“Salt to taste” were the words I heard Sandor Katz, the world’s most renowned expert on fermentation, use when referring to lacto-fermenting vegetables. My ears perked up. Did he say “salt to taste”? No hard and fast 2% or 2 tbsp per quart of brine?
There is no history of lacto-fermentation in my New Zealand roots. No grandma taught me about fermenting let alone salting to taste. I learned to ferment from books, on-line recipes, courses and have a certification as a Traditional Foods Teacher. All recipes, reading and training called for either 2tbsp of salt per litre (quart) or a 2% salt brine.
What does it mean “salt to taste”? How much leeway do I have? Is there such a thing as too much salt/not enough salt? Along with the questions, a feeling started to bubble up inside me: I was feeling liberated!
You mean all this time when I have been “sneaking” less salt on my ferments, I didn’t have to be sneaky? I had found the suggestion of 2tbsp of salt too salty and had slowly been adjusting the amount of salt I added. In doing this, I realise I had done just what Sandor said “salted to taste“.
Back to basics: What is the purpose of the salt in lacto fermentation?
- Preventing putrefying bacteria from forming in the initial stages of fermentation. Giving a selective advantage to lactic acid bacteria formation.
- Drawing liquid out of vegetables we pound or squeeze such as saurkraut and kimchi.
- Keeping vegetables crisp and crunchy.
- Flavouring. We prefer different amounts of saltiness in our food.
I like the balance in this Cultures on Health blog: How Much Salt. The guideline of 1tbsp to 3tbsp gives plenty of room for taste preference without risking unwanted bacteria forming in ferments.
How do we do this “salt to taste” as we are making our fermented vegetables? Sandor suggests tasting as we prepare our ferment. And even tasting after 2 or 3 days. You can always add more salt, or add more vegetables if too salty at this point.
A wonderful benefit of fermenting your own vegetables, is you can adjust saltiness and sourness to your own preferred taste. Isn’t that liberating!