For those who are interested in pickled vegetables, particularly sauerkraut, here is a report about a batch of stuff I made that I'll call pseudo-sauerkraut, or perhaps quasi-sauerkraut. The reasons for this name will become clear in a moment. I'm interested in any feedback I can get about this recipe.
About 5 weeks ago I shredded some cabbage and put it into a plastic bucket. I put a piece of cheesecloth over that, and then put a heavy dish over the cheesecloth, to keep the whole thing weighted down. I poured some brine over that, so that the vegetable was covered with maybe 8" of water, covered the pail with a piece of cardboard, and put it away in the basement for 5 weeks.
I opened it today. As I expected, the top looked very nasty--a colony of some kind, blueish in color, that I suspected was a mold colony of some kind; also some patches of another kind of microorganism, white in color. I had predicted to myself that I would get some kind of top fermentation going on, so I was not put off. I spooned off the colony, which came off almost in one connected sheet.
This is the same basic recipe as the one for fermented dilled pickles, except that that recipe uses cucumbers. The classic recipe for sauerkraut seals the fermentation vessel from surrounding air, so as to limit the amount of oxygen that gets to the fermenting product. That's why I call this quasi- or pseudo-sauerkraut.
I poured the remaining liquid off and got to the cabbage. It looks perfectly OK--no off-color, no off-aroma (indeed, no aroma of any kind!), no evidence of any kind of infestation by any microorganism.
It tastes OK, very much like the fresh sauerkraut I tasted years ago, and different from the stuff you get in the supermarket. It's not quite as sour as supermarket kraut, not particularly salty, and also not quite as good as I'd hoped.
I've tried to make "conventional" sauerkraut several times, sealing the product off from the air, but every time, it's gone bad--there has been some kind of mold and/or off-odor (typically, a yeasty aroma).
I'll be doing further experiments to see what happens and how I can influence the taste, e.g. by longer fermentation.
Anyone else here done anything like this?