Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

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apochronaut
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Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#1 Post by apochronaut » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:27 pm

One of my customers got tired of buying sauerkraut and decided to make his own. That was about 3 months ago and last week he asked me to tell him what went wrong.
The answer was; just about everything. 40 lbs. of cabbage. It is pretty close to being a biological weapon.
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Just about as much yeast as bacteria and very little evidence of the bacterial species that should be there. 40X dark phase planachro. Field is about 450 um across
Just about as much yeast as bacteria and very little evidence of the bacterial species that should be there. 40X dark phase planachro. Field is about 450 um across
DSC02997 (1024x542).jpg (217.51 KiB) Viewed 2431 times
Cabbage cells, with yeasts and bacteria.<br /> 100X dark phase planachro. field is about 180 um across
Cabbage cells, with yeasts and bacteria.
100X dark phase planachro. field is about 180 um across
DSC02995 (1024x545).jpg (162.54 KiB) Viewed 2431 times
Nice clutch of some opportunistic yeasts.<br /> 100X dark phase planachro.<br /> 180um across field
Nice clutch of some opportunistic yeasts.
100X dark phase planachro.
180um across field
DSC02996 (1024x539).jpg (152.99 KiB) Viewed 2431 times
Several yeast species . 100X B-Minus M phase achromat.<br /> 180 um across field
Several yeast species . 100X B-Minus M phase achromat.
180 um across field
DSC03001 (1024x540).jpg (150.07 KiB) Viewed 2431 times
A few examples of Leuconostoc Mesenteroides( the little necklace looking colonies) and possible some Lactobacillus Brevis. Most of the biomass is undesirable yeasts and spoilage bacteria. 100X B-Minus M phase achromat. 180 um across field
A few examples of Leuconostoc Mesenteroides( the little necklace looking colonies) and possible some Lactobacillus Brevis. Most of the biomass is undesirable yeasts and spoilage bacteria. 100X B-Minus M phase achromat. 180 um across field
DSC03000 (1024x490).jpg (142.26 KiB) Viewed 2431 times

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Crater Eddie
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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#2 Post by Crater Eddie » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:33 pm

I have tried making sauerkraut a couple of times and failed miserably both times. It sounds easy, but...
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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#3 Post by Hobbyst46 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:22 pm

Informative, nice images.
For reference, how would the fermentation liquer look like when the process proceeds as intended ? no yeasts at all, and a single form of bacteria ?
Incidentally, home-making pickles was common practice in the past. It might be interesting to see what the liquid in that pickle container looks like.
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apochronaut
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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#4 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:30 am

I can post some pictures of a healthy fermenting brine shortly. As part of our farm production we make fermented dill pickles( from an 1880 recipe in an old Canadian cookbook), kim chee, sauerkraut and occasionally fermented young carrots. I'm probably going to attempt Sichuan or alternatively Szechuan pickle this summer. It is basically vegetables, inciuding a healthy percentage of ginger, in a fermenting brine with some spices .The pickling cucumbers are on the edge here, so dills will be in the vat, soon.

The fermenting organisms are on the surface of the vegetables but so are the yeasts. The trick is to provide conditions that favour the growth of the desirable bacteria but limit the development of yeasts and spoilage bacteria.

A healthy ferment should contain around 5 bacterial species, most of them from what I have seen, quite small. Leuconostoc Mesenteroides, Pediococcus Pentosaceus and Lactobacillus Brevis are some of them. The huge elongated chains of bacteria in the spoiled batch above are strange and no doubt putrefactive. Opportunistic yeasts are inevitable but as long as the population is low, they are inconsequential. They can become a deleterious factor mainly with too frequent examination of the process, allowing volumes of air into the fermentation cap. Like wine , the best policy is not to disturb the ferment until you have to; when something needs to be done. The CO2 from the fermentation is a precious ally and if possible should be kept on the top of the fermentation cap as long as possible. A cartoon of the process would show snarling yeasts, gnashing their toothed pores and juggling their spores, hanging over the edge of the vat in anticipation, just waiting for the chance to dive into the pickle pool and crash the party.....that's what they actually call it in Sichuan pickle production; the pickle pool.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#5 Post by MicroBob » Thu Jul 25, 2019 7:53 am

