brine but haven’t seen or smelt anything bad. Well, a week ago I decided to have some with a pork roast. It was great, but not as sour as I wanted it so I left it. Week laterI checked it again and noticed a weird smell. Almost like rotten yeast if there is such I thing. I realized the whole top 2-3 inches was mushy and slimy. It was also very whiteish. I skimmed it off and found good stuff under it. Even down in the bucket seems OK but I’m worried I may have infected the whole batch now because I dug down into it. I also see its not under a much brine again. Should it be under brine constantly. I’m afraid to add to much because of the salt building up. Is the balance truely good or what’s happening? Thanks so much.

    • Hi Lisa, It sounds like your first batch of kraut never made it to the refrigerator, which means it fermented for 3 months. I recommend fermenting a crock or bucket of sauerkraut for just 4-6 weeks, depending upon the temperature and how much crunch you want.

      Soft and mushy kraut sounds like over fermentation. If the smell is not noxious and you want to salvage some, pack the stuff way down in the bucket into jars and put in your fridge.

      Then, follow my recipe for making sauerkraut in a jar to learn the process and get the brine correct. You should not have yeast or mold. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      Then, go back to making sauerkraut in your bucket. Realize, however, with an open crock/bucket it is hard to avoid some surface yeast. On Tuesday, I publish a post all about fermentation crocks, so check back for that.

      • Thank you. I appreciate your answer. It was actually in a 6 gallon bucket with a tight lid. I think the problem happened because I didn’t snap the lid on all the way. It’s been curing for 8 weeks.I read that to make it more bite/sour you leave it longer till its how you want it so didn’t realize it could over ferment. Anyway, we didn’t lose much just 2 or 3 inches off the top. I packed 19 qt jars last night that were fine. Put them in the spare fridge.Thank you for clearing up that you can leave it till its really sour. 🙂

  45. Hi all waiting on my first batch of kraut ever, I bought 3 heads of green and 2 purple, wanted a good mix, both big containers seem fine but I have pink liquid and pink kraut, is it from the purple cabbage or is it bad, one has grown no yeast the other has this week I think I picked off a cup full. Smells a bit like sour kraut but not really that smelly as I would have thought by now, help?? Kim

    • Hi Kim, Congrats on your first sauerkraut. Pink liquid and pink kraut is from the red cabbage.

      If you’re fermenting in big open containers, you’ll end up having to mess with yeast.

      When you are able to get the sour smell you’re looking for will depend upon how much salt you used and at what temperature you’re fermenting. If you over salted, it will take longer to ferment and if you’re fermenting on the cooler side it will take longer.

      Read up on the advantages of a water-sealed fermentation crock: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/fermentation-crocks/

      And, try a few batches of sauerkraut in a jar, following my recipe and then go back to your container/crock once you have the basics down:
      https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      Then, you’ll be fermenting like a pro.

      • TY so much for the info, I would love a crock but they are just way out of my price range, I live on my disability s.s since I screwed my hands up in2000, so after the government screws me I get a whoopin900 to live on that barely pays my house and utilities. I used2 5. Gallon frosting buckets from our bakery they do have lids but there not sealed, and I’m already picking that white yeast off of 1 bucket it’s square and I think the kraut is floating up in the corners cuz I didn’t have a square plate to hold it under the water. Lol thought it would work tho. Anyway even my liquid is pinkish purple….from the purple cabbage. Didn’t expect it to do that. But again tyvm for the info at least now I won’t be afraid to taste it. Kim

        • Hi Kim, Understandable on the $, inspires creativity which is rewarding.

          Try a ziplock bag filled with salt water to hold everything below the brine and just monitor it for the yeast. Enjoy your pink kraut!

  46. Hello, I recently finished a batch of kraut in my German style crock. I used the ratio of salt recommended on this site and left it to sit for 1 week in high 60 to low 70 degree weather and then moved it to a cooler location for 6 more weeks. The water fell below the holes on the water lock one day, but the cabbage was weighed down and well covered with brine. After the 6ish weeks I transferred the batch to 14 pint ball jars and put them all in the fridge. The brine was clear, with no visible mold, and the whole pot smelled deliciously kraut like. I haven’t eaten any yet since I was a bit worried about the lock being compromised for the short time. Should I worry or dig in?

    • DIG IN!!!

      Congrats GP on your first batch of sauerkraut. All should be fine. We all forget to keep that water moat filled 🙂 and for the short time it was not, nothing wayward should have happened. Enjoy!

  47. Hi there!!I made my first batch of sauerkraut without my dad this year so its been an emotional learning experience as well as a learning one for me. I used 11,heads of green cabbage, 5lbs at a time with 3 teaspoons if salt. Then I beat it down with my dads wooden plunger til it was juicy. I put all the cabbage then into a clean, new 5 gallon bucket and put 2 garbage bags over it and poured a gallon if water in to seal out air, pushed down along the sides. I left it sit in a cool corner of the kitchen for 2 weeks. Its juicy, has good flavor but is mushy. What did I do wrong?? Too cool?? I processed them in pint jars for 15 min but no change. I’m lost. Help!! Lol

    • Hi Merri, So good to hear you went ahead and made some sauerkraut on your own. Did you use 3 teaspoons or tablespoons of salt?

      The correct amount is 3 tablespoons for 5 pounds of cabbage. Mushy kraut comes from not enough salt, too warm of a fermentation environment or fermenting for too long.

      Two weeks is not too long, cool corner would have been fine, so it would be too little salt (teaspoons instead of tablespoons).

      Also, I wouldn’t hassle with processing the sauerkraut, you lose all the probiotic health benefits and have to hassle with it. Just store in the fridge.

      Sooo, try again with just a quart to get used to the process and then when you have it down, make another large batch, in honor of your dad. Hope this helps.

  48. Hi Holly! I made my first batch of sauerkraut in a mason jar last and once it was done fermenting I put it in the fridge. However, now that it’s in the fridge, the cabbage is no longer submersed in brine.. do I need to add more brine solution? Or once it’s in the fridge, does it matter if it’s completely submersed or not? Thanks!!

    • Hello Brianne, Yes that happens. The case of the disappearing brine!

      You’ll find if you push down with a fork on it, brine will rise to the surface. I used to add extra brine to mine, but found it diluted the flavors. Now, I just leave it alone and all is fine.

  49. I fermented kraut last year multiple times with great success. I am now fermenting in a Ohio stoneware 3 gallon and 1 gallon crock – which is what I’ve used before. It’s red cabbage with berkey filtered water and Celtic sea salt and tasted great for the first few weeks. I began this ferment on Nov. 20 so it’s close to being complete, but I left it alone for about a week with no tampering and it tastes odd to me today. No longer salty like it was just sour and bitter with an off putting taste. But it doesn’t have an off putting smell. Has this happened to anyone else? What should I do? As a side note, my cat got up on the table and pooped next to my crock last week, thankfully it wasn’t touching any ferment. Could that have ruined my kraut? I might cry if it did! Lol!

    • Hello Vicki, No clear ideas on the flavor. Red cabbage tends to be tougher – taking longer to ferment – and can have a stronger flavor.

      No, I don’t think the cat’s responsible. 🙂

      You might find, after you jar it up and leave it for a few weeks in the fridge, that the flavor mellows more to your liking.

      No mold or strong off-putting smell? Just an off-batch then.

  50. Hi, I made my first ever batch and, after only one week (where most days were 35 degrees Celsius . Summer in Australia ) it tastes so ¨tangy¨ that each mouthful leaves the same hot aftertaste from a mouthful of chilis!! (important fact: no chilis added, just cabbage and carrots — Is a hot aftertaste ok, or a sign of something gone wrong?

    Also, can I introduce more fresh crushed vegetables (with appropriate amount of salt) to a half jar of half fermented vegies? (ie. a top up after a week, as I have already ate half of it !) Or is adding to a mid-ferment a no-no?

    • Hello Mike, Tangy sauerkraut? My guess is the heat. What was the temp in your home? I would ferment for only a week during the heat, try to find a “cool” place in your home and/or use a tad bit more salt to slow down the fermentation (a rounded tablespoon).

      I haven’t added mid-ferment. Give it a try. But, I think it’s just easier to eat the ferment (I put it in the fridge once it’s “done”.) and start a new one.

      • Thanks for your reply 🙂 I think we had a couple of days of almost 40 degrees celsius (I dont know what that is in farenheit, but it is ¨Don’t go outside or you’ll self-combust type of HOT!!) and yes, the aftertaste is more hot than tangy, but my main concern is: is it safe? It tastes alright. And is topping up mid-ferment, is that safe? I’ve been eating it last few days and had no ill effect. Is this hot aftertaste normal?

        • Hi Mike, Just getting back to all my comments & emails after the holidays.

          Safety? You have to be the judge, but as long as you used close to the proper amount of salt, to create a safe fermentation environment, you should be fine. If not, it would smell horrible and not taste good.

          Topping mid-ferment? You are in essence using the previous ferment as a starter. No problems with that.

          Hot aftertaste? I’ve not experienced it. I’m guessing it has something to do with the heat/speed at which your ferment progressed and the bacteria that likes the warmer fermenting environment. Enjoy and see what you get when the weather cools.

  51. well hello I’m back. I’ve had only one successful batch since the last time I visited and today I have mold on the 4th batch and I have to throw it out. I follow all instructions, when I took a peek inside this batch 6 days after I put it in the crock it looked fine, this was two days ago. Now it’s got mold all over it. Was it because I peaked? I’m so frustrated. I ate and shared all the sauerkraut from my first successful batch. Help!

    • Hello, Just getting back to all my comments & emails after the holidays.

      I’m sorry to hear of your frustration with fermenting. Peaking would not cause the mold. Fermenting in an open crock can be a challenge because the surface is exposed to air. You’ve made successful sauerkraut before and will again.

      I can’t say for sure but I always go back to proper salt ratios and the temperature at which you’re fermenting. Is your “mold” white and powdery? If so, that’s a harmless Kahm yeast, that can be removed and is common. Are you keeping it all under the brine? Is your basement warm or cool?

