You've come home, excited and with wild anticipation of what's been occurring in the kitchen. You throw your coat on the chair and run in with the zest of a child on Christmas day.
But you're disappointed, not because the present you put right up the top of your list hasn't made it's way from Santa's grotto at the North Pole. No, it's much more serious than that!
That batch of fermented, live sauerkraut is not bubbling. It should be. Those lactobacillus bacteria should be earning their keep and turning that raw cabbage into a super nutritious, fermented delicacy for you to devour.
So, what's going on? Does this mean that you'r new batch of kraut is only fit for the rubbish bin? Nooooo!!! It's been in the fermentation crock in the counter top for weeks, you've looked after it as if it were an orphaned rabbit. Surely that's not 'game over'?
No, it's not. Things are probably fine, let's examine the problem and try to come to a rational conclusion, hopefully one that allows you to relax and enjoy the process of naturally fermenting foods.
No Bubbles From Your Sauerkraut - Should You Panic?
Many people get really concerned about this, and end up obsessed with the bubbles, or lack thereof, and come to the conclusion that their sauerkraut is not fermenting. While it is certainly true that the lacto-fermentation process does produce carbon dioxide, and at some time during the process, you may see bubbles emerging, they are not always obvious. With less finely sliced vegetables, gas often isn't trapped and you won't see it.
Fermenting Sauerkraut Troubleshooting
When you are making sauerkraut the vigorous bubbling may only last a matter or 2-3 days (up to a week) when the bacteria are at their busiest, devouring all those sweet sugars from your cabbage. The process can slow to a pace that is just not obvious to the naked eye, but you can be sure that fermentation is still going on, even if you can't see it.
Stage 1 Is Usually Vigorous
Stage 1 of fermenting is often a rip-roaring experience, especially if the ambient temperature is warm. It's definitely worth taking into account the current temperature in your home. Is it the middle of summer? It your kraut too near to a heat source, taking it well above the ideal 65-72 deg F that is ideal?
Too Hot Or Too Cool?
It is certainly possible to leave your sauerkraut to ripen to death when the temperature is really warm, and not notice it unless you are tasting regularly. Even a day or two can take it from crisp and sour to slimy and foul-smelling.
Too cool a temperature will slow fermentation in it's tracks. Anything below 45 deg F and it practically stops. Winter fermentation will not be as lively or noticeable as summer time if you store it in a really cool place. Read this article on how the fermentation process works to get a deeper understanding.
Too Much Salt Will Slow Fermentation
Too much salt can also slow down the fermentation process, as can too cool a temperature. Does your kraut taste over salty? If so, you may have overdone it. I like to aim for a ballpark figure of 1 tablespoon of salt to each 2 lb of raw cabbage. It works as a good starting point which you can tweak to your taste as you become more confident.
So, as long as your sauerkraut tastes ok, doesn't smell horrid, is still covered in brine and isn't slimy or covered in fuzzy mold, you are probably fine and it's still good to eat. The fermentation process will likely have slowed if it's been sitting their for a while.
So, panic not! Bubbles aren't everything. Temperature, salt content, fermentation time, these all contribute to whether you will see bubbles in your sauerkraut.
A good eye, keen taste buds and some basic evaluating will give you your answer.
Now Get Fermenting!
Recommended Fermenting Accessories
Here are a few cool things that you might want to consider if you decide to start fermenting. I love my cabbage pounder and also have a shredder similar to the one below. I've used a knife for a long time, but the shredder speeds the process.
Himalayan salt is the best in my view, check out my article on the best type of salt for fermenting if you'd like to learn more.