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fermenting: salt a health issue?  RSS feed

 
Karen Crane
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There are many people in my family who suffer from high
blood pressure and doctors have said to avoid salt.
It seems that the fermentation process uses a lot of salt.
If we eat these products will that cause us a problem?
 
tel jetson
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it's my understanding that only a portion of hypertension is sodium sensitive hypertension. my guess is that some doctors proscribe salt in all cases of hypertension without investigating if it is really a factor. doesn't mean your family's doctors are wrong, but it might be worth asking some more questions.

that said, there are some ferments that don't use much or any salt. the salt is generally there to prevent infection by unwanted microörganisms, so if other steps are taken to accomplish that, salt can be reduced or omitted. an example is using whey or brine from previous ferments as starter for a new ferment. the population of lactobacillus present in the whey or brine gives a jump start, so less salt is needed to prevent other organisms. when I've done that, I missed the salt, though.
 
Sandor Katz
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Vegetable ferments usually but not always use salt. Because the historical evolution of this food was as a survival strategy, to preserve vegetables from the harvest to feed people through the winter without fresh vegetables, people often used large amounts of salt, since salt is a preservative in its own right. But if you are making this less as a survival practice than for something that is delicious and healthy to eat, you can use much much less salt, or none, though with none the flavor and texture are not very good (in my opinion). Salt lightly, salt to taste. And eat in moderation, there is no specific virtue in eating large quantities of these foods, traditionally used as condiments.
 
Renate Howard
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There are a growing number of people who say Redmond's RealSalt doesn't cause problems with high blood pressure the way store salt does. It could be the whiteners or flow agents are the problem or the lack of supporting minerals. Maybe they should try switching and just salting to taste for a week or so then checking their blood pressure to see if the salt caused it to go up.

If you look at the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, a lot of their ferments use whey instead of salt. I like the salt ferments better. I read the sodium lactate that is made when the lactic acid from the lactofermentation mixes with the salt, is really strong at killing candida. Dairy ferments don't have nearly as much sodium lactate because they don't have the salt.

IMHO a lot of vascular problems are due to the wrong fluoride/iodine ratio (way too much fluoride) and too much sugar/too many simple carbs.
 
Brenda Groth
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Interesting as salt is a consideration that I would be wanting to know more about as well.. I'm just learning to like a larger variety of fermented foods..and want to learn more about what is out there and how to do it..

I've always done pickes and have dabbled at sauerkraut..even tried to blow up my house with wine..
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I will put my "touch of salt" there....
(= put my 2 penns in French!!)

1) It is better for people with high pressure to reduce salt just because it helps a low glycemic diet!
(see what Renate says above "and too much sugar/too many simple carbs.")
It is absolutely useless to reduce salt for prevention... See point 2...

2) Then the problem is NOT exactly SODIUM but the RATIO between sodium and potassium.
We should get more potassium than sodium from our diet.

This could explain the contradictions between studies who sometimes found the opposite that what is believed about salt consumption.

Ready made food are full of salt but too low in potassium. Cooking with fresh food with salt to taste is not a problem, as you get enough potassium.
Just look for food lists about potassium.
 
sally ayers
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I have been experimenting with kimchi for the past several months and I can't seem to get around it tasting too salty. I use a quart ball jar and recipe calls for 1 1/4 c (1 c of which is for cabbage rinse). This leaves 1/4 c plus a 1/4 c fish sauce. I'grew up on the New England coast and love all things fishy and salty so would rather not do away with the fish sauce. I do not have health related issues with regard to salt intake but it just plain old tastes bad. Anyone know the min I could get away with?
 
tel jetson
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if you use some of the brine from a previous batch, you could cut the salt significantly. you could also rinse it before eating to reduce saltiness.
 
Renate Howard
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I always use a brine - 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water - soak the veggies until they wilt (8 to 24 hours) then pack them firmly in the jars. If making kimchi - after you pack the jars add the fish sauce, a little to each jar. Because you wind up with a lot of the brine left over at the end.
 
sally ayers
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good advice. thank you.
 
Rebecca Norman
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sally ayers wrote:I have been experimenting with kimchi for the past several months and I can't seem to get around it tasting too salty.


