If you’ve found yourself frustrated while figuring out how to make brine for fermented vegetables or you are just beginning your journey into fermentation, this post is for you. It just takes a little bit of math to find a baseline and from there you can experiment in order to find your own preference. Creating a brine correctly is important in achieving ideal conditions and results for fermentation.
In order to make a brine, you need two things…Salt and Unchlorinated Water. It is possible to ferment vegetables without the use of salt, but if you are not on a sodium-restricted diet, the salt will help you achieve far better results.
Why is Salt Important?
Salt can be the most important ingredient for your ferments for the following reasons:
- Taste: Salt is a flavor enhancer and getting the amount right is key for a ferment that you will enjoy eating. Salt also suppresses bitterness, balances sweet and sour flavors, and helps to release aromas.
- Safety: Salt keeps unwanted bacteria and yeasts from reproducing while Lactic Acid Bacteria grows to an acceptable level. Lactic Acid Bacteria will lower the PH of your ferments, hindering mold and harmful bacteria from taking over.
- Crispness and texture: Salt pulls water from vegetables through a process called osmosis and hardens the pectins. This ensures that your fermented vegetables don’t turn to mush.
- Nutrients: Salt contains many beneficial minerals and nutrients. Sea salt and Himalayan pink salt are some examples of good choices for your ferments. Using mineral-rich salt also helps the good bacteria and yeasts responsible for fermentation to thrive. It is best to steer clear of using table salt for your ferments.
Types of Salt
Not all salts are created equal. Table salt is highly refined, higher in sodium, and lower in beneficial minerals. Some kinds also contain iodine. Iodine will inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria and yeast, and will also turn your ferments brown.
My personal preference is Himalayan pink salt because it is the easiest to find. However, Celtic sea salt is the lowest in sodium and the highest in minerals.
There are many other types of salt that are suitable, just opt for something unrefined, natural, and high in minerals.
How to Decide on Brine Percentage
No two vegetables are alike, and they all need varying levels of salt for the most desirable results. Most vegetables require a brine of 2-5%. Firm vegetables require a lower brine percentage, while vegetables that are more perishable need a higher percentage. Protein sources and olives require the highest percentage of brine (up to 10%). The chart below is a good baseline to start with and adjust according to your own personal taste preferences.
If you are going to be making brines on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to obtain a kitchen scale. It’s not important to be dead-on accurate, just remember that different types of salt have different weights. Measuring volume is not as accurate as weight.
Keep in mind that some ferments, such as sauerkraut, are made using a dry brine. The salt is added directly to the cabbage and the brine is made by crushing the cell walls and releasing the juices. When fermenting chutney’s and sauces, it’s good to stick to around 2%.
How to Make Brine for Your Fermented Vegetables
The key to making brine and getting the percent of sodium you desire is keeping track of how much water you put in. Below is the method that I use when I want to be accurate. After you become practiced, you can rely more heavily on your intuition.
- Step 1: Fill your jar, crock, or the vessel you are using with the vegetables.
- Step 2: Pour water in one cup at a time until there is enough to fully submerge your vegetables, then pour about 1/4 C back out into a cup or bowl. Note the amount of water you used – You will need this for step 3. Note: Do not use tap water unless you are positive that your water does not contain chlorine. Spring or filtered water is best.
- Step 3: Using the amount of water from step 2, measure out the amount of salt you need according to the brine percentage chart above.
- Step 4: Combine the salt with the 1/4 C of water that you poured out and mix until dissolved. Since you should be using quality salt, there may be some minerals still floating around the bottom, this is fine.
- Step 5: Pour the salt mixture back into your vessel and weigh down the vegetables in order to keep them submerged.
This is the easiest way I have found to accurately get the brine percentage correct. It’s important to note that keeping your vegetables submerged in the brine will prevent mold growth. The brine protects the vegetables from spoilage.
I hope that I covered everything you need to know on how to make brine for fermented vegetables. If you have any questions or feel there is something more I should have covered here, please feel free to reach out. Happy Fermenting!