Sauerkraut Fermentation: Process, Microbiology, Defects and Spoilage | Industrial Microbiology (2022)

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In this article we will discuss about the sauerkraut fermentation:- 1. Introduction to Sauerkraut 2. Process for Sauerkraut Fermentation 3. Microbiology of the Sauerkraut Fermentation 4. Defects and Spoilage of Sauerkraut.

Introduction to Sauerkraut:

The use of cabbage (Brassica oleracea) as a food antedates known re­corded history. Sauerkraut, a product resulting from the lactic acid fermen­tation of shredded cabbage, is literally acid (sour) cabbage. The antecedents of sauerkraut differed considerably from that prepared at present. At first the cabbage leaves were dressed with sour wine or vinegar.

Later the cabbage was broken or cut into pieces, packed into containers, and covered with verjuice (the juice expressed from immature apples or grapes), sour wine, or vinegar. Gradually the acid liquids were replaced by salt and a spontaneous fermentation resulted.

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One may speculate that sauerkraut manufacture comparable to the method used today developed during the period of 1550 to 1750 A.D. although cabbage has been known and used commonly for about 4000 years. Those readers particularly interested in the historical evolution of the sauerkraut fermentation should consult Pederson (1960, 1979) and Pederson and Albury (1969).

Originally sauerkraut was made only in the home because it provided a means for utilizing fresh cabbage which otherwise would spoil before it could be used Now the commercial production of sauerkraut has become an important food industry. Even so, a significant quantity is still produced in the home, particularly in rural and suburban areas where home vegetable gardens still exist.

Cabbage varieties best suited for growth in the major production areas are used early, midseason, and late types are grown. Varieties formerly used such as Early Flat Dutch, Late Flat Dutch, Early Jersey Wakefield, and others have been replaced in part by new cultivars which have been bred to be well-adapted to mechanical harvesting and at the same time inherently contain less water, thus reducing the generation of in-plant liquid wastes. Mild-flavored, sweet, solid, white-headed cabbage is the choice as it makes a superior kraut.

Process for Sauerkraut Fermentation:

Properly matured sound heads of cabbage are first trimmed to remove the outer green broken or dirty leaves. The cores are cut mechanically by a reversing corer that leaves the core in the head. Then the cabbage is sliced by power-driven, rotary, adjustable knives into long shreds as fine as 0.16 to 0.08 cm (1/16 to 1/32 inches) in thickness.

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(Video) SAUERKRAUT II FERMENTED VEGETABLES II FERMENTED FOODS II Food MicroBiology

In general, long, finely cut shreds are preferred, but the thickness is determined by the judgment of the manufacturer. The shredded cabbage (known also as slaw) is then conveyed by belts or by carts to the vats or tanks for salting and fermentation.

Salt plays a primary role in the making of sauerkraut and the concen­trations used are carefully controlled. According to the legal standard of identity the concentration of salt must not be less than 2%, nor more than 3%. As a result most producers use a concentration in the range of 2.25 to 2.5% of salt. Salt is required for several reasons.

It extracts water from the shredded cabbage by osmosis, thus forming the fermentation brine It suppresses the growth of some undesirable bacteria which might cause deterioration of the product and, at the same time, makes conditions favorable for the desirable lactic acid bacteria. Salt also contributes to the flavor of the finished sauerkraut by yielding a proper salt-acid ratio (bal­ance) if the cabbage is properly salted.

The use of too little salt causes softening of the tissue and produces a product lacking m flavor. Too much salt interferes with the natural sequence of lactic acid bacteria, delays fermentation and, depending on the amount of over-salting, may produce a product with a sharp, bitter taste, cause darkening of color, or favor growth of pink yeasts.

Uniform distribution of salt throughout the mass of shredded cabbage cannot be overemphasized. In some factories the slaw is weighed on con­veyor belt lines and the desired amount of salt is sprinkled on the shreds by means of a suitable proportioner as it moves along the conveyor to the vat.

In other plants hand-carts are used to carry the shredded cabbage to the vat. Some prefer to salt the weighed cabbage in each cart. Others transport the slaw in carts which are weighed occasionally to check the capacity. The shreds are then dumped into the vat, distributed by forks, and then salted with a specific weight of salt.