Hi Sally, I've made a couple dozen huge batches of kimchi over the past three years, and I think you can probably just use less salt and it will be fine. Especially if you are using easy-to-ferment vegetables like cabbage, carrot and radish. If you add a sweet fruit like pears the salt might be necessary to prevent it going yeasty.

We just salt the vegetables lightly and keep all the salt and brine in them. We taste it before we pack it, and then adjust all the salt and spices so that it tastes like a nice lightly salted, spicy salad.

I wrote our whole method on another page of Permies, with measurements, but the basic idea is:
• Chop up the vegetables: cabbage with carrots and/or radish.
• Sprinkle salt over them and toss with your hands. It should taste lightly salty, like a pleasant side salad.
• Set aside for an hour or three, to wilt slightly. We don't use fish sauce but you can add it now or later.
• Add some scallions or sliced onions.
• Make a paste of finely chopped garlic and ginger with powdered red chillies, and mix it thoroughly through the vegetables. It should taste like a pleasant lightly salted side salad, as spicy as you like it.
• Pack it into containers, pressing it down. Leave some headroom because it will bubble up for a few days. Close them.
• Ferment in a warm place for 4 - 7 days, and then when it tastes nicely sour, you can store it in a cold but not freezing place for several months.

I've made it dozens of times, and it clearly worked fine with more or less of any given ingredient. We broke all the advice you see in recipes and it still works fine -- so much so that a Korean fellow 20 years younger than me wandered in and I served him some, and within 10 of meeting me he declared he was "falling in love" with me (okay he was a funny guy, but I'm just saying, it works fine).
• We used iodized table salt. No problem.
• Hard round cabbages, and local dried red chillies, not special Korean versions. Koreans and everybody else still loves it.
• We were taught to use whole leaves but we prefer them chopped up.
• We use random containers, not very airtight.
 
sally ayers
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I was using chili paste which most likely has salt. I'm in Austin so ground chili peppers from now on. Thanks for recommendation!
 
Julia Winter
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Thanks for the kimchi "recipe," I really need to try that! I've been fermenting cabbage and a couple other vegetables (carrots, collards, once a whole bunch of celery--now that's an interesting ferment) but my husband won't try any of it. He has a strong pickle aversion and thinks that sauerkraut is a pickle and thus all other fermented foods are also pickles. However, he likes kimchi just fine, at least at a Korean restaurant!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks Rebecca!
How cold should it be for keeping months?
I should say: "what is the maximum warmth"...

If you use any container, how do you keep it pressed down inside?
 
Rebecca Norman
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Xisca Nicolas wrote: How cold should it be for keeping months?
I should say: "what is the maximum warmth"...


We store our containers of kimchi, wrapped loosely in plastic, 3 feet (1 metre) underground from November to March. We have a seriously cold winter here, and this is the traditional method here for storing potatoes and carrots: I think it stays between 0˚C and 5˚C underground. Actually you should get the proper temperatures from a book or from the Expert himself, Sandor (oops, almost too late now!)

I think I remember that you live in a warm climate so you might need a fridge, or do something special. You can seal and boil airtight jars of any acid food and they will stay good for months, even in a warm place, but then the bacteria die.

Xisca Nicolas wrote:
If you use any container, how do you keep it pressed down inside?


We don't worry about it. We just press it down in the container with our fists, and then put the top on, and keep it in a warm place for about 4 - 7 days until it is fermented nicely and tastes sour and delicious. That's how our Korean-American friend originally taught us that his mother does. If we leave it in the warm place for a few days too many, it gets overly sour in the top layer, moving down day by day. We still eat it (soon, not stored for long) but some of our people don't like it because it's too sour, almost fizzy.

We had another Korean friend here recently, and one of our containers got too sour because we left it in the solar greenhouse for too many days, so she fried it with sugar and then everybody liked it again!

