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Thread: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

  1. #1
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    Default Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    I just made my first, very small batch of fermented cabbage. I'll give you all the pertinent details I can think of, but first the question. It has a strange, chemical-like smell, reminiscent of one of those black pot-handles when it's too close to the fire. Can anybody think of why that might be? I used:

    -Organic cabbage
    -Salt, about 3/4 tblspn, maybe a bit more, trying to make it proportionate to a recipe that said 3 tblspns for 5 lbs. cabbage
    -Some dill seeds
    -I massaged the cut cabbage, etc.

    I put it in a glass bowl with a glass plate over it that almost completely covered it. Put a jar of water over that for weight. Covered with clean cloth. After about 24 hours, I saw that it hadn't released quite enough liquid on its own, so I added a wee bit of filtered water. Messed with it (stirring, pressing down with plate, etc.) several times during first couple of days.

    I let it sit for about 5 days, don't remember exactly how long, but less than a week.

    Today I took it out of the bowl. The cabbage in the little area around the edges of the covering plate was brownish, so I discarded that and a bit extra from the vicinity too, just to be on the safe side. I figured that was oxidation. Oh--and there seemed to be one bit that had mold on it. Then I noticed the smell. I took a bite and it didn't taste too bad, but I think I may have noticed an aftertaste a while later--more specifically, a bit of slight burning in my throat.

    Could it somehow be the dill seed? It seems okay on its own, though a bit old. Is the water supposed to just cover the cabbage, or it the covering plate supposed to be submerged too? I couldn't find a consensus on this in the different sets of instructions I read. What could be causing the smell?

    It's in my fridge right now, as I want to see what it's like a bit later, but I'm pretty leery of it.

    Thanks, and sorry this is so long!

  2. #2
    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    Hmm. That seems really odd, though I can't guess what could be the cause of it. Yes, plate and all should be submerged. The fact that it burns your throat is a bit disturbing, but if it hasn't made you sick, maybe it's ok...although if it has an off-flavor, I'd be inclined to discard it. Did you use kosher or sea salt? That's the only variable I can think of....

    How I do mine: shred cabbage, mix with kosher salt, press firmly into pint canning jars (I don't "pound" it). Cover with well water to within 1/2" of top. Screw covers on. Put in cool place; set on a pan with edges as it sometimes bubbles over. Forget about it for a few weeks. Remember it, open a jar, sweet & tangy & yummy!
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    Veteran Member mellowsong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    Patty, I would discard it. I have no clue what the smell might be except maybe the dill seeds. I happen to be extremely paranoid of mold. I'll admit I use water kefir as a starter. Doing it that way, I've never had mold and it stays bright and crunchy. I don't trust just using salt in this climate.

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    Veteran Member Aaltrude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    The first time I tried fermenting cabbage, I also did it in a large bowl with a plate and a weight on top of that. It was not successful. I have since tried it in canning jars using a smaller diameter jar filled with water as a weight. I do pound it before starting and I find that within 24 hours it is covered in its own juice. This method is working a lot better than using a bowl. At this stage, I have only used red cabbage, green cabbage and grated carrot. I have not added any herbs or spices. I will make sure I am consistently getting good results before I start experimenting with other veges, herbs or spices (except perhaps for adding some onion in the next jar).

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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    Thanks so much, everybody. I agree--I'm going to throw it out. It still simply doesn't smell right. Our noses are above our mouths for a reason.

    The salt I used is supposedly sea salt from our organic coop (I don't really understand the concept of organic sea salt) but we've been leery of it, too, as it seems a bit dirty. Just yesterday my husband got some other salt, so that's one thing I'll do differently next time. Also, I'll skip the dill seeds. And maybe I went overboard when I decided a day or two into it to go at it with the edge of a bamboo spatula whose home is in a decorative cup on the counter. Maybe that spatula was dusty. Well, almost for sure it was dusty, because we always have our windows and balcony door open and our area is incredibly dusty. Hope it works better next time.

    Thanks again for your helpful advice.

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    Veteran Member Aaltrude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    The salt I use is Redmond's Real Salt.
    http://www.realsalt.com/

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    Default Re: Why does my fermented cabbage have a chemical-like smell?

    Thanks, Aaltrude. Expensive to ship things here, though. Oh, and another mistake I made, I think, was not add enough water on day 2 when the cabbage didn't release enough of its own juice.

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