      • It’s powdery and a it of blue/green. I know it’s the temperature I have kept it in my apartment and it’s too warm when I crank up the heat because I’m freezing. I should carry the next batch into the basement. The only successful batch I produced was made in the fall when temperatures were mild. Thanks Holly! The strange thing is that for the first week all looked good and then all of a sudden the mold comes along.

  52. I just opened a batch I made in a 1/2 gallon mason jar with fermenttools lid and airlock. It was packed in tight to the jar shoulder and held under the brine with a glass disc when I set it to ferment 1 month ago. Today when I opened it, the airlock was still full and sealed, but the brine appears to be mostly gone from the jar. It is still wet inside, smells OK, like sauerkraut, and has no mold. I tasted one small piece and it tastes OK. Could it be OK? Or should I dump it? Does brine get reabsorbed into the cabbage? Please advise? Thank you.

    • Hi Chris, No worries. Brine levels rise and fall with the temperature and over time. You will find that if you press down on the sauerkraut with a fork, brine will rise to the surface.

      I’ve found that as long as I get through the first week with it covered in brine, dryness after that can happen, depending upon the moisture in the cabbage you used and the slower activity of the bacteria. I don’t like to add brine because it dilutes the flavors I work so hard to achieve.

      Enjoy you sauerkraut!

  53. I´m getting a bit adventurous, I grated one beetroot and about 6 or 7 turnips and a carrot, a cup of water with about a tablespoon of pink salt (I didn´t measure, as I said – adventurous). We had extreme heat and it fermented quickly. After about a week it was already well on the way, but I was a bit disappointed with the bland generic lactic acid taste, it had no underlying character to it, unlike my saurkraut. Therefore I picked some WILD LETTUCE (it is the ancestor of all modern lettuce and contains an opium-like chemical which is a relaxant) and then I added it to the two-week long ferment. I let it sit for another ten days and on opening there was some white scum on top, but apparently I read somewhere on this site that that is nothing to worry about. Anyway, I played it safe and discarded the top scummy bit and dug in. Here is the result:

    I can´t taste the usual lactic acid, instead it tastes alcoholic, like ¨beer porriage¨!! I´ve just had two tablespoons and I can´t yet report any relaxing effect from the wild lettuce, but it tastes delicious and very much like a ¨beer sluge¨. The beets and carrots are high in sugar, so obviously I didn´t put enough salt in to counter-act the effect and the sugars have won the bacterial battle. It tastes good, I feel fine…but maybe I´ll drop dead tomorrow – who knows? 😉 Should I just trust my tastebuds or am I playing too fast and loose? Should I stop the ferment now and put it in the fridge, or keep going…or toss it? I would value your opinion Holly.

    • Hello Mike, You’ve caught the bug! Time to graduate. (It is well worth it to join the closed Facebook Group “Fermenters Kitchen,” which is full or curious, kindred spirits.) It’s so nice to hear of your adventurous spirit.

      The hot weather and sweet vegetables (which include the turnips) would account for the alcoholic taste. I’ve experienced it when I’ve added too much sweet stuff. You can ferment for a shorter time period. When I include apple or pear, I ferment for just one week. I’ve also found that leaving it alone in the fridge for a month can shift flavors and help to re-balance a ferment. There should be no harm in eating it, as long as there is no noxious smell (extreme rotten egg, or Swiss cheese) or taste. Some play it safe and use pH strips and only consume ferments with a pH BELOW 4.

      Fermentation makes nutrients in the vegetables bioavailable, which is why you have more Vitamin C in sauerkraut than in the cabbage used to make it. I would expect the same with the Wild Lettuce. Would depend on quantities used, of course.

      Put it in your fridge and check on it again in a month. Happy New Year

      • Thanks for your comment, Holly. I appreciate your warning on the specific smells as I will now know what to watch out for. So fridge will balance it out, but what happens if I leave it out? Do the shreds of turnip become more mushy until they disappear and it becomes a proper alcoholic beverage?? Will I end up with some sort of ¨turnip moonshine¨???

        • Hi Mike, As you guessed, the longer you leave your ferment out, the more mushy the turnip will become. The fridge doesn’t always perform magic on a ferment, but I’m often pleasantly surprised.

          I stop a ferment long before the moonshine stage, so I’m not sure what you will end up with. I’ve found that when I have sweet stuff (apple, pear, pineapple) in a ferment, 7-10 days works well for fermentation length. Much longer than that and it turns toward alcohol.

  54. Hi Holly, After successfully making your Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut recipe a couple of times I’ve tried something new. This time I used green cabbage, red cabbage, some garlic and Celtic grey salt instead of Himalayan pink. I’m on the 10th day and surprisingly the foam has become very thick and dense, much more so than on the first week and definitely more than with the Sweet Garlic recipe. Is that ‘normal’? Could it be the red cabbage or the grey salt making the extra bubbling? I used the same vegetable to salt ratio as before. My experience the other times was that by day 10 the bubbles had almost disappeared. In this occasion, the activity has substantially intensified between day 7 and day 10. I don’t use heating in the house and the temperature has been in the low 50’s and high 40’s. I keep the jar covered with a kitchen towel and a baby blanket and only check once a day, so it was a surprise to find all that activity. I’ve been photographing the kraut daily so I can easily tell the changes. I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks!

    • Hello Nana, Fermentation is not an exact science, no matter how hard I/we try to make it so :-). I wouldn’t worry about the activity level, but it’s always fun to figure out the why. It’s great that you’re experimenting and trying your own combinations.

      As I learn more about Celtic Grey salt (possible impurities, varying salt levels) I’ve stopped using it and just use Himalayan Pink (time to update the website). That keeps that variable under control.

      Red cabbage does tend to ferment differently than green and I have heard of similar experiences as yours. It’s amazing you have the activity level you do with such low temperatures. You’ll gain much from your good observations skills. All is good!

  55. Great page I was just about to buy a fido jar with an air seal thingy and I’m going to get a weight aswell but do you really need a weight if u have an air value?

    • Hello Belinda, The folks at Pickl-it who promote and sell the “fancy” jars still use a weight to hold everything below the brine.

      No matter what type of container I’m using, I always try to keep everything below the brine where it’s safe and yeasts and bacteria can’t get to it.

  56. Just opened our fermentation and found two mozzarella cheese-like growths on the inside of the pot. They are whitish on the top and brownish on the bottom. We removed them, and the kraut seems ok. But is still safe to eat? Thoughts?

    • There are 2 schools of thought.

      One, scoop off the gunk and eat the good stuff below it (This is more of Sandor Katz and Wild Fermentation style).

      Two, toss. You have to be the judge. I tend to go by smell. It would be a noxious rotten cheese or musty smell and you would not want to even sample it. You do have some nice chunks of mold but it looks like it stayed contained at the surface.

      Learn what went wrong and work to improve the next batch. Make sure to use the proper salt ratios and keep everything below the brine and don’t ferment at too warm a temperature.

      • Thank you for responding Holly!

        We had several missteps with this batch. But it smells and looks fine. We rebrined it and moved it to a fresh container and put it on the fridge. My husband ate a bowl yesterday and seems fine today, so I think we are going to go with the first school of thought. 🙂

  57. I’ve been fermenting purple cabbage for sometime but today I noticed flecks of black on some cabbage pieces. No mold. The sauerkraut is salty and there’s plenty of fluid, but I’m trying to figure out if the black spots are from black pepper (which I added for the first time) or if my sauerkraut is going bad. Have you run across this issue?

    • If your sauerkraut is going bad, it would smell different than you’re used to. Are the black spots the right size to be from the black pepper? Are they on top or mixed through out the whole batch? Usually mold sits just on top. It’s a new one for me.

      • Hi Holly! It smells fine, texture is fine, enough brine, no change in smell from what I can recall. Just small, black freckles on the actual cabbage. No mold. It’s not as tangy as normal, but it doesn’t taste off. I’m going to try it and hope we don’t get sick!

        • Out of curiosity, I would love to see a picture. I have never heard of black freckles. Did you notice them on the cabbage leaves when you were preparing your sauerkraut or did they appear after?

          • I didn’t notice it when I was preparing it. It’s stained black and won’t rub off. It’s just weird. So far I haven’t had any issues eating it…

          • Thanks for the pictures. I’ve read of black specks on Chinese cabbage. My guess this is something from the growing process. It’s isolated to a cabbage leaf and not spread throughout the sauerkraut. I see searching the internet that it can happen due to soil deficiencies. I don’t see a concern, but if there’s not much, I would probably toss the bits I notice as I eat it.

  58. My sauerkraut is in about the third week, and it’s starting to get a “bite” to it (not as much as carbonated soda but just a little bit like that). That’s good right?

      • I’m starting to wonder about one of my jars. It started growing the film that is said to be safe (if unsavory) and smelling like a dirty garbage can; I thought it was becoming cloudy but it might be on the edge of being creamy. Is is normally difficult to tell the difference between the two or is it supposed to be really easy (are they two completely different things)?

        • On the edge of being creamy… That doesn’t sound good. The Kahm yeast is powdery. I bet if you open the jar it, will not smell good, especially if you let it go a few more days.

          Properly fermented sauerkraut smells fresh, yet sour. I don’t know what recipe you used, but try again following my recipe and using a scale to get proper salt ratios. Once you have that nailed, it’s hard not to get properly fermented sauerkraut.
          https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

          • (T= tablespoon)
            I used 1.5T : 1.5lbs cabbage
            I used 3T salt : 1qt water brine (to fill jars)

            I made two jars.
            One had grown a film on its top layer (which I’ve read is safe, even if it
            smells bad and is not really a flavor people like), because some of the cabbage had sat above the brine for a couple of days or so. I then submerged the
            film into the sauerkraut to see if it would die or be able to grow in the water (because I thought the salt would kill it if it were “bad” bacteria) but now the water is starting to turn cloudy – but I’m not sure at which point “cloudy” becomes “creamy”.
            The other is still in generally good condition (it didn’t have the sauerkraut sitting at the top for an extended period of time so as to begin growing the white film) and tastes good.