The variations of salt concentrations in the brines covering kraut have been thoroughly investigated by Pederson and Albury (1969) and discussed by Pederson (1975, 1979). No mention of recirculation of the brines to gain uniformity in concentration of salt was noted.

It would seem that this method of ensuring uniform salt distribution in sauerkraut brines would be as effective as it is in the olive industry. Only small alterations in tank or vat design would be required to make it possible to completely recirculate the brine, pumping from the bottom and discharging at the surface.

Brine begins to form once the shreds are salted, and the tank is closed once it has been filled to the proper level. Formerly, the slaw was covered with a thick layer of outer leaves and then fitted with a wood cover (head) which was heavily weighted. Within a few hours the brine had formed and the fermentation had started. The head then was fixed in position in much the same manner as with pickle or olive tanks.

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Now, however, a sheet plastic cover is used. This cover is much larger in area than the top of the vat or tank itself. The plastic sheeting is placed firmly against the top of the shredded cabbage with the edges draped over the sides of the container to form an open bag. Then enough water or preferably salt brine is placed in this bag so that the weight of the liquid added forces the cabbage shreds down into the brine until the brine covers the surface of the uppermost shreds. Unless the shreds are completely covered with brine, undesirable discoloration together with undesirable flavor changes will occur. This newer method of covering and weighting provides nearly anaerobic condi­tions, particularly after fermentation becomes acid and quantities of carbon dioxide are produced. Precautions to avoid pin holes or tears in the plastic are mandatory if aerobic yeast growth is to be avoided.

(Video) Fermentative Food Microbiome

With the old method of closure film forming yeasts always were a problem and if the scum was not removed at intervals a yeasty flavor was imparted to the kraut. Pichia membranaefaciens yeast strains, in particular, voraciously oxidize lactic acid contained in salt brines. Other genera also may be involved and besides destroying acid also contribute to yeasty flavor.

By the time the tank or vat is filled with the salted shreds and weighted, brine has formed and fermentation has started in a sequence of bacterial species responsible for the lactic acid fermentation.

Microbiology of the Sauerkraut Fermentation:

Although the lactic acid fermentation was described by Pasteur in 1858 and much work had been done in the intervening years with various lactic bacteria from cabbage and cucumber fermentations, it was not established that a definite sequence of bacterial species of lactic acid bacteria were responsible for the fermentation of either vegetable until 1930 when Peder­son first described the lactic acid bacteria he observed in fermenting sauer­kraut.

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Pederson found that the fermentation was initiated by the species Leuconostoc mesenteroides. This species was followed by gas-forming rods and finally by non-gas-forming rods and cocci. Since 1930 additional studies by Pederson and Albury (1954, 1969) have firmly established the impor­tance of Leuconostoc mesenteroides in initiating the lactic fermentation of sauerkraut.

Also they more closely identified the species and sequence of the other lactic acid bacteria involved. Now it is accepted that the kraut, fermentation is initiated by Leuconostoc mesenteroides, a heterofermentative species, whose early growth is more rapid than other lactic acid bacte­ria and is active over a wide range of temperatures and salt concentrations.

It produces acids and carbon dioxide that rapidly lower the pH, thus inhibit­ing the activity of undesirable microorganisms and enzymes that may soften the shredded cabbage. The carbon dioxide replaces air and creates an anaerobic condition favorable to prevention of oxidation of ascorbic acid and the natural color of the cabbage. Also carbon dioxide stimulates the growth of many lactic acid bacteria. It also may be that this species provides growth factors needed by the more fastidious types found in the fermentation.

While this initial fermentation is developing, the heterofermentative species Lactobacillus brevis and the homofermentative species Lactobacil­lus plantarum and sometimes Pediococcus cerevisiae begin to grow rapidly and contribute to the major end products including lactic acid, carbon dioxide, ethanol, and acetic acid. Minor end products also appear.

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These are a variety of additional volatile compounds produced by the various bacteria responsible for the fermentation, by auto-chemical reactions, or the intrin­sic enzymes of the fermenting cabbage itself. Hrdlicka et al (1967) reported the formation of diacetyl and acetaldehyde, the primary carbonyls formed during cabbage fermentation.

