Of all the new things I tried making over the last year, sauerkraut was the most intimidating.
1) I didn't know what it should taste like, making it hard to know when it was ready.
2) Leaving food outside the fridge for weeks just sounds wrong.
3) Eating something that you had to skim scum off of regularly is scary.
I spent so much time reading my canning book that everything started to look intriguing, including sauerkraut. I gave a shout-out on Facebook asking if people liked it. I got a variety of responses. It seems you either love it or hate it, and I was warned that it would stink up the whole house while fermenting. I finally decided to make it, especially after seeing an encouraging blog post here.
I bought a lot of cabbage at a cheap price and already owned two crocks, thanks to my grandparents. What did I have to lose if I failed? About $5 and a couple of hours.
As you know, I rushed to make it before Thanksgiving and stuck it in a downstairs guest room to ferment. It smelled horrid the first few days when I lifted the lid, but then improved. I checked it every few days and learned exactly what skimming scum meant and how to weigh it down properly.
A week before Christmas, I got brave enough to taste it, because I wanted to share some with my brother, who likes it. Let me tell you, that took guts. I'd just finished skimming gross stuff off the top and then had to take a spoonful of food that had been basically rotting for weeks, not even knowing how it should taste. I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes sort of like dill pickles.
The night before we left for CA, I removed the top layer (you ruin some every time you open the crock and un-submerge it from the brine) and put it in the fridge. I didn't have time to can it; I didn't want to keep skimming it regularly; and I'd learned how good for you it can be if you don't heat it.
I made mine layered with caraway seeds and I love the flavor that adds. It is crunchy and sour, and we both like it. To Becky J.: turns out it is actually really healthy for you when it's fermented properly and not heated to kill the beneficial health properties. Mine isn't super salty either.
Nathan has been putting it in sandwiches, but I like it so much that I just eat a few forkfuls a day. Much less scary now that it's in the fridge. If you'd like some and live nearby, we have an awful lot and I'd be happy to share my successful experiment. One step closer to becoming a domestic goddess!