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Measuring and Using Salt in Fermenting — 28 Comments

  1. HI Ted, This post was very informative. If you have an opportunity, I would love to hear you weigh in about using liquid from older ferments to boost new ones. I’ve read in a lot of places on line that people use that old liquid similarly to how whey is used, but I can’t find any definitive information about how much, and whether that changes the amount of salt you use. Any thoughts? Thanks. Sam

  2. Hi, I don’t have access to sea salt…However plenty of natural black rock salt available…Will that work for fermenting?

    Thank you…

  3. Thanks Viviek for your question. I haven’t tried fermenting with black rock salt, but I imagine it would work fine. My understanding is that it has a little less sodium than other salts so perhaps a little extra might help. It can have a bit of a sulfuric smell to it, so that will simply be a choice for you to make. Might be a nice flavour enhancement in the Shivakraut, Indian Spiced Cauliflower or Dosa recipes.

    If you try it, please let us know how it goes.

  4. Hi Ted, I have a batch of cucumbers that have been fermenting now for three weeks in a 5% brine using sea salt at room temperature. The issue I am having is that they are very salty but don’t seem to fermenting or souring. Do you have any ideas why they aren’t souring and what I can do to correct it? Thanks

  5. Great page! I’m very much look forward to future emails from you. Is there a quantity error above? 960 grams of salt per 4 cups of water?

    In wellness
    Penni

  6. Hi Ted. I was just wondering if you’ve ever tried using sterilized seawater as a brine. I keep buying salt and purified water (our tap water has chloramine) but I live on an island. I think seawater salinity level are around 3.5 percent, so it should work, right?

    • Hi Cassie. Great idea! Sterilized seawater should work fine for a brine. Depending on where you are, it may add a subtle flavor as well. You are right, the salt weight in sea water is in the 3.5% range which should be a sweet spot for some brining recipes. I’ll give that a try later this year just to have my own experience of it, but I’m sure it’s fine. Good luck!

  7. Hi,

    Thank you for this info, very useful. I wanted to verify what you said about Bouyancy Brining – so basically after it’s done, I can remove the excess salt from say fermented cabbage by washing it in water and I still don’t have to put in the fridge? How long can I keep it outside?

    Thanks,
    Eli

    • Hi Eli, I don’t do “bouyancy” brining except sometimes with pickles. As to refrigerating, that simply slows down the fermentation process. If you’ll discarded all liquid, then effectively you are opening your ferment up to mold spores and thus you’ll want to jar it up and refrigerate it for sure.

  8. Hi Ted, I’m just about to start fermenting for the very first time. I have just taken delivery of 2 x 10 litre Gartopf crockpots. I would like to start with a traditional sauerkraut and a red cabbage one. Roughly how much cabbage do I need to fill each one?
    I am a vegan and I have seen some recipes calling for whey or vegetable broth. Are there any vegetables I won’t be able to ferment without adding whey.
    We grow a lot of our own organic veg and by October/November we will have a lot of pumpkin. Can that be fermented using just salt?
    We started making Kombucha a few weeks ago which is delicious so we are very excited about fermenting the veg.
    Thank you

    • Sorry, I’m not sure how much cababge to use to fill your container. I’d start with a smaller batch, maybe with 3-4 lbs (1.5-2kg) of cababge for your first attempt and then calibrate from there to see what works in your new crocks. Sounds like you are gearing up for a great fermenting future! good luck and keep us posted on how things go.

      • As to whey, I have never found the need to use whey. I’m a firm believer in the power of the bacteria which is naturally found on the specific vegetables you are fermenting.

  9. Hi Ted,

    I have made several of your recipes with an airlock and they have turned out brilliantly! The only problem is that I have been on a low-sodium diet for a long time and now anything with any salt tastes too salty. What is the lowest salinity for your ferments that will insure safety, or should I switch to using whey for my concoctions?

    Susan

    • I’m not certain of the answer to your question. In general, the less salt, the less stable the fermentation and the more likely you’ll run into potential problems. If you use less salt, definitely err on the side of greater cleanliness during your preparation process. I’d suggest simply experimenting with less salt and seeing how it goes. Let us know please!

  10. Help, Help the last two patches of fermented dill pickles have had mush cucumbers. The first batch I did were crunchy and pleasant. I used the same amount of salt for both. Both had jalapenos, onions, and carrots in with the cucumbers. I used cabbage leaf on both batches. The first batch I did not use bay, oak or any leaves to add tannin. The really mushy batch had an oak leaf. Anyone know where I can look for a problem area?

    • Cut off the blossom end of the cucumbers. There’s an enzyme in it that can cause the cucumber to become mushy.

  11. Hi, Ted – First, thanks for writing this up. I have one small quibble, though: All salts have a different weight for a given volume, so standard measurements like 2 Tbl. per quart is not entirely useful. Kosher salt weighs about half of what standard salt — like sea salt — weighs, so you would need something like 4 Tbl per quart. And even then, a tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt doesn’t weigh the same as a tablespoon of Morton kosher salt.
    Because of this, the weight tables you give for the various brine solutions is a lot more useful, and it’s actually what I came here to find. (Thanks!) I just want more people to be aware that different salts have different densities, so you should always measure by weight -unless- you’re using the exact same salt as the recipe writer used.

  12. just starting to ferment. Cabbage turned out awesome, both green and the red, but I’m having trouble with the carrots. I use Himalania pink sea salt from the health food store. Is the brine on the carrots suppose to be kind of cloudy? I didn’t peel the carrots and they are not organic. Everyday I have to clean off white scum like stuff. Should I pitch them and start over? Should I peel the carrots? It’s been 4 days and I tried one today and they’re still crunchy but smell different.

    • I honestly haven’t worked too much with carrots in my fermentations. I had a couple of failed attempts early on just trying to ferment carrots (got mushy and just not tasty) and haven’t tried too hard since. I do add carrots to my kimchi often. Sorry I can’t be of much help on this topic. You might try posting on the forum here. Thanks.

  13. Hi Ted

    Have you ever considered using plain sea water as a brining solution as opposed to making up a solution with salt? Sea water contains about 3.5% salt which you could always dilute with freash water if you want a lower salt concentration.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks foravery informative and intersting site

    Ken

    • I tried it once, but it was a peculiar local ferment – I was trying to ferment some seed pods of a coastal plant – and the feremnt failed. I haven’t tried it for kimchi yet, but perhaps I’ll try. You’d have to boil the water first here to kill any microorganisms which might be floating around in the sea!

  14. The buoyancy brine sounds a bit like the one my grandfather used. It was enough salt to float a fresh egg.

    That’s fresh, like just out from under the hen, not store bought. The ones in the store are at least two weeks old, because they peel when boiled. (An egg doesn’t peel well until it’s 1.5 to 2 weeks old. The white sticks to the shell.) The older an egg is, the easier it floats (internal gases), so it wouldn’t yield as strong a brine.

    This got to be long, hopefully it keeps folks that try this out of trouble.

    • Hi Tony,

      Two primary health benefits in my opinion:

      1) There is a probiotic benefit of consuming foods that have pro-biotic content, which help to keep your digestive system populated with beneficial bacteria.
      2) By eating fermented foods, we ingest uncooked foods which contain fiber, nutrients and enzymes that have not been destroyed by cooking.
      3) Maintaining a healthy digestive system and eating healthy foods is the best path to overall health.

      I’m slowly working on a more detailed past on this topic. Much research continues to be done in this area since we have discovered that the microorganisms in our guts contribute much more to our overall health and wellbeing than we had preciously knowon or understood.

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