Fermenting question - salt quantities?

pixie_louJanuary 28, 2014

I'm attempting a fermented hot pepper sauce. My first time fermenting. My recipe is based on weight. Weigh the peppers, add 2% of their weight in salt, then cover with a fruity white wine.

I'm making this in a wide mouth quart. One quart of peppers by weight came out to about 2 teaspoons of salt. Does that sound right? I didn't measure salt by volume, I just used a regular eating teaspoon, and it was about 2 level spoonfuls until I had the proper weight. For some reason I was expecting to use a lot more salt.

Second question - the recipe told me to use a piece of cheesecloth on top, secured with my jar ring. What is the purpose of the cover? To let air in and keep dust out? I don't have cheesecloth so I have a piece of paper towel on right now. Do I need to go buy cheesecloth? Or can I use a piece of tulle or other fabric that I have.

It's been about 24 hours since I put this fermenting.

Thanks for the help.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Going by the fermenting table in Joy of Pickling then it sounds like too little salt. For a quart 1 1/2 T (0.88 oz) gives you a 2.57% brine, the minimum recommended. And 2T (1.15 oz) gives you a 3.35% brine.

But a regular eating teaspoon doesn't usually equal a measuring spoon teaspoon either. The eating spoon holds more. No way to know exactly how much salt you added but I don't see how it could be enough.

You don't mention the source of your instructions so no way to know if they are tested or not but there are plenty of tested and approved fermentation recipes available.

A sealed container is normally used when fermenting - a bag filled with brine, an airlock, a water seal of some kind, etc. so can't comment on why they would recommend cheesecloth as it would allow air into the container and could lead to contamination of the contents.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 4:29PM
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rdback(Z6 VA)

Hello pixie_lou.

As Dave said, if you could post the recipe (or a link), it would help complete the picture.

Anyway, based on what you've told us, I'd suggest reading the post linked below. Although it was not written by Sandor Katz, it is posted on his "Wild Fermentation" website. It kinda looks like what you're doing.

Regarding salt, in conversations I've had with Sandor, he believes you should only salt "to taste". Personally, I use 3.6% by volume.

The thing that concerns me most is the use of the "fruity wine". Wine itself is a ferment. Generally, at the end of the fermentation/aging process, products like sodium metabisulfite, potassium sorbate, etc are added to effectively STOP fermentation. This may keep your ferment from ever starting in the first place. Dunno.

Lastly, the amount of sugar available to the LB seems to be fairly low. Maybe that is what the âÂÂfruityâ wine is trying to address? Dunno.

Anyway, I hope things work out for you. Fermented hot sauces are great!


Pepper ferments

Here is a link that might be useful: Fermented hot pepper sauce

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 5:11PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

If potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite (sodium metabisulfite is seriously frowned upon in winemaking and is not used commercially) caused problems then we would not be able to make wine vinegars. I'd go more in depth about these two chemicals but it's not relevant to the OP's question.


This post was edited by theforgottenone1013 on Wed, Jan 29, 14 at 22:29

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:28PM
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I've linked the recipe/procedure I used below.

edited to correct decimal points
I needed 0.23 oz of salt to meet the 2% by weight. I weighed out 0.23 oz again into a marked measuring cup. It measured 2 teaspoons.

I used a combo of Bhut Jolokia, Ring of Fire Cayenne, and Matchbox Thai Hot Chili peppers. I rough chopped. They were very loosely packed into the jar. I have no idea how much wine I added. I finished one bottle, then opened a second bottle. It was a lot of wine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Recipe I used

This post was edited by pixie_lou on Fri, Jan 31, 14 at 6:28

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 8:34PM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Something didn't sound right to me with this so I went and weighed out 2.3 oz of table salt on my kitchen scale. It was just under 4 TABLESPOONS of salt. This was measured by running a knife blade over the top of the measuring spoon to make each spoonful level. I'm not sure why yours is so much less. Perhaps check your scale and measuring spoons/cup. See if a quarter cup of water weighs 2 ounces and measure to see that it fills four tablespoons. That is what water should weigh and measure. I've not seen any of my measuring cups marked with teaspoon measurements. Is yours perhaps a marking for some other measure? Perhaps fluid ounces or tablespoons? Or maybe our salts are much different from each other???

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 9:27PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sorry but something is wrong with your measurements. I agree with naturegirl. Standard salt conversion tables are available online and 1 oz. of table salt equals 4.98 teaspoons.

2.3 oz. converts to 11.4 teaspoons or 3.82976 tablespoons


    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 10:34PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I weighed a tsp. of pure salt (no free-flow agents) and it weighed 3.5 grams or .125 oz. That's way below what would be called for in a standard fermentation.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 12:30AM
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Oops. Sorry. I just edited my post above. I needed 0.23 oz of salt. I had 11.5 oz of chopped peppers in the jar. 2% by weight comes out to 0.23 oz of salt.

