Salt helps lactic acid bacteria win the microbial race. When fermentation brine has a certain salt concentration, lactic acid bacteria grow more quickly, and other microbes no. That is why lactic acid bacteria have a competitive advantage in salt brine.
But too much salt is also a problem. If your brine has too much salt, lactic acid bacteria cannot grove, your vegetables unpickled, and instead, salt-cured. Salt-cured has always been a traditional method of fermentation, but it is intentional – meant to kill lactic acid bacteria. Salt-cured proces often use in meat or fish precervation.
We recommend most dry salts – never wet. Wet salts typically contain clay or dirt, providing coloration (grey, red, brown, etc.) but they also act as a “substrate”, a surface on which mold grows. Even when wet salts are baked at a very high temperature, in the hopes of killing mold, rsearch has shown that many mold spores survive. Salt is a more reliable, consistent ingredient, when weighed – NOT measured.
The weights of different salt ranged from 10 to 16-grams per tablespoon. That’s a whopping 60% difference! And variations in salinity will impact fermentation.
Below the correct concentration, bad bacteria may survive and spread more easily, possibly out-competing lactic acid bacteria and spoiling your pickles. Lactic acid bacteria don’t survive in brines that has less than 1% salt.
How much salt for fermenting brine?
But how much salt is ideal for fermentation brine? 2%? 3.5%? 5%? 10%? Which brine is best?
Using the 2% salt in the fermenting brine would create a consistently good end-product with superior results in taste, flavor and color retention. This is the minimum amount of salt needed for fermentation.
You can use 2% salinity for carrot sticks, shreds, slices; broccoli, cauliflower, pearl onions, green beans (add grape leaves to preserve color), asparagus, green/red peppers de-seeded, parsnip, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, zucchini (whole), sliced radish, whole-small radish, whole green tomato, are but a few examples.
Quick guide: fill the barrel or crok with food (dice, chunk, whole, etc.) to 1-inch below. Add 2% brine, so your vegetables are covered with 1-inch of brine.
For kraut, use 22 grams of salt for every 5-pounds of shredded cabbage. It is tested ratio which results in a 2% brine. Fermentation of cabbage with 2% salt and a temperature around 18 C (64 F) makes very good quality sauerkraut.
Alternate layers of cabbage/salt and press every 2-3 inches using a wooden tool. The goal is to press out oxygen-pockets, not to mash the cabbage. Continue building layers until the cabbage is compacted, 1-inch below the shoulder of the jar. For more details, see the kraut recipe.
You can also use 3.5% salinity brine for all your fermentation. Sometimes it works even better than a brine with less salt.
10% Salinity: For those serious about brine-curing meat, crafting authentic feta-cheese, pepper-mashes, curing green olives, authentic fish-sauce, and shrimp-sauce.
Basic fermentation brine
Basic fermentation brine is from 2% to 3,5% salinity. This lacto fermentation brine works for all kinds of vegetables and fruits. Brine for fermented pickles is the same.
To create 8-cups of brine at 2% salinity, use 38 grams of salt. To create 3-cups of brine at a 2% salinity, add the amount of salt called for in the columns under 1-cup (5 grams) and 2-cups (10 grams) which equals 15-grams of salt.
Coarse-grind, unrefined sea-salt, requires using a hot-water method. Heat water to near-boil, add salt, stir repeatedly until salt dissolves, then wait until the brine cools to room temperature.