            I am asking these questions because I don’t want to have to throw any of this stuff away – the salt I used (voluminously, as these recipes require) was Himalayan sea salt (expensive).

            Thanks!

          • I made my first sauerkraut with Nourishing Traditions. A lot has been learned since it was first published. Most likely, your sauerkraut is OK.

            Today’s recommendation is for a 2% brine, or 1 T salt for 1 3/4 lbs (3T for 5lbs) cabbage. And, if you work the cabbage a bit, you won’t need to add brine.

            With the extra salt, you end up slowing down the fermentation process and making it more difficult for the beneficial bacteria to establish themselves. Not huge mistakes, just part of the learning process.

            With you current sauerkraut, go by smell. It would smell rather offensive (rotten eggs, strong cheese, musty, moldy). If not, taste and see if it’s more of a tangy, sour taste. Yes, let’s see if you can save that precious Himalayan salt.

          • So much to play with and so much to learn.

            Packed is better than loose. Air pockets invite mold.

            Fine, thin slices are better than chunks. Opens up more of the cells for lactic-acid production.

            Floaters. Use a “Floaties Trap.” Large cabbage leaf, parchment paper or plastic lid cut to size to hold everything below the brine.

            Beer does sound yeasty. Hard to know if it’s bad, but with your salt levels, it shouldn’t be going bad, just slow. Fermentation is very safe as long as salt levels are in the ballpark and everything is kept below the brine as best as possible.

          • Right, the pocketswould have invited mold if they hadn’t been filled with brine water LOL

            I thought that fine slices would be better for the growth of LAB but I wondered why the lady (I think this was over at Nourishing Traditions) suggested to do it anyway and thought that she may have known better than I did. Besides that, I thought that since it had to take a month to ferment anyway that the good bacteria would be able to get through the thick pieces.

            I did use a cabbage leaf as a floaties trap, but the cabbage leaf itself went back. Later, I used a plastic top, but it itself floated (bringing along with it a layer of sauerkraut) and was actually the reason why the one jar began growing that film (though I initially, in a bid to “save” a jar I thought might have been lost, removed the layer of sauerkraut that had been sitting exposed to oxygen) in the first place. I think I need an actual weight – a glass cup (a thick shot glass?) or something.

            For a little while I thought it smelled garbage-y but it does actually smelly beer-y. Yeah, I thought that there might be an issue with the salt levels interfering with the LABs’ growth, but I followed instructions anyway. Also, I should say that the jars had been growing for approx two weeks before I added the brine so at least they got that good start.

          • You’re learning a lot, which is made more difficult by all the conflicting advise on the internet, that I add to :-).

            Yes, an actual weight is a good idea. Shot glasses work well. I try to stick to food-grade items. I find the smallest 125ml/4oz canning jars work well and are inexpensive.

          • This time I cut some cabbage leaves into precise shapes for floaty-traps, but I *submerged* them and then stuck a shot glass in between them and the lids on the jars I am using. It wouldn’t have worked as easily, I don’t think, had the pieces of cabbage been as small as I’d had them before (when I’d put them through my Omega Juicer with the blank plate). It seems to be working – the purple water is bubbling like mad but there are no floaties to speak of.

            If I have some more troubles, I plan on asking you for help and hope that you will be able to.

            Thanks

          • I tasted the sauerkraut that sort of smelled like beer today and it tasted like fermented sauerkraut + yeast-raised bread. That is acceptable right?

            At what point may I refrigerate? I read that it isn’t really ideal to refrigerate (it is too cold for the good bacteria). Really I just want to find a way to keep that yeast from growing any more. I would prefer not to have the yeast flavor.

          • I’m sure it is fine. Enjoy it :-).

            You will want to refrigerate your sauerkraut now that it has been fermented to your liking. Freezing can kill some of the bacteria; refrigeration doesn’t. It just slows down the fermentation process, that is always going on. A properly fermented jar of sauerkraut can be kept in your refrigerator for up to a year without much change in texture or flavor.

            Try another batch and see it you still get the “yeast” flavor. It might be different.

          • If I can ferment the sauerkraut any longer (get the good bacteria to be any stronger) I want to do that; otherwise I really will have already fermented them to my liking.

          • Actually, I only needed the brine because I was testing a theory out (that if the cabbage was loose, instead of packed it would process faster – that is actually why it started floating) – I had processed the cabbage in my Omega juicer (with the blank plate) because I knew it would be easier. This time (I made some more today), I’m trying large-chunk sauerkraut because I saw a video that said it would be a lot easier to keep large floaters down than it would to keep tiny floaters and I think it makes sense.

          • 1. “If not, taste and see if it’s more of a tangy, sour taste.”
            Some sauerkraut I made at the start of ’16 has been sitting in a jar and is quite tangy and sour. Is that good?

            2. I prepared some more sauerkraut today; I like the cabbage leaf + shot glass method of keeping everything packed and neat; I learned to make sure to add liquid *as I go* so there is minimal “air-pocketage”.

          • Tangy and sour is good. Eat away.

            If you have never had sauerkraut before and aren’t sure how it should taste, you can always buy some from a health food store (make sure it is in the refrigerated section, contains just salt and cabbage/vegetables and has not been heated/pasteurized) and sample that.

            Keep on fermenting. Glad to hear the shot-glass method is working. The smaller jar might work better and result in less brine loss. Glad to be of help.

          • I’ve had sauerkraut before, but it was always traditional German (juniper + caraway); now I’ve had four different sorts: i. German, ii. plain salted, iii. yeasty salted, iv. tangy / sour salted.

  59. Hello everyone, I have been enjoying everyone’s questions. I did notice my questions hasn’t been answered. Holly, I am making a very basic green cabbage sauerkraut using a airlock system. I am day 7 and noticed a little brown on the top. The cabbage is still under the brine. What causes this? Also curious if I can use a rock as my weight instead of a specific fermenting weight. Lastly, I am confused on the brine time for sauerkraut. Is it 21 days? thanks so much for taking the time

    • Hi Aleesha, Sorry to miss your question. I try to answer them all in a timely manner.

      Browning comes from air exposure, which shouldn’t happen since it’s been kept under the brine. It could then be due to the age of the cabbage; not as fresh as ideal. I wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re getting it with every batch.

      Weights. Some suggest rocks, others not due to lead and what not in the rock… I don’t know my rocks, but I think most would be just fine. Someone just shared the use of a small condiment jar for mushrooms. Also, skewers cut to size and placed on the top of your ferment, pushing up against the side of the jar. On my list to try.

      21 days is when research says the best levels of bacteria have been achieved.

  60. Hi Holly, I’ve been making Fermented Vegetables for about a year, but two days ago I completely spaced it and forgot to add the salt to my double batch (noticed they’re cloudy). Tonight, I dumped each jar, mixed in some salt and put all 5 jars in the frig. Major faux pas or will it be okay?

    • I smile because I recently did something similar.

      I was in too much of a hurry with a jar of Kimchi-Style Sauerkraut and didn’t add the salt until 24 hours after the vegetable prep. Not good. The jar of sauerkraut is lacking its usual brightness, has turned brown and is developing white scum throughout. Haven’t dared to open the jar, yet.

      So, I would not be surprised if the same happens to you jars. Let them be to see how they ferment… or not. This drives home the point of using fresh, high-quality ingredients. My day-old ingredients were lacking in good bacteria to kick-start the fermentation process.

  61. Hi there, just wondering if the saltiness of the cabbage pre-bottling is any indicator of how salty the sauerkraut will be after the fermenting process? Thanks!

    • Hello Shenay, There’s 2 camps on that one. I feel it does decrease as the bacteria work and the flavors develop… others don’t.

      Mineral-salts (Himalayan Pink) contain less sodium and will result in a lesser degree of “saltiness” in the end product. If it still tastes too salty for you in the end, mix with lettuce and eat it as a salad.

    • Brooks, You’re asking the wrong person :-). I’m pretty lax in the sanitation department and would have no concerns with making sauerkraut when I have a bad cold.

      Trust in the mighty bacteria. Just make sure you use the right amount of salt to create the right environment for the bacteria to work and all should be fine.

  62. Is it possibe to pack cabbage to tight in the jar? When I don’t pack it super tight I can see the fermentation bubbles rise, however when pack tightly I did not see the bubbles.
    Well its been 5 weeks and it looks-smells-and tastes fine…what is your take or advice here?

    • Packing jar too tight? No, other than breaking the jar if you push too hard. Bubbles rising to the surface is how the gas is escaping that could cause the jar to burst if they don’t escape, though I’ve never had a jar break on me.

      No bubbles. Don’t worry, if it’s cooler they can be elusive. Dig in and enjoy, and congrats!

  63. I ordered a big (64 – 65 oz.) Fido jar, and bought two heads of cabbage. They only total about 2.5 lbs. Can I make a half batch in the big jar if I put a weight in it? Also, do the tablespoons of salt refer to coarse salt or fine-grain salt? Thank you!

    • You can make a half batch in there, but the ideal is to have less head space to minimize air exposure. Just make sure you hold everything below the brine and you should be fine.

      Fine salt is what the tablespoons refer to. Course salt takes a bit longer to dissolve. If you want to weigh your salt instead, work in grams and multiply by .02; for example 600 grams of cabbage mixture x .02 = 12 grams of salt.

    • No worries. The thinner the slices, the more cabbage you expose and have available for the microbial action, so that’s the “ideal.” But, it’s just fine to add your own personality to the mix; some like wide slices, some like thin slices. So, go ahead and make your sauerkraut, the sooner the better. You want to add the salt pretty quick after the slicing.