I have a Pyrex mini measure measuring cup, it holds a total of 2 Tbsp, and is marked in teaspoon measures. It is designed for fluids, but since I was measuring by weight, I didn't care that I was putting a solid in it. Based on all the salt weight conversions, 0.23 oz of salt would measure approximately 2 tsp. And that is what I came up with and used. I used regular old table salt.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:38AM
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I actually made a couple of batches of this hot pepper ferment this past autumn. However, I do remember that the amount of salt seemed very low to me and not at all typical for the fermentations I'd done in the past (mostly following the Joy of Pickling recipes and the guidelines given there). So I definitely added more salt than the Hot Pepper Ferment recipe called. I also added an apple wine that my husband made instead of a commercial variety.

Having said all of that, you may wish to consider increasing the amount of salt in the mash.

The peppers did ferment very well and the sauces turned out rather delicious. I allowed the mashes to ferment for a long period of time (about 12 weeks IIRC) and would taste them periodically. Our favorite is a serrano/fish blend.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:12AM
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WazzyWaz - I put this fermenting on Monday. It's now Friday. Do you think I should add another teaspoon (or more) of salt? Or leave as is. I don't see much happening in the jar.

I have more peppers in the freezer; if this goes well, I plan additional batches with the frozen peppers. And I would possibly grow more peppers next summer.

This is the jar sitting on my counter.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 12:23PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Couldn't help but notice on the link you provided that he stresses UNrefined salt be used.

It is much more coarse so would measure differently than table salt. Plus it wouldn't have the anti-caking additives that refined salt has and they would also affect both the weight and the measurement.

So yes, I would add more salt if only to compensate for the non-salt additives in your table salt. 1 tsp. minimum although it will still be lower than the total minimum recommended by most fermentation sources.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 4:02PM
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Dave, thanks for the reminder about salt types. I used pickling salt for my ferment.

Linda_lou, activity was pretty quick--within 24 hours I believe. Keep in mind that the air temp was in the low 70s at that point (not at all like my house's air temps now!), but unless you have really cool ambient temps, you really should have seen fermentation by now. I'd definitely add salt and mix well. I think you'll be pleased with the end results.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:12PM
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I stirred in 2 tsp of kosher salt last night. Didn't weigh the salt. I see bubbles this morning. It smells amazing!

Since it's winter, the house is a bit chilly. We keep it 68 during the day and 60 at night. Since this jar is in the kitchen, it is probably a few degrees warmer, especially in the early evenings, due to cooking. I had read that 64 degrees is the ideal temperature for fermenting.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:48AM
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You should be fine at 64, and I'm glad you're seeing action now. Definitely let us know about the end product!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:53AM
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This is a perfect example of why standardization is so important. The difference between table sale, Kosher salt, pickling salt and sea salt is significant and will affect most recipes, especially a ferment. Sandor Katz usually recommends unrefined sea salt.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 2:27PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Most of the success of fermentation rests on the proper ratio of salt to product.

Ordinary table salt weighs 10 oz. per cup; Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt weighs 7.7 oz. per cup; and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt weighs 5 oz. per cup.

Given those disparities, measurement by volume can be a real risk. Also, table salt and Morton's kosher both contain free-flow agents, which as mentioned, are really adulterants when considering total weight.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:26PM
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Not to take this OT, but has anyone noticed Morton's pickling salt (in green and black box) being saltier than Ball's (in green bag)? I had started with Ball's bought on sale end of season (2012? 2011?) but found Morton's, started using that in 2013 when I ran out of Ball's. My half sours this year were much saltier than in the previous years - practically inedible. Quick pickles, salsa, etc. that used smaller amounts were fine. Half sour recipe from Joy of Pickling was by volume and the grind seemed the same on both - no huge difference in how fine they were, so I measured instead of weighed.

Now I need to find a bag of Ball's again to compare weights.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 7:16AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I only found one source on that issue and it said weights for both Morton and Ball canning and pickling salt were the same. However, I have never bought Morton's so can't verify.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 12:54PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Have used both. Never noticed any difference in the results.

Good point Steve but it also helps if one uses the type of salt called for in the instructions since that is what the weight/measurement in the recipe is based on - the type of salt. Don't know of any fermentation instructions that call for using table salt.

In this particular case the guy who was the source specified "unrefined salt" which is very coarse and said he added more salt as needed. The author of the article changed that to a specific weight of "preferably sea salt" (which comes in all sorts of grinds many of which wouldn't correspond at all to unrefined salt) and doesn't mention "adding more as needed".


    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 2:09PM
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