My first ferment moved into the eating stage today, after just five days in the crock. That’s on the early end of the fermenting window, and I did wonder if I was jumping the gun, but I was curious, so I took off the weights. This is what I saw: a lot more brine that I started with. I had read that there might be mold and strong, off-putting odors, but I found neither.
The experts said to let taste guide you at every stage, so I stuck in my fork. It was more salty than sour, and the bigger chunks of cabbage were still quite firm. I could still taste carrot in the carrots.
Since we’re dealing with bacteria and a process that seems to resemble spoilage, even though it’s actually a form of preservation, I wondered whether I had made the kind of mistake that might cause sickness. It didn’t look or smell like I had; in fact, USDA microbiologist Fred Breidt says he’s never heard of sauerkraut making anybody sick.
“Risky is not a word I would use to describe vegetable fermentation,” Breidt said. “It’s one of the oldest and safest technologies we have.”
But the only way to tell for sure was to eat, so I did, quite a bit. Then I packed three jars and put one in a bag for the friend who got me started in this. I told her not to sample my work until my own stomach determined whether things had gone according to plan. That was four hours ago, and I’m hungry for more, so I guess all is well.
I’m inclined to sit down with a whole bowlful of this curtido, but the experts say to start with about two bites of ferment a day and slowly work your way up to two or three bites with every meal, so I’ll try not to over do it.
Next up: lemon dill sauerkraut, which is reputed to be something of a gateway drug. I’m planning to get hooked on that and then move up to the hard stuff. See you in rehab.