  64. My kraut is not very tangy. Followed all directions and did add a little brine after the first week. Bubbled a lot the first few days. Been fermenting 4 weeks in 60 to 65 degree basement. It looks and smells fine but is still relatively crunchy and retains some cabbagy taste the I thought would be gone by now. When you taste it I’d call it very mild, just slightly sour, and lightly salty. I only really have a jar of bubbies to compare to and that is less crunchy and a lot more tangy. I’ve tested the pH and it’s right at 4 exactly. Any thoughts? I feel like it’s not really fermenting all the way but I’m a first timer. Thanks.

    • Hello Rob, You’re fermenting on the cold end of the spectrum. You might want to give it a week of fermenting in a warmer area, closer to 70 and see if that helps to develop some tang for you.

      Congrats on delving into fermentation. Each batch is unique. Perhaps, go ahead and eat this one after a week on the warmer side and then start another batch with 7-10 days at the 68-70 temperatures before moving it to a cooler spot if you want. I usually keep mine at 68-70 during the whole process.

      • Thanks I’ll try that. I’ve already started a larger batch of your sweet garlic recipe and I’ll warm that up a little as well.

  65. Hi, mine is pinkish but I used Himalayan salt, which is pink, so I’m unsure… It’s sort of cloudy with bits in the brine but smells like sauerkraut not horrible. Thoughts?

    • Sarah, Beautiful!

      Hard to say what the pinkish hue is from. Not the salt.

      Perhaps what you added to it – chopped red peppers? Or, maybe an extra warm, fast ferment. Nothing to worry about (it passes the smell test), though you might want to harvest it sooner than later with the warm bench ferment. Enjoy!

  66. Hi – I’m fermenting for the first time. I added a daikon radish as a weight to my shredded purple cabbage after 3 days to push the veggies down. I’m using an airlock, but now I see a brown film floating on top of the daikon. Even though I left a 1 inch space at the top of the jar I had to keep adding water to the airlock and I think the jar is now filled to the top. I see a viscous brown film and some floaters on top of the daikon weight. I’m concerned about the brown film which look a bit slimy. I also see tiny air pockets trapped throughout the jar and larger ones trying to escape from around the daikon weight. Can mold form in the air pockets? I’ve keep shifting the jar to release the larger pocket. Any advice or reassurance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Jody

    • Hello Jody and congratulations on your first fermenting adventure.

      I’ve been thinking of experimenting likewise with vegetables as a “weight,” but am concerned about exactly what you have experienced. Air exposure to the vegetables as a place for mold to form.

      Water shouldn’t be getting down into your jar via the air lock, but water levels do rise and fall with the temperature in your house. Warm = expansion, hence rising brine levels; cold = contraction and lowering brine levels.

      Yes, mold can form anywhere there is an air pocket. I would open everything up, see what it smells like and remove any of the top slimy stuff.

      You’re past the time of greatest activity in the jar and can probably get away without using a weight. Pack it all back in firmly, adding more brine if necessary (1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups water) and see how it does.

      And for your next jar, follow my recipe to make sure you’re using the right amount of salt to prevent the slime. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      Hang in there. You have good observation and troubleshooting skills. 🙂

  67. Hi, I’m a relatively new fermenter. I generally make kraut in a half gallon mason jar with an airlock. My first three batches turned out wonderful! My last two batches (which I have done exactly the same as the first three) have looked great but have had a terrible odor when I take the lid off. I’ve dumped both batches. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong? I’m getting frustrated!

  68. Hi Holly,
    I have some sauerkraut going in a fermentation Kroc with a water seal. Tried some after two weeks and again at 5 weeks but it is not very sour. It is crisp and looks and smells ok so not sure what I did wrong. I used 6 tbls. salt to 10lbs. of cabbage which I have done in the past and had good results. And added a brine of 1.5 tbls. salt to 1 quart of water. Any idea what went wrong this time?

    • Hello Ron, Salt ratios are correct. Brine numbers are good.

      What temperature are you fermenting at? Is it consistent or swing from hot to cold? During the first week, what were temperatures like? If it’s been on the cold side, fermentation will take longer.

      • Don’t laugh but I have it in my bedroom since I thought the basement would be too cold. So the temperature has varied widely from cold the first and with the inconsistent weather we had went from warm to cold several times. Maybe it just needs more time? Thanks for your reply.

  69. Aloha Holly!

    Just made my first batch of sauerkraut! I used 2 heads and 4 TBS salt, cut on my mandoline. I didn’t get much juice after massaging and kneading for about 20 minutes, though the cabbage was soft and wilted. I added brine water, packed it down with a potato masher to get the brine to rise up 1.5 inches and put a dinner plate on top, which I weighted down with a big glass pitcher of water. Covered it all with another big bowl, inverted on top, draped a muslin over all of it. 6 days today and I checked it. Foamy bubbles forming around the edges of the plate, so some action. Smelled fine too BUT
    there was a tannish color film on the plate (all under brine) and it looked a little slimy….so, I panicked and took off the plate, poured off the brine and tasted the sauerkraut. It actually tastes GREAT! Nice level of sourness and salty…..do you think it’s ok? I packed it into a half gallon glass jar. It fills it about half full but, of course, not much liquid. Should I add brine now to keep it stored? Or ?? Really appreciate your great advice! I am looking forward to my fermenting journey!

    • Hello Hilogwen, It sounds like your sauerkraut is just fine if you have the sourness.

      The tan color is probably from air exposure from using open-crock method. Sliminess could be from not enough salt.

      I don’t know how much cabbage you had. It sounds like you were low on salt. Salt is what pulls the moisture out of the cabbage. If the cabbage was picked in the fall, it is harder to get enough brine.

      I don’t add more brine once I pack it into jars. It can dilute the flavors, but since your were low on brine, it wouldn’t hurt to add some (1 tablespoon salt with 2 cups water).

      Follow my recipe for the next batch and see if that makes a difference. Enjoy your fermentation journey. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

  70. Mahalo Holly! I will add a little brine just in case. It tastes good to my husband and me. I’m really glad because it was made especially for a St. Paddy’s day cookout tomorrow;) We make Rueben’s over an open firepit and I’m responsible for the sauerkraut;0) I’m so happy I found you and I’m making your recipe next! Thanks again!

    • Oh my goodness! What a wonderful picture!

      That’s a new one for another “easy” way to enjoy sauerkraut! Be ready to share how you made it with everyone else at the get together. It will raise the bar on the flavor for those sandwiches.

      • Absolutely Holly! I will be sending some home tonight with folks attending and going with your website and recipe printed to share. Tonight we will be making loads of Rueben’s! Everyone will leave with a good probiotic “dose”;))! Even the vegetarians;)) Then I will start a new batch using your recipe! Can I use my current batch as a “starter” for the next?
        Aloha, Gwen

  71. Hi Holly! Your site is so encouraging! Here’s what i’ve got happening… I didn’t make a brine. instead is just salted the cabbage and stuffed in the jar and pushed it down with a pestle, nice and tight. plenty of juice rose up and actually started seeping out the top of the sealed jar. the mistake i made was to open the jar and the liquid bubbled right out of the jar. it practically exploded… well, needless to say, i still achieved a nice ferment in 7 days. i moved it to the fridge today.. my concern is that now that the brine is basically gone, that this batch could have a short shelf life. what’s your opinion on this?

    • Hello Laura, All sounds fine to me. I don’t teach making sauerkraut by adding brine, but instead by salting the cabbage as you did.

      I find with my jars where it does not look like I have much brine, that all is still fine. Push down with a fork and see if brine rises to the surface. If there is none at all, you can add some (1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups water). You’ll probably eat it long before it’s past its prime.

  72. Hi holly made my ferment 3 days ago 2 bottles one is ok and one has a furry mould growing on top not sure what I done wrong

  73. Hi Holly. Several months ago, with you help (thank you), I made great sauerkraut. Yesterday, I made more; however, today, I don’t see signs of bubbling in the jar. Everything is immersed under the liquid, and I have a weight on top of it. Also, I use the valve device on my jars. Last time, I had lots of activity going in the first 24 hrs. Should I continue waiting and watching? Discard and start over?

    • Hello Sandra, You won’t always see the bubbling. It can be elusive at times, especially if you’re fermenting at cooler temperatures. I always start with salt ratios. If those were in the ball park of what’s recommended and you have everything submerged, all should be fine. I would only discard if it smells off or you see mold.

  74. Hi Holly, Checking on my fermenting crock today the brine level seemed fine since the weights were covered but when I dug into the cabbage it seemed oddly short on brine and was slippery feeling. It tastes fine but the slippery factor seems odd and off putting. This was a cabbage only sauerkraut with all organic cabbage. Have you ever experienced anything like this? The batch had been fermenting about one month in a temp stable basement at 60 -65 degrees in a water bath crock. I PACKED the crock TIGHTLY after salting and mashing the cabbage and there was brine covering the weights when I closed it up. It tastes nicely fermented but is a tad salty. I’ve added filtered water to bring the brine level up in each jar for storage. Should I be concerned about the slimy quality to the kraut? I’m suspecting my error was packing the crock too tightly. Any ideas?

    • I wouldn’t think the sliminess would come from packing the crock too tightly. How much salt did you use? Also, many recommend that the first week of fermentation be closer to 68-70 to get an active fermentation going, then to the cooler temps you have it at.

      Often, you can leave the jars of sauerkraut in the fridge for a few weeks and the slime goes away after everything balances out. Give that a try.

      • Thank you Holly, I did have the crock fermenting for the first 3 days at around 70 degrees before moving it to our basement. It burbbled madly for the first 2 weeks then slowed to the occasional belch. I’m not certain about the total amount of salt I used, I measured one TB per head (10 TB) then added ~ 3TB more while I was mashing it to get the juices flowing. I used Kosher salt – maybe that was the problem. I’ve got the jars stored in the refrigerator now and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

        • Temperatures sound perfect, Beth. And from the sounds of all that bubbling, it fermented nicely.