Hi Phil,

very interesting to see microscopy in such a practical application.
My parents in law had a small farm and made Sauerkraut themselves. My wifes job as a teenager was to stomp it with her bare feet.
Maybe this was the missing ingredient that led to the failure of the Sauerkraut you tested! :lol:

Bob

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#6 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:49 am

Thanks Apochronaut for the clear and comprehensive explanation.
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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#7 Post by Sauerkraut » Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:56 pm

Making sauerkraut is what recently got me back into using my microscope. And I too have had the experience of sauerkraut gone wrong, namely, a mushy mess. Glad to see my conclusion (yeast overgrowth, and also some coccus bacteria) is in alignment with thoughts in this thread. I like this paper with demonstrated the succession of microbes:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5977097/

It's interesting that Apochronaut suggests leaving the CO2 gas in the brew as long as possible. Online sources recommend compressing the cabbage almost daily to release the gas bubbles. Perhaps that is incorrect and I'll try a batch with a 'hands off' policy.

A few things to note to aid in successful fermentation is that the cabbage must be completely covered in brine. Anything exposed to the air will rot so use glass weights or some other means of keeping it under the brine. And also the salt concentration used is supposedly critical. The most serious makers use a scale to measure out salt to cabbage ratios. I just fudge it - about 2 to 2.5 tsp of salt per head of organic cabbage. Taste testing helps - salty but not too salty. Use sea salt, not iodized salt. Don't add water to your mix - keep mashing the cabbage until you have enough natural brine for the fermentation. I use airlocks so the pressure doesn't build up and keep the jars in a cooler room not exposed to direct sunlight. Most often mine comes out decent though I think it ferments nicer in the wintertime when the house is a bit cooler.

I cannot say enough good things about probiotics for gut and overall health. Friendly microbes are grossly underrated. Ironically enough, I am due to make a batch of sauerkraut this morning and should probably go do that right now.

Heather

apochronaut
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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#8 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:57 pm

The person in question who managed to orchestrate that particular lot of rot, pretty much ignored my advice and went out and bought a huge German fermentor, himalayan salt, a mandolin and probably even a pair of lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat for all know. It was kind of like blindfolding someone and sending them down a mountain road in a brand new Porsche. I thought he should start with the sauerkraut version of a Trabant. My suggestion had been to make a 5 lb. batch in a large glass jar to start with and move up from there.

After the crash came, he thought he had used too much salt because " Himalayan salt is strong stuff." Huh?. Strong salt? How can a salt which contains mineral inclusions be stronger than a crystal salt?

Unfortunately now, he has preloaded his crock with a lot of nasty inhabitants; not an impossible chore to rectify but I am thinking he might be in for a few more trips to the body shop before he masters that mountain road.

The best recommendation for salt concentration I have found , as a general rule, is 5% but that's the way I do things; techniques usually settle on a workable formula eventually, not a theoretical one.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#9 Post by Sauerkraut » Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:09 pm

apochronaut wrote:The person in question who managed to orchestrate that particular lot of rot, pretty much ignored my advice and went out and bought a huge German fermentor, himalayan salt, a mandolin and probably even a pair of lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat for all know.
That is so funny. Well, I like their enthusiasm at any rate.

I would love a few quick pointers on optimizing brine for fermented pickles - I just started my first ever batch from home-grown pickling cucumbers and they don't look right.

Also fun and easy to make are yogurt and sparkling cider out of apple juice and Saccharomyces boulardii (a good, temporal yeast for the gut, though know to make a person burpy). Or let it ferment longer for that hard cider bite.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#10 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:07 pm

Sauerkraut wrote:
apochronaut wrote:The person in question who managed to orchestrate that particular lot of rot, pretty much ignored my advice and went out and bought a huge German fermentor, himalayan salt, a mandolin and probably even a pair of lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat for all know.
That is so funny. Well, I like their enthusiasm at any rate.