Oh -- when we made it with her, she and her husband pressed it down with a plate and a large stone, but when we had to move it indoors from the greenhouse every afternoon, it was difficult to move the 7 litre (ie about 7 kg) containers with the stuff on top. Frankly it works fine with just an inch (2 or 3 cm) of space in the top for bubbling up brine, and then the regular top on it. We re-use assorted containers and they are not all very airtight. We make about 6 to 10 batches of 7 to 20 kg every year and it always comes out fine, unless we leave it in the warm place fermenting for too many days.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks Rebacca!
Yes, I can get 16°C year round and less in winter, like 13°C.
But I do not NEED to preserve veggies.
I just want to have some fermented food.
Actually, I might be glad to have preserves in summer!
=> if I grow less vegetables in summer, then I can save water.

I understand the trick of plate + stone.
I was wandering about keeping the stuff UNDER water level.

I understand the room you leave for fizz,
so now I do not understand how my neighbor can make sauerkraut in glass jars with their lid!
The lid is screwed and she fills it completely so that the liquid covers everything.
She put the vine leave under and on top.
 
Alex Ojeda
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I'd look into what your family needs in their diet to balance out your salt. Isn't Magnesium the balance to Salt? I had a similar problem one time. I found that my blood pressure had gone up over time. I was feeling this constant tention. My wife and I found that Magnesium deficiencies cause these symptoms as well as heart palpitations and tingling in the arms. I soaked in Epsom salts, ate pumpkin seeds and other magnesium rich foods and even drank water with a teeny amount of epsom salts. I slowed this down after the first week and started just bathing in Epsom salts after working out in the hot sun. It's very nice. I haven't had that problem since. I now realize that I was experiencing these heart-attack style symptoms for quite a while and now it's all gone.

This may not be your issue, but I'd look into it. Now, salt isn't a problem for me at all. Of course we only use sea salt or Himalayan salt.

I hope that helps.
 
Jane Reed
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For the original poster: the Centers for Disease Control, in Altlanta, recently published findings that put the kibosh on the salt scare:

The study found, “…the committee found no consistent evidence to support an association between sodium intake and either a beneficial or adverse effect on on most health outcomes.”

Search on "CDC,salt" and you wil find several references to this.

People who have highblood pressure need to find out why they have it. IMO, the medical advice to simply cut back on salt is a way to treat symptoms and not the problem.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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As others have mentioned, salt isn't the boogeyman it was once made out to be. Potassium-Sodium imbalance is much more predictive of hypertension than total sodium intake. Other mineral imbalances can affect it too, as well as activity levels and hydration. Natural salts, such as sea salts or rock salts will have a broader spectrum of salt, and better taste as far as I'm concerned, but the big thing is making sure one eats enough fruits and vegetables, as these are primary sources of potassium.

Those on a vegan diet will likely need more salt than omnivores, and also more fermented foods, as the probiotic bacteria do produce B12 in the gut.

An active farmer will NEED a higher sodium intake than the average american, because of what is lost in sweat. This also goes for those who do hot yoga or lots of saunas.
 
John Kindziuk
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When fermenting foods you can decrease the amount of salt, but up to the point. I am very precise in my measurements and always use an accurate digital scale, 0.01g (0.001oz). Sauerkraut is great when salt is applied from 2.0- to 2.5%. This corresponds to 20-25 g salt per 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cabbage. Or 3.5 to 4 teaspoon of salt, but now your measurement will not be precise. Glass fermenting jar was used (with air lock) as I wanted to observe results. There was no question of air being in a glass jar. Temperature was 70-75 F.

I managed to get good sauerkraut going down to 1.5% salt, but at lower concentrations cabbage started to rot and was turning brown. Molds did not appear due to the absence of air.

So here lies the answer, at least for sauerkraut. If you don't use water channel crocks, I would not take risk of going below 1.8% salt. If you need a detailed explanation why water channel crock is such a great fermenting vessel please read Fermenting Clay Crocks

Applying 2% salt makes great sauerkraut.
Sprinkling salt over shredded cabbage was a fine method before the scales were popular, not now. If you want to obtain constant quality every time, you have to weigh salt, as simple.

Meats are not forgiving and you have no option but to apply at least 3% salt to traditionally fermented salami. Otherwise it will spoil, even when dried at relatively low temperatures. You always need some salt to inhibit growth of spoilage bacteria. Once acidity forms in a fermented vegetable or fermented semi-dry sausage, spoilage bacteria become of lesser concern.
 