          For future batches, it would be good to know if your salt amount was way off. Some of the bacteria don’t work when there is too much salt. 13 TB salt would make a 20 pound batch of sauerkraut and will pack into 10 1-quart jars… Help, my brain is too detailed oriented! So on to my old refrain… use a scale for your next batch. Keeping fingers crossed too. 🙂

          • Thank you for your help Holly. I used 10 heads of cabbage with a total weight 22 pounds before coring- so it probably was around 20 pounds once shredded. In the future I will be sure to weigh cabbage and carefully measure the salt! I’ll also be sticking to using mineral rich salt instead of Kosher salt just in case that was the problem.

  75. You’d said that sauerkraut organisms were strongest after 3 wks fermenting.
    I have four 1.25 (or so) qt jars of sauerkraut fermenting (starting their 3rd week), and they’ll all be done at the same time. How long will they remain “optimum” if put in the refrigerator after the 3 wks of fermentation? I’m concerned that they will lose their “optimality” before I’m able to eat through them. Would “optimality” be better preserved by leaving the jars out a little longer before refrigerating or by immediately refrigerating?

    • I guess a better word would be “peak numbers.” At 21 days (under ideal conditions), the last set of bacteria to ferment and multiply in your sauerkraut peak. After this point, the biologists don’t see an increase in numbers if you ferment longer, which is why we recommend putting them in the fridge at this point.

      In the fridge, the sauerkraut continues to ferment but at a very slow rate without much change in the bacteria count. They should last for a year in the fridge.

      Fermentation is more “complete” or “well-rounded” in the larger vessels (a 5-10 liter water-sealed crock) than in the jars. However, the jars are doable for most and a good place to start and learn the basics.

      • 1. Peak numbers – got it.
        2. Refrigerate – will do.
        3. How does the size of the vessel make a difference? What does water-sealed mean? I think my jars are water-sealed (I put a piece of cabbage over the shredded cabbabe, then a shot-glass under the lid, which keeps everything under the water-line).

        • Thanks for all your questions. Happy to clarify.

          Size of vessel? It’s just observations from seasoned fermenters who have experience with both the jars and the larger crocks. They notice a greater depth of flavor and just overall a better ferment. But, many stay at the jar level quite happily for years.

          Water-sealed? That’s for a crock. They’re an improvement on the open ceramic pickle crocks of our grandparent’s day. I talk about it here: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/fermentation-crocks/

          You are doing the same thing with your shot glass and brine monitoring.

          • 1. Thanks for sharing the info.
            2. Yeah I’d already looked the article up and read it. LOL
            3. I’d like to get a “crock”, because I’m planning on making my sauerkraut using a vitamin K2 starter culture (which will supposedly result in between 400-500mcg K2 / 2oz – I will not name the product so that no one thinks I’m “advertising”) and I read that one can save money preparing larger batches – and it seems it’ll be cheaper than buying K2 supplements.

          • Let me know how the K2 culture works for you.

            I wish I had a biology background to actually test cultures and see strains at different periods in the fermentation process. Have you tried natto for K2?

          • 1. I sure will.
            2. I think all you need is a microscope. There’re pictures of microscopically magnified sauerkraut LAB in their progressive stages at the Nourishing Treasures site – but, fyi, I think they say to ferment for four weeks and advise against refrigeration.
            3. I have considered using natto culture with veggies, but I think it would be easier just to use the K2 starter culture for sauerkraut (avoid the bad flavor). As far as using natto, itself, I have heard bad things about soy (soy milk, like cow’s milk, has a protein that blocks the absorption of nutrition; and soy is a source of estrogen – something to this effect – which is not good for various reasons); also, I don’t really have the money to continuously buy organic soy and natto (I get cabbage for free from a food bank; and I’m waiting to hear back from the company that sells the K2 starter culture about whether I’ll be able to “reuse” it, “seeding” successive sauerkraut batches).

          • Yes, Nourishing Treasures is where I’ve seen the LABs under microscope. Another valuable skill to learn.

            Natto? I was just going to try buy the stinky stuff to eat. Its fermentation breaks down the bad soy issues and one doesn’t eat much of it. Been on my list for years, so who knows if I’ll ever get to it. 🙂

          • (I hope you won’t see me as being contrary) Will you please point me to a resource discussing how the process of fermenting the soy breaks down the bad soy issues?

          • Thanks for keeping me on my toes and making sure I provide accurate info. Give a few days to gather “facts” – and educate myself further – and I’ll get back to you.

          • I have a ceramic crock pot. I’d have to figure some way of making it safe in terms of keeping air out, but Do you think it would be safe to make sauerkraut in it in terms of it not imparting lead or cadmium into the sauerkraut?

          • I’ve read that some of the ceramic crock pots do contain lead or cadmium. I would google the name and see what you can find. If Amazon has it, there’s usually an answer in their question section.

          • I wouldn’t use it. The acidic nature of sauerkraut fermentation is prone to leaching out lead and what not which is why I’m careful about what I use as a weight in my sauerkraut.

            A gallon jar – restaurants will have pickle jars to give you – can work well and holds a 5 pound batch (3 tablespoons of salt) quite nicely.

          • Here goes… Writers advocating “traditional foods” often state that the only safe way to consume soy is by fermenting it (natto, tempeh and miso). The concern with unfermented soy is the presence of: antinutrients, isoflavones (plant hormones), and goitrogens,

            Fermentation does break down phytic acid and other antinutrients, can add K2 but, from what I’m now reading, it increases the bioavailability of the goitrogens, which is not healthy for the thyroid.

            Fermented soy is a great nutrient dense food but must be consumed in small quantities and with an iodine-rich diet to counteract the goitrogen issue, which is how it was traditionally consumed.

            So, if we’re looking for foods rich in K2 – as I am – we may have to look at our thyroid health before consuming large quantities of Natto, that is if we even like the taste of it.

            Does this jive with what you have learned?

            http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/mercola-is-wrong-fermented-soy-is/
            http://www.foodrenegade.com/dangers-of-soy/

          • Thank you for the information – I will have a good look at it.

            Separately, will you please let me know if this “mark” in the sauerkraut is a contamination? The sauerkraut tastes perfect. Does that mean it isn’t contaminated? The marks stand out as if they were growing on the surface of the glass.

          • Thank you for the information – I will have a good look at it.

            Separately, will you please let me know if this “mark” in the sauerkraut is a contamination? The sauerkraut tastes perfect. Does that mean it isn’t contaminated? The marks stand out as if they were growing on the surface of the glass.

          • Once you establish a balanced and safe fermentation environment, the bad bacteria can’t take hold. From what I can see, that section looks more like some residue from the beets. I see this with carrots at times, too. I wouldn’t call it contaminated and you’re saying it tastes perfect. Enjoy!

          • 1. OK
            2. BTW (By The Way) You (with the information you shared on fermenting soy) taught me a lot more than I had already known. Thanks!

  76. This is my 4th week I tasted my kraut and it is super acid and soft not crunchy at all. It does not have any mold it does not taste salty, doesn´t smell bad either. Can I eat it or should I toss it? This is my first time fermenting thanks for your help love your blog!

  77. Hi Holly,
    I made my second batch recently and it is in the frig after a month of fermenting. This time I did 1 red cabbage with 2 green. One perhaps mistake this time was not covering my bowl, as I didn’t know it was necessary and because 90% was covered by lots of extra weights added this time. Last time, I loved the final product; this time not so much. I don’t like the taste, maybe too much salt? It is crunchy and the funny thing is that when it was done it was pink, from the red cabbage?, in the center of my big bowl, but lighter cabbage color around the sides. Edible? Thanks!

    • Hello Arthur, Great to hear you’re making sauerkraut. It will vary from batch to batch but with some simple guidelines, you can get consistency.

      It sounds like you’re fermenting in an open bowl but with everything submerged? The goal is to keep everything below the brine and ideally, some type of lid to reduce air exposure that encourages the growth of yeasts and bacteria. Most people use a jar of some sort.

      Weighing your salt will help tremendously. The recommend 2% salt of weight of cabbage/vegetables makes for a nice flavor and safe ferment. I cover this in my recipe.

      Pink? Yes, that’s from the red cabbage, which will give a different flavor and texture. It’s a little tougher and takes a bit longer to ferment. Try another batch, following my recipe, and see how you like it. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      • I had skimmed the brine, and cabbage was submerged the whole time.
        It hasn’t killed me, so now I think it is just too salty. I put in 2 heaping tablespoons per each good sized cabbage. Made lots of liquid! Next time I’ll do the 2% measurement. Thx!

  78. I have my first batch of sauerkraut fermenting….and it is rather stinky. Although there is a good inch of brine floating on top of the cabbage, I can see air bubbles throughout the packed cabbage (I’m using a mason jar). Are these air pockets ok? I’ve squished the cabbage down as much as possible, and I have a glass weight on the surface. Bubbles are forming in the inch of brine that is sitting atop the cabbage, but the liquid in the fermentation lock I have on the lid of the jar isn’t bubbling. I tried to get liquid into the air pockets by poking the cabbage with a chopstick, but the airpockets keep reforming, and the brine is floating to the top. So my question are, should there be an unpleasant odor? and is it ok to have brine on top of the cabbage, but with airpockets within the packed cabbage itself? :-I Advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Hello Gina, Stinky sauerkraut? “Stinky” is all a matter of opinion… There’s not much you can do about it, but it should be less after the first week. Do you have a lid on the jar?
      Bubbles are good. They’re from the bacteria doing their work to make an air free fermentation environment. Typically, they form throughout and float to the surface. It sounds like all is fine. I wouldn’t tamper with the jar. It’s best to leave it alone for the first week. But, your setup sounds fine. Congrats on your first venture down the fermentation road.

      • thank you Holly! I have one of those airlock caps (filled w/ vodka)—so the built up gasses can escape without the jar exploding.
        The smell is pretty strong..in a stinky kimchi sort of way. Almost like the smell of garbage. I really appreciate that you responded so quickly! I will wait it out and hope for the best. I didn’t follow the precise salt-measurements, but will for my next batch. Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks again!

