This little writeup will get you on track for creating what I would consider to be our EASIEST recipe ever developed here at Raw Rutes. BUT. It is the building block for nearly every fermented food project out there! That's right. It's brine!
Rather than bore you with science (and because I am not a scientist) we will get down the basics. The veggies you ferment at home must be submerged in a salty environment to become delicious and prevent pathogens. For best results that environment should be around 3.5% salt. Regular water simply won't do. While you could try to just add some water to your fermentation vessel (without adding extra salt) you would be diluting the salt content of the recipe, which is not a good idea.
It makes sense on the most basic level. Think about how a tidal pool at the beach can sit for days or weeks without becoming moldy (even without being refreshed by the tide) while a puddle of rain can become stagnant and stinky in just days. Salt water helps to inhibit bad bacteria from flourishing. Now a disclaimer for those of you who will start writing to me: I am not suggesting you go drink sea water or ferment your veggies in it! Just making a comparison.
Choosing the right water.
Yes, it's one of our nations biggest achievements! The vast majority of Americans' households have access to fresh, running water! Unfortunately if it comes to you from a municipal supply, it's probably not a great choice for fermented foods. At least not at first. We'll circle back to that in a minute.
Some great choices are:
- Spring Water - A great choice for making brine. Free of any chemicals or chlorine. Contains minerals which can be healthful.
- Filtered Water - A good choice. Though if the water is coming from a municipal source, check to see if your charcoal filter removes chlorine. If not, allow the water to sit on the counter overnight and the chlorine present will dissipate.
- Distilled Water - A good choice. Though this water will contain no minerals or elements, it will also contain no chemicals that could inhibit fermentation.
- Tap Water - An acceptable choice if it has been boiled and allowed to cool to room temperature to remove chlorine and any bacteria that may be present. If from a municipal source, it will most likely contain chlorine and possibly fluoride. Check with your local water board to learn more about the specifics of your water.
It's worth noting that while chlorine is definitely not helpful to vegetable fermentation, but for as far as fluoride presence it is more of a personal choice. While writing this piece I did come across a study of fermentation and fluoride going back to the 1950s. The fermentation that was studied involved yeast and was based around the beer brewing industry. None the less, they found a noticeable difference in the development of the yeast strains when the concentrations of fluoride in the water increased. While these concentrations were much higher than found in municipal water, and though yeast is different from lacto-bacteria, it is still interesting to think about.
It's also important to use good quality salt for creating your brine.
DO NOT USE:
- Table Salt - It is a little too salty and contains iodine as well as anti-caking agents which will create a cloudy brine, as well as sometimes inhibiting good fermentation of the veggies.
- Kosher Salt - It is difficult to eyeball or measure due to it's chunky size and it also often contains anti-caking agents which inhibit good fermentation.
- Pickling Salt - It's tempting! But you're not pickling! You're fermenting. While this salt does not contain additives it is highly refined, and not a particularly natural choice. You've come this far, follow though for something better is possible.
GREAT TO USE:
- Sea Salt - Super natural and a great choice for fermentation projects as it does not contain additives or anti-caking agents.
- Celtic Sea Salt - Another great natural choice with some trace minerals in there for good measure.
- Himalayan Pink Salt - My all time favorite! Lots of trace minerals, and while this sounds crazy, I find this salt to be the most flavorful out there! Go ahead, taste it and then compare to normal table salt. I'm on the right track right?
To get your brine started, just add a generous teaspoon of salt to 1 Cup of the water of your choice, and stir to dissolve. Top off any fermenting veggies until they are completely covered with the liquid. If needed, add more. Have fun!