I would love a few quick pointers on optimizing brine for fermented pickles - I just started my first ever batch from home-grown pickling cucumbers and they don't look right.

Also fun and easy to make are yogurt and sparkling cider out of apple juice and Saccharomyces boulardii (a good, temporal yeast for the gut, though know to make a person burpy). Or let it ferment longer for that hard cider bite.

I will p.m. you the old dill recipe and the method I use for kim chi, which can be adapted to sauerkraut.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#11 Post by Sauerkraut » Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:13 pm

Many thanks, Apochronaut.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#12 Post by ImperatorRex » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:41 pm

Helmut Thaler in Mikrokosmos, 68. Jahrgang, 1979, Page 237: Translated from German:

The technique of sauerkraut production is basically no different today than it was in the household one hundred and more years ago, even though this product has been produced on a large-scale industrial scale for decades (Schormüller 1966, Pederson 1960). The white cabbage heads are cut in the autumn in pieces of 0.75-1.4 mm width and pulped in layers in containers. Salt is then sprinkled on such a layer and the next layer of cabbage schnitzel is introduced. The amount of salt should be at least 1.5% by weight but not more than 2.5% by weight. If the barrel or the container is filled, put on a lid. which rests on the surface of the herb. He is still weighted with weights. Everything else will happen by itself, provided that. that the conditions are met, that the right course of the Fermentation processes are necessary. On the one hand there is the already mentioned salt concentration, on the other hand it is the temperature (20-25 ° C) and the pressure, with which the pieces were pulped and held down. Now the following happens: By cutting the cabbage heads about 5-10% of the cells of the leaves have been cut, whose cell sap expires. In it, the salt dissolves, initially a relatively strong salt solution is formed. It extracts water from the still undamaged and living cells of the schnitzel by osmosis. It enters into plasmolysis of the cell body, which dies quickly, further releases water to the salt solution and together with this low molecular weight substances such as sugar. Amino acids, minerals etc that are nutrients for bacteria. The chips are softened as their internal cell pressure, the turgor, subsides. They are therefore compressed even more by the lying on the lid of the container or container weights. After a short time, the now diluted saline solution fills all the cavities between the chips and stands over this and the lid. The mass should, if possible, contain no air bubbles. Now in the liquid begins the lactic acid fermentation, in which several types of lactic acid bacteria are involved, which come successively to the development (Schormüller 1966 Rehm 1967).

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#13 Post by apochronaut » Sat Jul 27, 2019 3:40 am

he makes a special mention of the fact that no air bubbles should be present. Also , sauerkraut( the person) mentioned that internet sources had recommended purging the air compressing the cabbage down.

I can agree that purging the air once by initially stirring and compressing is a good idea but air is such an enemy of the mid period in a lacto fermention of vegetables that my experience has led me to the conclusion that the gas will escape of it's own accord and that disturbance, will introduce air. CO2 is heavier than oxygen and will keep a protective layer for about a week or more, so keeping the vegetables under the brine and not disturbing them until the fermentation is starting to head towards completion will go a long way towards getting the ph down to the point where the system is self protective.

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Re: Sauerkraut for a mycologist.

#14 Post by ImperatorRex » Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:02 am

I found the following also interesting:
Various molds, like milk mold (Oospora lactis) can make use of lactic acid as a source of food. In order to deplete the lactic acid they need much air, so they come only on the surface of the Sauerkraut to development.
With the decrease of the lactic acid a development possibility for the putrefactive bacteria is again created. Thus it is not uncommon to find that the uppermost layers of a cabbage barrel are strongly discolored and greasy, at the same time giving off a disgusting smell of putrefaction which renders them inedible. The underlying layers of Sauerkraut, protected from the entry of the air, are still good and tasty. (Translated from German: H, Thaler, Microbiology of the Sauerkraut, Mikrokosmos, Jahrgang 31, 1937)

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