(Video) Sauerkraut

Volatile sulfur compounds are major flavor components of fresh cabbage according to Bailey et al. (1961) and Clapp et al. (1959) and also of sauerkraut. However, according to Lee et al. (1976), the major portion of the volatiles of sauerkraut is accounted for by acetal, isoamyl alcohol, n-hexanol, ethyl lactate, cis-hex-3-ene-l-ol, and allyl isothiocyanate. Of these, only the latter two have been identified as major constituents of fresh cabbage.

These latter authors concluded that although these two compounds define the character of cabbage products (kraut) they do not contribute significantly to the determination of its quality. They further believe that the fresh and fruity odor of such compounds as ethyl butyrate, isoamyl acetate, n-hexyl acetate, and mesityl oxide are probably more important in determining the acceptability of sauerkraut.

Temperature is a controlling factor in the sequence of desirable bacteria in the sauerkraut fermentation at a salt concentration of 2.25%. At the optimum of 18.3°C (65°F) or lower the quality of the sauerkraut is generally superior in flavor, color and ascorbic acid content because the hetero­fermentative lactic acid bacteria exert a greater effect.

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According to Pederson and Albury (1969) an average temperature of about 18°C (65°F) with a salt concentration of 2.25% may be considered normal in the kraut-producing areas of the United States. At (or near) this temperature, fermentation is initiated by Leuconostoc mesenteroides and continued by Lactobacillus brevis and Lactobacillus plantarum, the latter species being most active in the final stages of fermentation.

Under these conditions a final total acidity of 1.7 to 2.3% acid (calculated as lactic acid) is formed, and the ratio of volatile to nonvolatile acid (acetic/lactic) is about 1 to 4. The fermentation is completed in 1 to 2 months, more or less, depending upon the quantity of fermentable materials, concentration of salt, and fluctuations in temperature.

At higher temperatures, as would be expected, they found that the rate of acid production was faster. For example, at 23°C (73.4°F) a brine acidity of 1.0 to 1.5% (calculated as lactic acid) may be observed in 8 to 10 days and the sauerkraut may be completely fermented in about 1 month.

At a still higher temperature of 32°C (89.6°F), the produc­tion of acid generally is very rapid with acid production of 1.8 to 2.0% being obtained in 8 to 10 days. As the temperature increased, they observed a change in the sequence of lactic acid bacteria. First, the growth of Leuco­nostoc mesenteroides was retarded and Lactobacillus brevis and Lactobacil­lus plantarum dominated the fermentation. At higher temperatures the kraut fermentation became essentially a homofermentation dominated by Lactobacillus plantarum and Pediococcus cerevisiae.

As a result, the quality attributes of flavor and aroma deteriorated and the kraut was reminiscent of acidified cabbage because of the large quantity of lactic acid and little acetic acid produced by the homo-fermentative species. They also observed that sauerkraut fermented at higher temperatures would darken readily and, therefore, should be canned as quickly as possible after the fermenta­tion was completed.

(Video) Fermented Products of Soyabean

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An extremely important observation they made was that kraut could be successfully fermented even when started at the low temperature of 7.5°C (45.5°F). Leuconostoc mesenteroides can grow at lower temperatures than the other lactic acid bacteria involved in the fermentation. At this low temperature (7.5°C or 45.5°F) an acidity of 0.4% (as lactic acid) is produced in about 10 days and 0.8 to 0.9% in less than a month.

This amount of acidity coupled with saturation of the mass of kraut and brine with carbon dioxide is sufficient to provide the conditions necessary for preservation and later completion of the fermentation provided that anaerobiosis is maintained throughout the period of latency. When the kraut mass warms enough, the fermentation then is completed by the lactic acid bacteria of the genera Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, known to grow poorly if at all at 7.5°C (45.5°F).

Thus, it may require 6 months or more before the fermentation is completed. Such kraut is generally of superior quality because it remains cool and is not subjected to high temperature during-fermentation. In good commercial practice this variation in temperature permits the processor to maintain a supply of new, completely fermented sauerkraut throughout most of the year.

