The sauerkraut did not go off well, however. First, it didn't seem to be completely fermented, even though it had stopped bubbling and had been held at anywhere from sixty-eight to seventy-four degrees for four weeks. On the plus side though, there was no mold. Just no sour, either. I also learned that I don't like it fermented with extra stuff in it. Per the instructions for weinkraut, we also added a (very) few juniper berries, some caraway seeds, and a bay leaf. I think things would have been okay with everything but the caraway seed- I just didn't like how it smelled. Next time I try this, I'm sticking to straight sauerkraut, too. No weinkraut. I'm also not doing it with cabbage I've poured my heart and soul into trying to rear. I'll buy a few organic cabbages this fall and try it again.
Since it wasn't sour enough, I ladled the remainder of the pickling liquid (water, salt, vinegar, and a wee bit of sugar) into each of the jars and processed the first seven. Then it dawned on me that maybe they still weren't acid enough and maybe I needed to process them in my pressure canner. After a thorough search high and low for the instructions that came with the canner, I discovered that they indicate that sauerkraut should be canned in a boiling water bath, not a pressure canner. This was after I had Steve go to the trouble of digging out my pressure canner, of course. I'm worried about the kraut not being acid enough to be safe, but the pressure canner instructions say not to use the pressure canner for sauerkraut. It's two o'clock in the afternoon and I've been canning since six this morning. Now what the hell do I do?
I call the Food Sciences and Technology extension at Oregon State University, that's what I do. Their Food Safety Expert is on sabbatical. Just between you and me, what the hell is the Food Safety Expert doing on sabbatical during canning season, I'd like to know. The woman on the other end directs me to the extension for my county, which is Clackamas. I tell her I only have the Master Gardener's information. She gives me a number. I call it. It's a fax number. Somewhat deafened by the high pitched whine, I call her back to get the real number, which she gives to me. I call it. They can't answer my question and suggest that I call the Food Preservation Safety Hotline and they give me the number for that. I call that and I finally get to talk to someone who knows what to tell me to do.
Which I do, but not until after I've poured sauerkraut juice into my Birkenstocks and all over the front of the cabinet and the floor.
Did I also mention that I finally got around to calling the State of Oregon Employment Department today and after a very long wait on the phone, I found out that I qualify for extended benefits, but since I haven't looked for work this week yet and she can't reopen my claim for the future, I'll have to call back next week and go through it all over again.
It's been a helluva day.