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Recently I started a batch of sauerkraut, the first after several years. Unlike my previous batches this one is much smaller (half a head of cabbage, as opposed to several full heads), uses Morton's Kosher salt as opposed to sea salt, and fermentation was started in a large bowl as opposed to a crock.

Today I received a new crock, and transferred the batch from the bowl into the crock. The sauerkraut is about 72 hours old, and seems to be progresssing and expected--however as I transferred the kraut I noticed that the brine appeared slimy as it dripped. Aside from it's appearance when dripping it seems normal (I tasted a small amount, it smells like it should, and when the brine is standing still it appears normal. I also ran some of the extra brine through my fingers and it didn't feel slimy).

I'm curious if this is normal--perhaps either because the the kraut is relatively young (at only 3 days), or perhaps because of using "plain" kosher salt which may have additives such as anti-caking agents. Or perhaps it is perfectly normal and I've just never noticed it before, as I've never transferred a batch between vessels before.

  • just to clarify, the only thing that appeared strange was the manner in which the brine dripped--so perhaps it is normal and I've never noticed, or is typical when using "plain" salt – STW Feb 23 '12 at 1:26
  • Kosher salt has no additives -- that's it's main feature compared to table salt (that and texture). – Josh Caswell Feb 25 '12 at 22:18
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    That's not true. "Morton kosher salt is made by rolling salt crystals into large flakes, and contains an anti-caking agent (yellow prussiate of soda, AKA sodium ferrocyanide)" goodfoodstories.com/2012/10/29/kosher-salt – derivative May 5 '14 at 13:53
  • So, did the slime clear away in the end? Did you eat it? – Owen_R Dec 11 '15 at 20:09
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In general, slimy brine is indicative of a fermentation problem. Your brine might be too weak (what concentration did you use?), it may be too warm, your brine might not cover the vegetables, there might be some air bubbles trapped in your ferment.

This article suggests that in the early days of sauerkraut fermentation, the concentration of slime forming bacteria - Leuconostoc - is relatively high and towards the end of fermentation it's too small to measure. It doesn't say anything about slimy brine, but it's possible that the brine is temporarily slimy in the early days of fermentation and as the acidity increases it dissipates. I've never checked a ferment this early, so I can't comment on it.

Personally, I would let it continue to ferment for a week or two and then see whether the perceived sliminess has dissipated or increased. It's possible that it's too early to tell. Slimy vegetables, without a doubt, should be discarded.

References

  • There is a discussion of slimy ferments here picklemetoo.com/2013/11/12/thick-brine - several of the comments talk about it going away after a while. "While Ln. mesenteroides can definitely produce slimy dextrans when fermenting high-sugar vegetables, other LAB are capable of breaking down those dextrans for food – if given a chance." – Joe Corneli Aug 8 '17 at 19:59
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After my 4th batch, I noticed the same thing: the kraut itself is crispy and tasty, but the liquid is like okra, mucilaginous. My problem with this batch of 3 quarts (mason jars with airlocks on each) was the brine covered the kraut, but when the cabbage floated upwards in the jar, the brine did not fully cover the kraut any longer, but I didn't catch it until 2 weeks into the 4 week process. It began fermenting, pushed brine out of the airlocks, but somehow pushed too much out and when it settled down, there was not enough. I opened the jars, took off the top layer which was orange/beige, added 3% brine to cover and replaced the airlocks. No further bubbling occurred. When I opened it again 2 weeks later, everything was still under the new brine, smelled great, tasted great, and I refrigerated it. I only noticed it a week later when we opened the jar again. Also, I did not use the outer cabbage leaf to cover the kraut in the jar, which held down the kraut better in my first batch. We have been eating the kraut, no stomach problems, no bad flavors, actually enjoying the flavor. Hope this helps.

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I got a viscous slimey sauerkraut brine in a quart size mason jar batch. It's at the 10 day point in fermenting and it is on the heavier salted side (2 tablespoons of seasalt). It's been fermenting at approx. 68 degrees f., and still bubbling a tiny bit. Whereas the lighter salted jars has no more bubbling and no viscous slime. I think it''s because of it being more salted; contrary to one commenter''s conclusion that it would be because of not enough salt. No that's not it, it doesn't happen to my very very lightly salted batches. Anyway I just put more water in it, make sure the cabbage is covered, I'm sure in another week or two it will be just fine.

  • This is not a helpful answer to the OP. Maybe in two weeks time you have a proper one? – user34961 Sep 12 '17 at 7:37
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I've made about 10 batches of sauerkraut in past year in a Harsch crock, and the latest turned a little slimy. I've been reading about it online a bunch. I haven't found any clear answers, but the best I've found is that sliminess seems to come from having too much oxygen in the process. This would match my experience in this last batch because I forgot to put water in the water trap for the first couple of hours of fermentation.

  • Thiw does not indicate whether it is "ok" or or not--especially in the sense of safety. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 15 '14 at 17:45
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I recently made a batch of kimchi and had the same experience - slimy looking brine. That said, I had added red pepper slices (which was new for me).

The kimchi tasted normal and I ate it and experienced no ill-effects.

I say it's good. IANADr

Edited to add: Here's a link to a dealing with fermented food that may have problems. It doesn't directly address the slimy water, but could be valuable.

  • thanks for the feedback. If you've made this same recipe before, do you know of any variables that may have contributed to it? – STW Feb 29 '12 at 20:14
  • The variation was the addition of red bell pepper - and a not-insignificant amount. – Trey Jackson Feb 29 '12 at 21:25
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    It turned out fine, it seems to have lost the obseved "slimy" appearance, so perhaps it's normal in "young" kraut – STW Mar 12 '12 at 13:29
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    Despite being accepted, this is not a good answer. Just because the dog hasn't bitten you yet doesn't mean it won't. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 15 '14 at 17:44
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This is a really tough call since there are so many posts out there that say NEVER eat slimy ferment. Most say nothing more, many say it's due to too little salt. I cannot believe the problem one comment mentioned by leaving the air lock open for merely a few hours was the problem. Air resides within the jar for many hours or days in every ferment, until at least enough CO2 is produced to dilute it or push the O2 through the airlock.

I recently made a 4 lb organic store bought green cabbage ferment, and the slime after one week (with some overflow through the air lock) is incredible. It pours but is nearly like Ghost Busters Slime. It tasted and measured VERY acidic (pH 3.9 or less), it also tasted very salty. The cabbage was kneaded for over five minutes so the salt was clearly spread throughout. Carrot slices were also added, as well as a bay leaf, some black tea and caraway seeds. The ferment was packed tighter than usual, and even more salt was added in the brine used to top it off.

Oh, did I not mention? I added a good 1/3 cup of pour-off from a commercial batch of Bubbies Pickles. Hee hee. Maybe THAT was the problem.

Anywho, I'm still alive, but haven't been feeling well, so I'm throwing the batch out. For me, however, not feeling well may have more to do with eating too much fermented matter, which seems to create a bad reaction no matter what the ferment is. A little more often and less is better for me. Too much may touch off an immune reaction and slight temperature.

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