Julia Winter
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Thanks so much John! I have a scale but I haven't applied it to my fermentation. Now that you mention it, though, it's not hard at all to weigh your veggies, before or after you cut them up, and then just add the appropriate amount of salt.

Thanks for running those experiments. I would guess that ambient temperature is another pertinent variable--I might be able to get away with less salt in my cooler house (at least in the winter time).
 
John Kindziuk
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Hi Julia,
As you realize now weighing salt puts you in total control over salt. Using spoons or cups is terribly unreliable. In addition table salt weighs differently than Kosher salt. You can see how they differ at: Different Salts
A thing to remember is that sauerkraut juice/brine contains a lot of dissolved salt. You can remove plenty of salt by rinsing and draining your sauerkraut. You can save this juice to jump start the next production. It also has a good reputation for curing hangover.
 
Jane Reed
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John, like you I weigh my salt, but unlike you, I measure my salt against the amount of water I use. That is, I make a 2% brine which is 19 grams of salt per 1 quart of water. Thus, it is irrelevant how much the vegetables weigh, it only matters that they are submerged in the brine. A 2% brine has never failed me and I find the amount of saltiness is just right.

I wonder if anyone uses swing top jars for fermenting, like I do? Fido brand from Italy is the most well-known. The rubber seal not only prevents oxygen from entering the jar but during fermentation it lifts up ever so slightly and allows CO2 to push out oxygen which is in the jar. So easy, works beautifully, and the jars can be used in other applications (like storage), not just for fermenting.
 
K Nelfson
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Renate Haeckler wrote:If you look at the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, a lot of their ferments use whey instead of salt. I like the salt ferments better. I read the sodium lactate that is made when the lactic acid from the lactofermentation mixes with the salt, is really strong at killing candida. Dairy ferments don't have nearly as much sodium lactate because they don't have the salt.


In the recipes I've looked at in detail, NT recommends half of the salt if whey is used.
 
John Kindziuk
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Hi Jane,
I use brine for other foods such as Kimchi or pickles, however sauerkraut I always do with salt. This is how my family and my friends always did. For curiosity, next time I will make sauerkraut both ways and will measure the strength (saltiness) of sauerkraut juice. The reading will not be perfect as the cabbage releases many different ingredients, but there will be some point of reference. From my experiments I found out that red cabbage releases plenty of juice, it is also sweeter than other types. The only problem with red cabbage is that it discolors other foods it is mixed with.
 
Julia Winter
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I made an excellent ferment with purple cabbage and fresh ginger root. It's bright pink now that it is acidic, and I can mix it into fresh coleslaw (tip: finely cut the cabbage, then sprinkle with salt and/or sugar and let it sit in a colander and drip for a while. The final product won't have as much excess liquid.) It's one of the ways I get probiotics into my girls (ages 7 & 10).

I made a really lovely coleslaw yesterday with pale green cabbage, dark purple cabbage, some dark green lambsquarter's leaves and some bright pink fermented purple cabbage. Used rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil for the dressing--delicious.
 
Matt mcmenaman
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John Kindziuk wrote:You can save this juice to jump start the next production.


@John,
I'm just getting into this fermentation thing and love it! I have been making pickles in my 5L Schmidt fermentation crock. I have been wondering if I can just take out pickles as they finish and insert new fresh cucumbers into the same brine. What do you think?
By the way, thanks for sharing your knowledge here. It's been really helpful

Matt
 
John Kindziuk
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Hi Matt,

An original idea, but it should work. This procedure is known as back slopping and is done with bread and was often done with traditionally made salamis. With sauerkraut it will work as well. What yo do is introduce a quantity of a known and proven product, the product that has turned out well before. You don't need to use all of the original pickle/brine. This might be too acidic for new bacteria to ferment and survive. What I would do is save the original brine in a refrigerator and use only 20% of it. The rest will be cucumbers and freshly made brine. You will definitely get a jump start on fermentation and may even lower slightly the amount of salt.
 
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