  79. Hi Holly. Thanks for all your information. I made my first batch of sauerkraut and it has been sitting for 6 weeks. In the beginning the brine covered everything but then it started to disappear (evaporate?) Now there is a brown layer ..the top about 1/3 of the jar is brown. It smells fine but is it OK to eat? Thanks! Amy

    • Hello Amy, Your first batch of sauerkraut looks wonderful. I would call it done.

      Brown layer. This is due to air exposure and, sometimes can happen when fermenting in too warm an environment. The brine doesn’t disappear – if you have a lid on – but gets pulled back into the cabbage. You can always add more brine when this happens, but I find it dilutes the flavors.

      Did you have a lid on the jar? A weight holding everything below the brine? Maybe, next time stop it a bit sooner – around 4 weeks.

      The brown sauerkraut is fine to eat, just lacking a bit in vitamins.

  80. Hello, I am new to fermenting and I am using a wide mouth mason jar, and waterlock combination. I recently made a batch of asparagus with garlic and mustard seed. After about three days I noticed a brownish red substance that seems to be settling on the top sides of the veggies. A small amount of the stuff settled on top of the pickle pebble I’m using. The veggies are all below the brine, and some bubbling is occurring. Could this stuff be mold or the like? Could it possibly be a product of the mustard seed used? What do you think?
    See the photo below

    Thanks,
    Mark

    • Hello Mark, Welcome to the world of fermentation. Enjoy the adventure.

      I have not fermented asparagus but have fermented carrots, garlic and other vegetables. If you used a 2% brine (or in the ballpark of), all should be fine. You have it below the brine and are sealing the jar and using an airlock. My guess is residue from the asparagus – or mustard seed. This can happen when using carrots or beets in a sauerkraut recipe.

      • I tried the asparagus last night and it was delicious. No off flavors or sliminess. There was a good, crisp, tang. The sediment appears to have been the pollen (usually bright orange on fresh asparagus). They are in the fridge now as the ferment has slowed and the sourness seems just right.

        Thanks for your help!

        Mark

  81. Hi holly,
    This is my first real attempt at sauerkraut. I first was using a quart jar but the brine kept overflowing, long story short im on my second attempt using a 1/2 gallon jar. I used red cabbage with one shredded beet. I’m nervous about the brine color and first layer of kraut, I’m hoping the brown color brine fine as I don’t see any mold and it has a salty acidic smell (kind of vinegary). It’s been fermenting for 7 days which i know it quite early in the process, but does it early need to ferment for 3-4 weeks?

    Thanks,
    The antsy fermenter

    • Hello Antsy Fermenter, You develop more confidence with each successive batch, so hang in there. Yes, the quart jar can be a bit small at times and it’s a balancing act between room for brine and not too much room for air.

      A few things… For beginners, I would stick to green cabbage until you have it working and then try the red cabbage. Red cabbage ferments just fine, but it is tougher and tends to take longer to ferment and can add a variable beginners shouldn’t have to mess with. The browning can come from the red cabbage along with the beets and also the amount of air in the jar.

      This batch will be fine. Give it a taste at about the 10-12 day mark and see if you like it. The brown section is fine, but you might want to remove that and enjoy what’s below. Much more visually appealing and more nutritious.

      For you next batch, double it and then you won’t have so much air space in the jar but a bit more room for the brine than in a quart jar. Hope this helps.

  82. Hello holly
    Just wanted to put my two cents in regarding temperatures. Commercial kraut makers carefully steam their kraut as it it conveyed to the fermrnting vessel. 80 degrees is the perfect temp to start kraut. It cools quickly but gives the good bacteria a fast start.
    I have been reading alot and it seems that for the first fermentation holding at 75 degrees is best. Cooling is allowed after that.
    The goal is to reduce ph to 4.5. Or lower in the first 24 hrs!. Ph is taken at liquid and drained kraut as well as fully liquified kraut and brine to assure compliance. This assures good bacteria prevail.
    I place my cabbage on the warmest area i can find for 24 bours to bring to as close to 80 degrees as possible.
    Hope this helps.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. What I focus on is lacto-fermentation which is without “heat.” Commercial sauerkraut – and “heat” is a another technique that I don’t use because I’m trying to create as many healthy bacteria as possible. My recommendations stem from the bacteria growth in lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Happy Fermenting!

  83. Hi Holly, I started my sauerkraut a few days ago. The liquid under the cabbage leaves on top is clear but the liquid about the leaves is getting to be a brownish color. I tasted the kraut this morning and it tastes good. Do you think it is safe to eat with this dark colored liquid at the top?

  84. Hi holly. I just made my first batch of sauerkraut but the brine is a bit slimy, like okra slime. I used equal amounts of carrot and cabbage and put it in a jar to ferment and added a smaller jar filled with water for weight then covered it with a kitchen towel and left it on the kitchen counter for 3 days.
    is the slime indication of spoilage or too much exposure to oxygen? is it safe to eat?
    Many thanks

    • Hello Selena, My guess is that the slime is from too many carrots. You’ll want to keep to 75% cabbage, 25% other stuff. Carrots have a high sugar content and can cause the slime.

      Did you use the right amount of salt? 1 tablespoon for 1 3/4 pounds.

      Often, if you leave the jar in your fridge for a couple months, the bacteria can re balance and the slime might go away. It’s safe to eat, just a bit unpleasant.

  85. Hi – I made my first batch of sauerkraut 20 days ago… mason jar with glass weight. My husband – who is a good German and loves sauerkraut (haha), was excited to try it tonight… however when we opened it, it was mushy and tasted like plastic or rubber and bitter. What did I do wrong?

    • Hello Rebecca, So disappointing when the flavors just aren’t there. Life is too short to eat mushy sauerkraut. Don’t give up, because goodness does await you.

      Don’t know what recipe you followed, but my guess is either fermenting at too warm of temperatures or not enough salt.

      Please follow my recipe (weighing is important) and see how the next batch goes. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/ You should be pleasantly surprised. Let me know!

      • Ok, phew!! I added more water, should I take some out? I’ve read comments that water overflowed inside the crock and ruined the kraut. Is that possible? Is overflowing onto counter a big deal? Thanks:-).

        • If you can use a turkey baster to take out a bit, fine. If not, no worries. Not enough additional water added to mess with brine salt ratios. Overflowing onto the counter is just a mess for you.

  86. Hi Holley, first batch of kraut here as well. I’m using a crock with the water seal. I kept the kraut in about 67-72 degrees for the first 5 days then moved to the basement last night where it’s cooler. This morning almost all my water was gone in the moat. I refilled and hoping it’s ok. Any experience with this? Too much to be evaporation.

  87. hi ive been fermenting my saurkraut for a week now and my mother unfortunately put it in the fridge without asking…can i take it out and continue fermenting for another couple of weeks to gain more beneficial
    bacterial or is it too late?

    • Hello Jules, Yes I think you will be fine though you might just want enjoy the 7-day sauerkraut and then make a new batch.

      By putting it in the fridge, fermentation was slowed not but not stopped. Warming it back up by taking it out of the fridge should get it going again. Though, I’ve had a few put it in the fridge at Day 1 and trying to restart it didn’t work.

  88. Hi Holly! I just made my first batch of sauerkraut using this recipe in a mason jar: here. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124

    It’s been about 5 days and it looks and tastes pretty good. its crunchy and on the salty side. The aftertaste is more pungent than I would have liked, but overall seems pretty normal to me. But I am a little concerned that there is no bubbling or fizzing, is that normal? I’m also worried because the article mentioned to just cover the jar with rubber band/cheese cloth, so I did, and didn’t seal with a lid. Now that I read all your great info, I was wondering if that was a bad idea?

    I didn’t create a brine, just rubbed the cabbage with salt until I had enough brine to reach the top. So, I think the kraut is watersealed because there is a fine layer of liquid sitting above the cabbage, but not so much that I feel safe. Is there a minimum amount of coverage you suggest? If so, can I add water to achieve that?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hello Christine, No worries. I made sauerkraut for awhile with an open top. It’s a learning process. You made your first sauerkraut. That is great!

      The extra saltiness probably comes from too much salt. Weigh it next time to get the salt closer to ideal. Also, if the salt is on the heavy side, it will slow down fermentation. Though you don’t see bubbles, and you won’t always, if you used too much salt that could be a factor.

      As long as you have brine coverage, you’re fine. If you do want to add a bit more water, fine. Normally, you would mix up a brine, but since it’s already salty the water will help with that. Enjoy this one and make a new batch with my recipe and see how you like it. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

  89. Hi Holly! Back again….So we’ve been fermenting like mad people here, enjoying every minute of it. I’ve a question regarding my last batch of Sauerkraut (Cabbage and Carrot). Made 2 jars. One smells like normal (the smaller jar). The other larger jar smells and tastes a quite fruity, almost pineapple-ish. It’s a pleasant smell, just not at all like sauerkraut! It’s also a bit dry (I think it lost a lot of it’s brine in the bubble up stage). Is this normal? Should I top it up with some brine and leave in the fridge or what do you think? It’s been almost 3 weeks fermenting in very warm weather (for Ireland anyway!) Help would be appreciated 🙂 x

    • Fermenting like mad! So good to hear. I’m sure you’re learning lots.

      Pineapplish? That’s a new one for me. Your idea – top off with brine and leave in the fridge – sound like a good plan to me. Give it a few weeks and see if it balances itself out. Did your pineapple jar have a larger head space than the other? That’s my only guess that there might have been more air exposure. And yes, brine it often lost – sadly – during the bubble up stage.

      • Ah you’re a star thanks Holly. I don’t think left enough head-space in either jar….I think that’s why I lost so much brine, but yes the larger jar would have had more breathing room I think. It’s a strange one alright! I’ve another batch on now, hissing and bubbling like crazy in the pantry 🙂 Thanks again you are so very helpful to us all xxx

  90. Hi Holly I’m new to the fermenting world but have just made my first batch of Sauerkraut in a 5 litre fermenting pot. The problem I’m having is the water from the lip is evaporating over night 🙁
    Is there anything I can do to stop this and is it affecting the process ?
    Any information would be much appreciated 🙂

  91. Good day to you Molly, I have a question to ask regarding the sauerkraut. So, my team and I made a sauerkraut for experiment purpose and has left it under the dark for 13 days. When we remove it from the area, the cabbage within the sauerkraut loses its colour. From dark green to lighter green and some has turned white. Therefore I am really curious that why did it turned up something like that? Is it because of oxidation? I tried looking for answers around the net but I could not find any reliable source since they did not mention anything about changing of colours in sauerkraut. Thanks for replying.