Precedent for the recommendation by Pederson and Albury that sauer­kraut be fermented at not over 18.3°C (65°F) had already been recorded by Parmele et al. (1927), Marten et al. (1929), and others.

Defects and Spoilage of Sauerkraut:

Abnormalities of sauerkraut, although varied, with few exceptions can be and generally have been avoided by application of scientific knowledge already available to the industry. For example, the simple expedient of providing anaerobiosis has eliminated most of the problems involving dis­coloration (auto-chemical oxidation), loss of acidity caused by growth of, molds and yeasts, off-flavors and odors (yeasty and rancid) caused by exces­sive aerobic growth of molds and yeasts, slimy, softened kraut caused by pectolytic activity of these same molds and yeasts, and pink kraut caused by aerobic growth of asporogenous yeasts, presumably members of the genus Rhodotorula.

Stamer et al. (1973) described the induction of red color in white cabbage juice by L. brevis while studying the effects of pH on the growth rates of the 5 species of lactic acid bacteria commonly associated with the kraut fermen­tation. L. brevis was the only species which produced such color formation in white cabbage juice and did so only when the juice was buffered with either calcium carbonate or sodium hydroxide.

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No color development occur­red when the pH of the juice (3.9) was not adjusted or when the pH of the juice was raised to 5.5 and the juice sterilized by filtration before it was re-incubated. Therefore, red color formation was caused by L. brevis and did not arise as the result of chemical or inherent enzymatic reactions of the juice.

It remains to be seen whether this interesting phenomenon will be ob­served in industrial kraut fermentations. Since color induction by L. brevis was found to be pH dependent it seems unlikely to be found in normal kraut fermentations but could easily result from accidental addition of alkali to the shredded cabbage during salting.

(Video) Lecture 8 Microbiology of fermented food production

Slimy or ropy kraut has been observed for many years. It is generally caused by dextran formation induced by Leuconostoc mesenteroides and is transitory in nature. This species prefers to ferment fructose rather than glucose. Therefore, in the fermentation of sucrose, the fructose is fermented leaving the glucose which interacts to form the slimy, ropy, water-insoluble dextrans.

These vary from an almost solid, gelatinous mass to a ropy slime surrounding the bacterial cells. These variations are easily demonstrated by growing L. mesenteroides in a 10% sucrose solution containing adequate accessory nutrients. The fermenting kraut may become very slimy during the intermediate stage of fermentation but with additional time the dex­trans are utilized by other lactic acid bacteria. Thus, it is imperative to distinguish between dextran induced slimy kraut and permanently slimy kraut caused by pectolytic activity. The former condition certainly is not a defect but should be considered a normal step in a natural progression.

FAQs

What causes most of the spoilage problems affecting sauerkraut? ›

Too much salt interferes with the natural sequence of lactic acid bacteria, delays fermentation and, depending on the amount of over-salting, may produce a product with a sharp, bitter taste, cause darkening of color, or favor growth of pink yeasts.

What is the fermentation process of sauerkraut? ›

Sauerkraut is made by a process of pickling called lactic acid fermentation that is analogous to how traditional (not heat-treated) pickled cucumbers and kimchi are made. The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt, and left to ferment.

Which microorganism is involved in fermentation of sauerkraut? ›

Historically, four species of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have been identified as organisms that are present in sauerkraut fermentations: Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus brevis, Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus plantarum.

What type of microbe could spoil the sauerkraut fermentation process and how could it have entered the fermentation? ›

Overgrowth of the lactobacillus, for example if the jar is stored at too high a temperature during fermentation, can cause the sauerkraut to form the wrong consistency. Likewise if the sauerkraut gets too acidic too early the lactobacillus get in on the action early leading to soft sauerkraut.

Does fermentation cause food spoilage? ›

It's amazing that the three types of microorganisms that preserve food during the fermentation process can also cause spoilage. The good news is that it's fairly easy to keep food from spoiling by knowing which temperature and processing methods to use.

How many strains of bacteria are in sauerkraut? ›

In this regard, sauerkraut may have the advantage. Research has reported that one serving may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains ( 18 ). Like most other fermented foods, sauerkraut contains a variety of enzymes, which help break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules ( 4 ).

