It is important to stay philosophical when fermenting, because you definitely win some and lose some.
I started the sauerkraut project with one giant stone crock, eleven heads of cabbage, and a lot of hope. Progress was slow, but when I finally, after several weeks of waiting, peeked into the crock, there was no doubt that the fermentation process had started. Tiny bubbles and a rich smell—a little like beer and a little like vinegar—assured me that cabbage was indeed becoming sauerkraut.
However…the next time I checked on the progress of the sauerkraut, it was evident that fermentation had stopped prematurely. Who knows why these things happen? You can start a batch of kimchi or sourdough starter and have everything happen according to plan, or it can take more or less time than expected, or it can just quietly go dead–In this case, a crock full of viscous green water and inert cabbage. Maybe there was too much chlorine in the water, maybe I was heavy handed with the salt. Who knows? Who cares? It’s just cabbage, after all.
So I did the only thing you can do, which was to tip the entire stinky mess into the compost bin, clean out the crock, and prepare for Phase Four: Starting Over.