Basic Process for Dry Salting and Brining

Follow these steps to dry salt and brine your produce. This piece also contains helpful fermentation and troubleshooting tips.

| May 2019

dry-salting
Illustration from Beyond Canning 

The Basic Process for Dry Salting

  1. Place a large nonreactive bowl (glass and stainless work well) on top of your kitchen scale. Zero the scale. Add your shredded, grated, or thinly sliced vegetables to the bowl. Record the weight.
  2. Calculate 1.5 percent of the total weight of your produce. The recommended amount of salt to use in dry-salted ferments is 1.5 to 2 percent. I always start with the lower amount. If it’s summer and/or very hot where you’re fermenting and you notice your ferments developing too quickly or becoming mushy, try 2 percent. I developed all the recipes in this book using a ratio of 1.5 percent salt to vegetables.
  3. Zero the scale and add the salt to the vegetables in the bowl right on the scale. Remove the bowl from the scale and work the salt into the produce using your hands for about 2 minutes. Wash your hands first, but avoid antibacterial soap because it can work against the fermentation process. If you’ve ever “massaged” kale for a salad, that’s the motion you want to employ here. In slightly less technical terms, it’s basically smooshing. You’ll begin to feel the vegetables wilt slightly and see a layer of liquid on the bottom on the bowl. It will also become much more difficult to detect the grains of salt.
  4. Use your hands to pack the produce tightly into a quart mason jar. Put one handful in the jar, pack it down with your fist, put in another handful, and pack it down with your fist. Continue filling the jar in this manner until it is full just to the bottom of the jar shoulder. The back of a wooden spoon or a kraut pounder can help with this process as well.
  5. At this point, the produce should be covered or just about covered with its own brine. When using an airlock for dry-salted ferments, I find that it is not necessary to weight the contents. Secure the ferment with an airlock system and leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for the time indicated.
  6. When the ferment is done, cover with a two-piece mason jar lid, date, label, and transfer to the refrigerator.

kraut-smasher
Kraut pounder photo from Adobe Stock

The Basic Process for Brining

  1. Place a quart mason jar on your kitchen scale, zero the scale, and add water. Weigh the amount of water you’ll use and record the weight. To brine a quart jar of vegetables, make a full quart of brine. You’ll likely have leftovers, but because salt is a relatively inexpensive resource, it’s better to make more brine than you need. If I end up with extra and have a few ferments going, I’ll store it in the fridge for up to a week in a quart jar to top off active ferments as needed or experiment with a small-batch ferment using whatever I have on hand.
  2. Calculate 5 percent of the weight of the water used and record this number. A 5 percent brine, in which the weight of the salt is 5 percent the weight of the water, is standard.
  3. Zero the scale again and add the indicated amount of salt to the jar of water right on the scale. The water does not need to be warm to dissolve the salt. Place a lid on the jar and shake it until the salt is dissolved. That’s it!
  4. Place a separate, clean, dry quart mason jar on your scale. Zero the scale and measure the vegetables into the jar right on the scale.
  5. Pour the brine over the vegetables so that the produce is fully submerged by at least 1 inch. Use your hands or a wooden chopstick to jostle the contents of the jar, releasing air bubbles.
  6. Unless your airlock system has a weight built in, weight the contents so that the vegetables remain below the brine. I find that small Weck jar lids work particularly well for this, as do quarter-pint jars when there’s enough space. Position the weight in the quart jar so that it holds the pieces of produce below the brine, leaving the weight in for the duration of the fermentation period. Secure the ferment with an airlock system.
  7. When the ferment is done, cover with a two-piece mason jar lid, date, label, and transfer to the refrigerator.

packing-produce
Photo by Grace Stufkosky

Finding Your Fermentation Spot

When I lived in a roughly three-hundred-square-foot apartment in Queens, I always placed my ferments on a stool, directly inside the front door. One time, when the ferment of the moment was a gallon jar of kombucha, a friend was particularly startled upon entering my apartment and made a comment about how I had unwittingly invented a very effective burglar deterrent.



There was, however, a method to my madness. Generally, the best place for your ferments to live is one of the cooler spots in your home that is also out of direct sun. It should ideally also be a spot that isn’t completely out of sight to facilitate your keeping an eye on your ferments, or at the very least noticing if something has gone awry when you pass by. In my Queens apartment, counter space was at a premium and my small kitchen heated up very quickly when the stove and oven were in use, hence the stool inside the front door instead. Now that I have a bit more counter space and my kitchen happens to be the coldest spot in my house, I keep my active ferments on my kitchen island.

Visiting Your Kimchi and Other Troubleshooting Tips

Part of what I really love about fermentation is watching the food slowly transform. I rarely have enough self-control to not peek at my ferments at least once a day, and truly the best way to avoid any surprises with your fermentation projects is to visit them often. Look at them each day, begin tasting them when the initial burst of fermentation slows, and skim any scum off the surface using a clean spoon. Visiting and tasting them frequently will help you know when they’re done.






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