I'd appreciate any observations on this from folks familiar with the biochemistry of food, particularly re fermentation, and of course, anyone who has experience pickling vegetables with brine (as opposed to vinegar).
I made a batch of pickled cucumbers, except that I used cabbage instead of cucumbers. I quartered a cabbage, wrapped it in cheesecloth w/ some spices, put it in a 5 gallon food container, weighted it down, poured brine over it, let it sit in the basement for about 6 weeks.
As you might guess, the top of the brine was really disgusting, reddish, with a kind of slimy quality. It didn't smell bad, however.
The cabbage tasted pretty good--obviously, this is a *form* of sauerkraut, but not quite as sour as the garbage you get in the supermarket. I had some about 5 or 6 hours ago and I'll still feeling OK.
My guess is that the slime at the top is some kind of top-fermenmting organism. I'm not too worried about contaminating the cabbage, since I carefully removed the top layer, then diluted the brine with water, then removed it a cup at a time, till it was clear. THEN I poured it off and removed the cabbage. The point of this was that I did not want the cabbage to have contact with the top layer.