    • A very good question Jarren, Feel honored to be the first to ask that one! Keep that curious mind.

      The loss of color is normal and as you found out, fermenting in darkness doesn’t prevent it. I wish it did because I so like the wonderful colors earlier on in the fermentation process. Even a batch fermented in a dark ceramic crock will lose its color.

      It is not oxidation which is seen with a browning of the top layer of sauerkraut in a jar when it may not always stay under the brine. I’ll keep my eyes open for an answer as I cruise the net, but nothing at this moment.

      • Thank you for answering Molly. Now allow me to answer your curiosity regarding to my question earlier. I have asked some of my friends regarding about this issue and they said that it is the acidic content within the brine has caused the cabbage’s chlorophyll to lose its pigment whereby the magnesium atom of the cabbage have been removed and is replaced by hydrogen atom. Thus, the chlorophyll structure breaks and the colour will fade slowly overtime. I actually found out that not only the colours may fade when you cook the vegetables but soaking it under an acidic substance may affect as well. Therefore do check it out around the web around chlorophyll for better understanding though. Best regards.

  92. I’ve got mold growing on my sauerkraut in my crock. It smells like alcohol as well. I want to empty it a sanitize my crock a stones before making more. How do I go about sanitizing without the use of harsh chemicals that could also kill the good bacteria that is needed to ferment the cabbage?

  93. I fermented some ginger carrots. One vessel has a dark band of gingered carrots at the top and the other does not. I’m wondering if I should scoop out and discard the layer of darker carrots.

  94. I was following some directions that said not to put a lid on it while fermenting, just to weight the cabbage down under the brine and put a towel over it while it does it’s thing for a few days, I have it weighed down and the brine is coming right up to the lip of the jar. it’s just less than 24hrs now and I just looked and it looks like it’s got some fuzzy or cloudiness right on top of the cabbage in the brine, it’s actually cabbage and processed garlic scapes. You can kind of see it in this picture, is this a normal thing or a weird thing?

  95. I have a large batch of cabbage in brine for 6 days without any foaming. I used 3 tablespoon kosher salt per 5 lbs of cabbage and added additional brine solution to cover cabbage. Could part of the problem be the container is too large? It’s a 10-15 gallon plastic container. There is ano area about 2 inches wide the cabbage is slightly below brine and it has a thin, white coating. Almost like the formation of fuzzy mold that just formed today. Is it starting to work even though no foaming?

    • Jeannette, Salt numbers are correct. If the white coating is powdery, it is harmless Kahm yeast which forms during the first few days before the acid levels drop.

      Sauerkraut fermentation is supposed to happen in an air-free (anaerobic) environment. So your large container is exposing your ferment to a lot of air. The air-loving mold and yeast bacteria have just the right environment to grow. Clean off the gunk and try to cover the container some way. Keep everything below the brine.

      Fermentation should be happening. There is not always foam and most “visible” action is during the first 3 days.

      Learn from this batch and start a new batch working first with a quart (liter) jar to understand and master the process, then move on to bigger batches.

      https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

      https://www.makesauerkraut.com/surefire-sauerkraut-in-a-crock/

      • Thank you for response. Not sure if it’s a powdery mold. I cleaned off and there was a little bit of dark strands in it also. I scooped out anything that looked icky off top layer and added more brine water and wiped the sides of container. The cabbage doesn’t smell bad and brine is very salty. The container has a tight lid. With theach dark strands starting to grow, is that a bad sign? This is a 30 lbs. batch and don’t want to toss if don’t have to. Thanks again.

        • Keep working with it Jeanette. Some molds do have strands that reach down, but if you feel you are able to get most of it out, make a decision as the fermentation progresses. Some toss anything with a hint of mold and others are much more relaxed about it. Rely upon your nose.

  96. Just finished fermenting and there wasn’t much brine in jar and it was dry and tasted so so. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  97. First time using a mason jar (I have a crock) – I put in some of the extra which wouldn’t fit in the crock. The sauerkraut in top part of both jars has turned brown (after 2 weeks). Occasionally in the beginning it was out of the brine, and I didn’t keep the tops covered tightly due to me misunderstanding directions elsewhere.

    HELP!

    Is it safe to eat or should we toss out some or all of it?

    • Hello, Browning is either from air exposure or from fermenting at too warm of a temperature. Not the end of the world.

      You can toss just the brown stuff or eat it. It may not taste as good as the non-browned kraut and is supposedly lower it nutrition.

  98. I made sauerkraut last fall. I used a 10 gallon crock and aged it for 3 weeks then canned it in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Just noticed some of the jars are turning brown. Are they ok and what did I do wrong? Just wondered if they are ok to eat and why only some of them would discolor.

    • Hello Bernice, I’m not experienced with canning so I don’t have an answer for the discoloring.

      I naturally ferment my sauerkraut – no vinegar, just salt – and then store it in the fridge, where it remains rich in gut-healing, good-for-you probiotics. If fermented sauerkraut browns, it’s usually due to not enough salt or fermenting at too warm of temperatures.

  99. Hello Holly. A couple quick questions. I had my second batch of sauerkraut going for about 12 weeks. It is a little too hot here I think for fermenting in the summer. I live in Mexico so temps are in the 90s. I made a batch of kraut in the winter and it was great. I am using a water seal fermentation crock and the water seal apparently at some point went dry, when I opened the crock the Kraut looks great and smells wonderful. However I think because of the dry seal some small little insects are around the top of the crock under the lid. Any tips for keeping insects away in hotter climates?

  100. Hi, all. I’ve been experimenting with different pre-shredded cabbages and slaws – I’m now on to the $2 bag of Sams Club Coleslaw (soak/rehydrate 30-60 minutes and spin/drain before adding your 2% salt by weight). I found that since there is both green and red cabbage as well as carrots it takes longer to ferment…

    I’ve had this last batch fermenting since March (it’s now July). How long is too long? Before you answer, my folks remember their parents fermenting “all winter and until they finished it.” Is the old-timers’ wisdom from the 1930s OK and can it go bad (I check/scrape any floating molds weekly, too)?

    Thanks in advance!

  101. Hi, all. I’ve been experimenting with different pre-shredded cabbages and slaws – I’m now on to the $2 bag of Sams Club Coleslaw (soak/rehydrate 30-60 minutes and spin/drain before adding your 2% salt by weight). I found that since there is both green and red cabbage as well as carrots it takes longer to ferment… Pic shows (bottom/right. to top/right, to left side): a few bits of mold we scrape; after scraped and walls are clean, stir; stone weights re-added.

    I’ve had this last batch fermenting since March (it’s now July). How long is too long? Before you answer, my folks remember their parents fermenting “all winter and until they finished the barrel.” Is the old-timers’ wisdom from the 1930s OK and can it go bad (I check/scrape any floating molds weekly, too)?

    Thanks in advance!

  102. Holly,
    1. I’m making another batch of sauerkraut (red cabbage, carrot, jalapeno, habanero–it’s got about a week left), and I may have a problem.

    I stuffed the veggies into five (glass) jars, and everything seems to have been going fine except for one thing: I’d decided to see what would happen if I reused one of the old (glass) jars without washing it out (so that there could be “mature” organisms to munch on the new veggies) and it is the only one that I don’t see foam on today (not that it never bubbled–it had to since I see streaks on its outside indicating it released liquid earlier in the process–but that it doesn’t have foam as the other four do).
    The thing that is bugging me is that (had I really thought things through I think I would have remembered this and would probably not have reused that jar) I ate out of that jar with a fork, which would mean that I’d introduced some of the bacteria in my mouth into it, and, even though I know the salt should kill bad bacteria, I’m just wondering about this situation and would like your input.

    2. I’ve tried to make natto 10 times and succeeded only twice. LOL It is just too easy for that stuff to get contaminated.

    3. I’ve begun making kombucha–it’s really easy like sauerkraut.

    • 1. GREAT things often happen when one ventures outside the norm and experiments. I always eat out of my jars… Wait and see. Bubbling can be elusive and you will know by any raunchy smell when you open the jar if your “experiment” was a success… or not. I bet it will taste scrumptious.

      2. No experience with Natto. I do give a few links in this post: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/fermented-foods-ultimate-guide/

      3. Yes, Kombucha is real easy… I also make it, though I’ve been slaking off lately. Fermented Coconut Water – with rinsed milk kefir grains – is even easier. I really do need to do a 10 second video showing how easy it is! https://www.makesauerkraut.com/fermented-coconut-water/

      Do let us know how the “reused” jar worked.

      • 1. It seems like the bubbling phase may have already started and ended (it definitely started at some point–liquid was pushed out of the jar).

        2. I was just sharing about the natto… I’d spent a week or more rigging my slow cooker up (long story on why it took so long).

        3. Slaking eh? Slake: to allay (thirst, desire, wrath, etc.) by satisfying. LOL I had water kefir grains but they demanded too much attention (daily). They eventually started giving off a bad odor, and I poured them down the sink. I prefer kombucha–doesn’t require attention and tastes better (I caramelize the sugar to give the bacteria an extra “edge” over the yeast–according to Len Porzio, the yeast is activated by sucrose–and keep the 2 1/2 gal jar at approx 75 degrees for two weeks [however, for the current batch I’m seeing about letting it sit for three weeks–to get more sugar out]).
        You might be interested in knowing that a lot of teas are contaminated with heavy metals (the safest ones are Indian white tea and organic Sri Lankan [Ceylon] Green tea–see the chart at the bottom of this article: http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2013/12/commercially-available-teas-not.html).
        In case you need it, Mercola wrote an article, “The Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detox” (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/06/19/heavy-metal-detoxification.aspx).
        Have you made kombucha using Yerba Mate? It is ridiculously energizing!