What gas is produced during fermentation of sauerkraut? ›

These heterofermentative bacteria are responsible for much of the flavor profile in the sauerkraut. During their metabolic processes these bacteria produce carbon dioxide bubbles that rise and expel any remaining oxygen.

What good bacteria is in sauerkraut? ›

Sauerkraut is delicious, tart, and full of thriving probiotics. During the fermentation process, cabbage is thinly sliced, salted and sealed. Lactobacillus, a beneficial probiotic, grows and thrives in the delicious brine environment.

What pH is sauerkraut? ›

A completely fermented sauerkraut contains 1.8–2.3% acid (calculated as lactic acid) giving a pH of 3.5 or less.

Is there bacteria in sauerkraut? ›

Xiong et al. found that Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc species were the primary bacteria in the fermentation of Chinese sauerkraut, pàocài [20]. Numerous studies have shown that the kimchi bacterial community is dominated by Weisella, Lactobacillus, and Leuconostoc species [21,22,23].

What microbes are responsible for fermentation? ›

In general, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) from several genera, including Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, and Leuconostoc are predominant in fermented foods, but other bacteria as well as yeast and fungi also contribute to food fermentations.

Which microorganisms helpful in fermentation process? ›

Fermented foods are preserved by the production of citric, lactic, or acetic acids by beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Bacillus, and Pseudomonas, yeasts, and fungi that use the food as a substrate for their growth and metabolism.

What is the purpose of fermentation in microbiology? ›

In microorganisms, fermentation is the primary means of producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the degradation of organic nutrients anaerobically. Humans have used fermentation to produce foodstuffs and beverages since the Neolithic age.

How many days does sauerkraut need to ferment? ›

Store the container at 70 to 75°F while fermenting. At these temperatures, sauerkraut will be fully fermented in about three to four weeks; at 60 to 65°F, fermentation may take six weeks. Below 60°F, sauerkraut may not ferment. Above 80°F, sauerkraut may become soft and spoil.

What is the difference between spoilage and fermentation? ›

Unless foodstuffs are specially preserved, bacteria, molds, and yeasts will spontaneously seize the opportunity to digest their sugars, fats, and proteins, creating a wild array of new compounds. When we like the results of the transformation, we call it fermentation; when we don't, we call it rotting.

Why does fermentation prevent food spoilage? ›

To preserve vegetables by fermentation, they are placed in an oxygen-free and salty environment. This environment encourages the growth of lactic acid bacteria, which are bacteria that are good for humans. These bacteria create lactic acid, which prevents bad microorganisms from developing.

What are the risk of fermentation? ›

Biological hazards — bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause foodborne illnesses — are the biggest concerns. Botulism, E. coli and salmonella are the main hazards for fermented foods. Botulism can form in oxygen-free conditions if a fermentation is not successful and acid levels are too low.

What enzymes are in sauerkraut? ›

Like sauerkraut, kimchi is another dish made from fermented vegetables. It's fermented with bacteria of the Bacillus species, which tend to add enzymes, such as proteases, lipases and amylases.

What is the pH of fermented foods? ›

Fermented foods must maintain proper temperature throughout the entire fermentation and reach a pH of 4.6 or less within the allotted time to be considered safe and free from harmful pathogens.

What are the side effects of sauerkraut? ›

Sauerkraut can promote a healthy gut and it's a good source of vitamins.
...
A high intake of sauerkraut may result in some of these symptoms:
  • Diarrhea or flatulence.
  • Headache.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Sneezing, runny nose.
Aug 12, 2019

Why is lactic acid in sauerkraut? ›

This lactic acid gives ferments a sour taste – much like vinegar – and acts as a preservative for your sauerkraut or fermented vegetables. Lactic acid bacteria are present in our soil and therefore found on anything that grows in the earth.

What is the purpose of salt addition during sauerkraut fermentation? ›

In the making of sauerkraut, salt helps “pull” water from the cabbage to make the brine for the cabbage to be fermented in. the Brine is so very important, as lacto-fermentation is anaerobic (without air) so you need to have that cabbage under the brine for it to happen, and not to get a lot of mouldy cabbage instead.

What sauerkraut means? ›

Definition of sauerkraut

: cabbage cut fine and fermented in a brine made of its own juice with salt.

