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Jan 17, 2011 12:55 PM

why does my sauerkraut smell like farts?

other people's homemade kraut is tart and delicious. why does my first batch smell like farts? i know the fermentation process is smelly, but the end product isn't supposed to be. maybe i should have let it ferment longer -- i couldn't wait more than a week. the only other things in there are kosher salt, nigella seeds and mustard seeds. it tastes good but smells so yucky. why why why why why?

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  1. Best. Post. Of. 2011.

    My answer is that's just the way it is.

    1. I'm wondering if another bacteria got in and infected your batch in addition to the good bacteria that ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut. (They are Lactobacillus plantarum, L. brevis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and L. Cucumeris.)

      Any number of undesirable bacteria can infect your batch and cause putrid smells, especially if the lactobacilli don't have a chance to create a highly acidic environment (which keeps the nasty beasties away).

      Did you use an airlock to keep the nasty bacterial beasties out? (Besides providing a way for carbon dioxide to escape.)

      Any red spots or streaks? Or, the same in the color green. Indicates spoilage.

      Saw this thread's title and couldn't resist reading it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: maria lorraine

        thanks maria & firefly!

        what's an airlock? i used a big wide-mouth jar. i weighted the cabbage down with a sterilized glass bottle filled with water -- it fit pretty snugly in the mouth of the jar, but there was a little space around it (like enough to slide a butterknife into). and the cabbage juice didn't come all the way up to the mouth of the jar, so there was some air in there. there was lots of foam from the bubbles that escaped the fermenting kraut, but i didn't see any green or red streaks.

        my friend just uses a plate weighted with a rock on top of her cabbage, and her kraut smells nice. i'm so mad!

        1. re: ramonasaur

          Don't be mad. Making a fermented food often takes several tries before you get it right.
          With the too-low level of liquid (it should have covered all the cabbage and then some), and the air entry, it seems quite probable that your batch was infected with unwanted bacteria (found everywhere) that produce putrid smells. You don't want any outside air to enter the fermentation. Liquid covering the entire batch and an airlock both prevent this.

          Three of the main culprits that infect sauerkraut and cause nasty smells are:
          propionic acid (smells like bad human sweat, and can smell sulfurous like flatulence);
          caproic acid (smells like goats, that's how it got its name); and
          isovaleric acid (also callled methylbutanoic acid], which smells like a stinky locker room or has a rancid, horsey smell.

          An airlock allows gases to escape but no air to enter. You can find them at beer-making supply stores. Get a large plastic container with a very tight-fitting lid, and punch through the lid with the airlock (follow instructions for doing so). Sometimes restaurants discard plastic buckets perfect for making sauerkraut -- see if you can get one.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            I know this is an old topic but you seem to be very wise in the way of sauerkraut...I used my hands to work the salt into the cabbage. I too used jars and a glass filled w/water as a weight and I used a paper coffee filter and a rubber band as an airlock...I cleaned everything thoroughly before I started. I had some gym sock funk on day 3 but now on day 5 the smell is mellowing out a bit. Do you think I'm in the clear or is my kraut spoiled?

            1. re: nj_01

              Wish I could help, but I can't tell from a distance. I don't know if you're on the right track or not. Bear in the mind that the smells of stinky swiss cheese and funky gym socks are the smells of the various lactobacilli that turn cabbage into sauerkraut.

              So, you could be OK. Or not. I have suspicions, perhaps unfounded, about using your hands working in the salt (introduction of competing bacteria) or the coffee filter as a airlock (it's not one). Please seek out sauerkraut makers near you and learn their methods for success. Personally, I'd never make sauerkraut without a true airlock (beer-making supplies store), but that's me. The old-fashioned methods work well, just find someone who has made a lot of sauerkraut in their time.

            2. re: maria lorraine

              What causes the three acids to form?

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. When I buy a jar of sauerkraut I rinse it in a colander and return it to the jar. I refill the jar with vinegar. It lasts for some time in the fridge after doing this and doesn't smell bad.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Antilope

              Spot on!!
              As long as the product looks fresh, I've had good luck with commercial brands in glass jars; anyone hazard the canned stuff?

              1. re: DiveFan

                I have hazarded the canned stuff all my life. I will even eat it from the can with a fork. We always bought and drank kraut juice years ago but I've not seen it in a long time.
                I've made kosher dills that worked fine some years and one time they didn't at all. I'm not sure what the difference was. I would rinse the kraut really well. If I have any doubts about food safety-which is all the time lately- I put it on the stove and boil it or pitch it.

            2. The original comment has been removed