        I plant to let you know how the reused jar went–and hope your coconut water kefir video is uploaded soon.

        • 1. All is good… for now:-).
          2. Natto – good tips. I’ll add them to the Fermented Foods Post.
          3. Water Kefir – totally agree. A high-maintenance pet that I don’t enjoy. I’ll look further into the tea. Always so much to learn and stay on top of. Yerba Mate will be tried, however. I’m getting tired of my black tea.
          Kefir Video as soon as possible, but then I’ve never shot video!

          • Please let me know how much you liked the Yerba Mate kombucha. To me, it tastes absolutely fantastical and otherworldly. 🙂

            Tezpur in Assam was recently declared least polluted city in India (http://www.voiceofgreaterassam.com/tezpur-in-assam-is-the-least-polluted-city-in-india-declares-who/). Since it is the ash (pollution) from “dirty” coal-burning plants which is said to be responsible for a lot of the heavy metal contamination in teas, and since Assam is a tea-producing region (I’ve seen some tea from that region being sold for $22/lb.), one would think that this would mean that their teas would be more likely to be lower in heavy metal contaminants. On the other hand, it may be that they, being a tea-producing region, paid someone off in order to be declared “lowest in pollution” in order to allay consumer fears.

  103. I’m making sauerkraut in a crock. All is very clean. Used cabbage, dill, horseradish. Smells good, all under brine, plenty of salt, bubbling away…but brine is brown. Do I toss it or do something to change that color? Great tips and help here! Thanks! Mary mdunn@aos92.org

    • Hi Holly, So it got up into the high 90’s the past few days and the bubbling stopped. I made a sandwich and put a bunch of the sauerkraut on it. It tasted good, crisp, and with a good zing. I bagged up the sauerkraut and froze it. I haven’t decided what to do with the brine but since it’s so brown I think I will toss it. Suggestions?
      Thanks! Mary

      • Mary, I was about to ask if the temps have been warm, which would account for the brown brine. I don’t think the brine is necessarily bad. Try a few sips and if you like it, put it in the fridge and save it for a cooling pick-me-up, just a shot glass size. Else, toss it and aim to ferment in cooler weather or for a shorter time period.

        • Thank you Holly! I tossed the liquid. I just couldn’t get past the color. I’ll try again in cooler weather like you say and maybe with some other ingredients. The horseradish root certainly gave it a bite! Thanks again!

        • Hi Holly, I froze the sauerkraut and chucked most of the liquid. I did keep some out to eat on a veggie hotdog just to see. It tasted fine and I’m still here to tell about it! 🙂 thanks for your help.
          Mary

  104. Hi, Holly–My Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut has fermented in a water-sealed crock for 31 days and has been covered with brine the two times I previously checked it as well as today. It registers as being about 4.5 pH, smells good, tastes good and is nicely crunchy, definitely not slimy. However, the weights and the topper cabbage leaf were covered in a pink layer–not really like mold, more like a layer of rust. None of the cabbage is pink. I’m thinking all is well . . . right? Thanks! Becky

    • Hello Becky, Yes all is well. That “rust” you see is from the carrots, I believe. I’ve had it before, myself. Enjoy your great work and the even greater work of the microbial world!

      • Great! Thanks for your quick response. I have someone who needs a jar of sauerkraut right away. She’s been on a double dose of antibiotics for a week. . . yikes! I really like your website and emails. You have a great blend of providing wonderful information and presenting it in a “shared cup of coffee” manner. : )

        • A “Shared cup of coffee.” What a treasured analogy as I grow this website. It’s much easier to let one’s own personality shine through than trying to duplicate other bloggers. Thanks for the support!

  105. OK I made my krout it is nice and white and crunchy….but its not a bit sour just tastes like cabbage in water….can I fix this??

    • Cabbage in water taste? How long did you ferment it? It may need to go longer to develop the fermented flavor.

      How much salt did you use? If you used too much or just poured brine over the cabbage, that could be the issue.

      At what temp did you ferment? If it was too cold, it would never have fermented.

      Let me know if any of this helps.

  106. Ok I made my kraut and has been sitting for almost 3weeks and there a several jars that now have mold (i think) on the top of the kraut. Does that mean I should trash those jars or is it savaeable?

    • Hello Lisa, Yes – as long as the smell is not obnoxious – the sauerkraut should be just fine. Remove the bits and top layer of the kraut. But, then figure out where you got the mold from to prevent it from growing again in future batches.

  107. Holly, just made a batch of kraut about 6 days ago. By the second day it was farting (so my kids say) through the seal of my crock, I thought awesome. I didn’t noticed till I checked it today that it was no longer bubbling. Upon looking I noticed that the kraut was not thoroughly submerged. So I added some more salt brine mix. Do you think possibly several days of this situation will hurt the fermentation.

    • Hello Matt, “Farting” 🙂 – lovely children! – is generally most active during the first few days. After that, the gas producing bacteria take a rest and then other bacteria take over to produce flavor and lactic acid. All is fine, most likely. The crucial period is the first few days. It’s good you topped it off. Are you using some type of weight to hold everything below the brine?

      • Holly, thanks for the info. I do have two half round stones that came with the crock I use. I was very tempted to just add an additional head to top it off, however I just had a feeling it might not be best. Usually I do have a full crock. I was interrupted in the middle of shredding cabbage and didn’t back to that last head till it was too late. I’ve always wanted to experiment with a spicy jalapeno kraut, so this is my opportunity I guess. Have you ever tried fermenting spinach. I have a climbing type growing like crazy and it occurred to me one day that might be a possibility. Haven’t really come across a recipe that interests me yet. Seems like most of them are incorporated into kimchi.

        • Those interruptions! Life happens. Time to make the spicy jalapeno sauerkraut, I guess.

          Spinach? No, no experience, but according to the Shockey’s and their book Fermented Vegetables, it works. Use gentle hands since the spinach bruises so easily. They added oregane and a bit of lemon juice.

  108. Holly, also wondering if there would be any harm adding another head of cabbage to the batch I already have six days old. There is ample room to add more into the crock.

  109. I’m new to this and followed a fermented french fry recipe. I placed the fries in a salty brine in a big aluminum pot, put a plate on top to keep them submerged, and covered with plastic. After two days, my kitchen started smelling like garbage. Reading this, I wonder if the temperature of my house (76) was the problem. I rinsed the potatoes, and they are soft but smell ok. I’d hate to throw them but don’t want to risk getting sick either. Are they safe to cook?

    • Hello Lena, I’ve yet to ferment potatoes, though seen many recipes. Smelling like garbage is a bit too much for me. Are they suppose to ferment that long? Too warm, like you said.

      Also, you used an aluminum pot. I would worry about leaching aluminum into the brine. Aluminum and copper and non food-grade plastics are generally a big no no. Brine is very acidic.

      • The recipe said 3-4 days. Good point about the aluminum, I should just throw that thing away. It’s the biggest pot I have, so I keep it around for those rare cases when I need something that big. I’ll try next time in the fall, with smaller batches and use glass or stainless steel. Thanks!

  110. Hi Made my sauerkraut in a crock been in two weeks no skum or bubbling . Juice a lite brown color smells ok Covered crock with towel is this ok or do you think spoiled. Never had this problem before used right amount of salt I think and temp under 70 degrees

  111. I am making my kraut in a quart mason jar, using a 4 ounce jelly jar as my weight. I’ve been checking on it every other day or so. Today, I found a small spot of mould inside the jelly jar weight. But the mould is not in the brine or the kraut itself and was not touching the kraut. Should I toss it anyway or would it be okay?

  112. Hello. I’ve made kraut before, but this time I did Three things differently, & in the back of my mind I’m wondering if it’s ok.
    #1. Cabbage was packed in a 5 gallon with weight, lid, & airlock…however there was significant room (1/3) not filled in the vessel…
    #2. I did not measure exactly…and my formulation could be closer to 2 Tbsp salt per 5lbs than 3Tbsp…
    #3. I left the thing in my kitchen for 12 weeks, untouched…

    With all that said, I opened it up today and it looks and smells good (slightly afraid to taste it yet) , there is no pink or brown leaves, no mold or slime. In fact it looks like perfect kraut. I normally can it, but I want to possibly enjoy some of the fermenting goodness and throw some in the fridge too…however I don’t want to wipe out my family by a stupid mistake either.
    Thanks

    • It’s sad we have so much fear around fermentation (but I aim to change that). Yet… we feel perfectly safe eating a can of beans made in a mystery factory…

      1. Excess Room in Crock. Not ideal due to excess air exposure but it did just fine. Ideally, a few inches from the top.

      2. Salt. There is a range in the % that works. Some have gone quite low and been successful.

      3. 12 Weeks. You can ferment for that long just fine. I like a bit of a crunch to my sauerkraut so I don’t ferment at too warm of temps and not for much longer than 6 weeks.

      Sooo… looks and smells good? All was done just. You would know by the smell if it was off. ENJOY!

  113. Great site! I wondered if you could explain why my ferments sometimes have a sour flavour and sometimes a cheesy flavour, even when I’m using the same recipe on the same veg on two different batches. Both are fine, but I much prefer the sour, so would like to be able to make sure that’s what I end up with.

    • Sour vs. cheesy flavour? Usually, a cheesy “odor” indicates spoilage. I’ve never experienced a cheesy “flavour.”

      How are you measuring your salt? If you have the same environment established – as done so by the same salt levels – then the two batches should turn out the same. If your salt numbers are too low, then “bad” bacteria are sometimes able to take hold. That’s my take on it.

  114. Thanks for your info! I have some Kraut on the go (it’s been fermenting 5 days) that is foaming/bubbling on the top and the liquid under weight is a bit brownish, and the kraut right at the top is starting to go brownish. it looks a bit suspect. is this ok? I haven’t tasted it yet.