Is sauerkraut alkaline or acid? ›

Sauerkraut is alkaline. What is the pH level of sauerkraut? Sauerkraut has a 10.0 pH level once digested. Fermented vegetables like kimchi are extremely alkaline.

How do you test sauerkraut? ›

At the 7-day mark (5-day if fermenting in a warm environment; 10-day if your home is extra cool), open the jar, pull out the small jar or weight, and smell and taste your sauerkraut. It should start to taste sour and no longer taste like salted cabbage. Its colors should be fading and not bright like fresh cabbage.

Why pH test is necessary after fermentation? ›

A: Yes. To produce a safe product, the pH fermentation brine must steadily drop to a safe pH of 4.6 or below to prevent C. botulinum growth. After reaching a safe pH, secondary spoilage may occur, which breaks down lactic acid resulting in a rising pH above 4.6, thus putting the product at risk for C.

What is sauerkraut made from? ›

Sauerkraut is a fermented food made from cabbage. It has been consumed for thousands of years for its probiotic benefits and is rich in vitamins C, B, A, K, and a variety of minerals. It has a tangy flavor, crunchy texture, and is simple and cost-effective to make at home!

What are the different types of fermentation? ›

What are the four types of fermentation? Based on the end product formed, fermentation can be classified into four types namely, lactic acid fermentation, alcohol fermentation, acetic acid fermentation, and butyric acid fermentation.

What are the principles of fermentation? ›

The main principle of fermentation is to derive energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. Glucose is first partially oxidised to pyruvate by glycolysis.

Which drug is used in fermentation process? ›

Fermentation technology has long been known for the production of various medically important products such as antibiotics, solvents such as ethanol, intermediary compounds such as citric acid, probiotics such as yoghurt etc.

What can go wrong making sauerkraut? ›

Too high temperature during fermentation. Uneven distribution of salt. Air pockets caused by improper packing prior to fermentation. Use correct amount of salt, mix salt into cabbage well, ferment in a cool place (75°F or less).

Why did my sauerkraut get moldy? ›

Too much air in your jar can lead to mold and yeast growth since it may take a while for the production of gases by the bacteria. These CO2 gases force oxygen out of the jar. Add more cabbage or move it to a smaller jar. Ferment at cooler temperatures.

What makes sauerkraut sour? ›

Why is tangy sauerkraut sour? It's the lactic acid that is the key to the tangy taste in sauerkraut and fermented food. Up to a point, the longer vegetables are fermented, the more bacteria multiply, the more carbohydrates are consumed and the more lactic acid is produced.

Why is my sauerkraut not fermenting? ›

Temperatures above 80-85°F (27-29°C) can result in abnormal fermentation. Though not ideal, many do successfully ferment in hot weather. You'll definitely want to shorten fermentation time and to achieve complex flavors in your sauerkraut, find a way to cool things down: 11 Cool Fermentation Tips for Hot Weather.

What can go wrong with fermentation? ›

Slimy, discolored vegetables. While bright color changes frequently occur during fermentation, very brown or slimy vegetables are a sign of spoilage. (Note that green veggies like cabbage may brown and pale somewhat.) A bad taste.

How long can sauerkraut ferment? ›

Fermentation at room temperature should take about three weeks. Small-batch-fermented sauerkraut may be stored for several months in the refrigerator, frozen, or water bath canned. If canning, follow the procedure described above using a clean jar.

What happens if you add too much salt to sauerkraut? ›

Unfortunatly, the amount of salt you used will not allow the fermentation process to occur. It will preserve the cabbage and is perfectly safe to eat, but it will not be fermented, therefor not saurkraut. I would advise just tossing it and making some more.

Can fermented sauerkraut go bad? ›

If you are refrigerating your sauerkraut, it should stay fresh for about four to six months after opening. It's important to know when you're using it and sealing it after each use because if new bacteria come in contact with it, it can immediately become spoiled.

What is the difference between fermentation and mold? ›

The main difference is that yeast is a single-celled organism and mold is multi-cellular filaments. The yeasts found in ferments are not usually very harmful but can make a fermented food taste a little off. Mold ruins ferments, and must be thrown out.

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