Saturday, 29 August 2015

Preserving the Harvest: Salt Preserves

In my last post I talked about different preserving methods using sugar. In this post I'll cover salt, the second major ingredient in food preservation. Salt can be used in various different ways to preserve food; brining and salting are the methods for most vegetable ferments and are very simple


The general ratio for a brine solution is 1tbsp salt : 250ml water.
The recipe below is the basic brining method and can be adapted easily to other ingredients.

Nasturtium Capers

2 tbsp salt
400ml water
1 cup of nasturtium seed pods
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 black pepper corns

Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved.
Add the nasturtium seed pods, garlic and peppercorns to a 0.5l storage jar and cover with the brine solution.
Cover the jar opening with a muslin cloth and secure with an elastic band.
Leave for about a week, tasting every couple of days to see when the flavour is right. You may need to remove a bit of mould from the surface every now and then.
When ready seal the jar and label. It will store unopened for several months. Once opened store in the fridge and eat within a month.


Sauer kraut and kimchi are made with shredded vegetables which are added to a fermentation crock (or bucket) in layers which are sprinkled with salt. The veg and salt are then weighed down with a plate and a weight and covered with a cloth. After a few days the salt will have drawn out the liquid within the vegetables creating a flavoursome brine which will ferment and preserve the veg. Herbs, garlic, spices, etc can be added at the beginning to give different flavours.

The general ratio for salting is 3tbsp salt 2kg shredded veg


This simple recipe, traditionally made with cabbage, can also be made with perennial brassica leaves such as ‘Nine Star’ broccoli and ‘Daubenton’ kale. Make sure you pick leaves when they are really fresh and succulent, and remember that they will shrink down as they ferment, so pick plenty.

Brassica or other leaves, shredded
Additional herbs and vegetables of your choice (e.g. onion, garlic, dill, fennel), shredded or grated
Sea salt (see ‘Salting ratios’ box for quantities)

You will need a suitable large container, a plate, a weight and a cloth.

The leaves should make up the bulk of the mix: around 4 parts leaves to 1 part other vegetables and herbs, but you can experiment with what you have available and according to taste. Mix the shredded leaves and vegetables and spread them, a handful at a time, over the base of your container. Sprinkle some salt after every  few handfuls, aiming to distribute it evenly between layers of vegetables.

When all the vegetables are in the container, cover them with the plate and push it down firmly, compressing them as much as possible. Put the weight on top of the plate and cover the container with the cloth. Tie the cloth around with string to secure it over the container – this will keep insects out but let the microorganisms in.

Over the next day or two, press down on the weight occasionally to encourage the process, and after 24-48 hours enough liquid should have been drawn out of the vegetables to cover the plate. If after 48 hours the plate is not covered with brine, add a little brine solution to ensure the vegetables are submerged. Give the sauerkraut a gentle stir and then replace the plate.

Check the container daily and remove any mould that forms on the surface of the liquid using a spoon. After one week, taste the brine daily until you are satisfied with the flavour.

Transfer the sauerkraut to sterilised storage jars, label them with the date and contents and store in the fridge. It will keep for at least three months when refrigerated.

Try using this method to make a sour slaw with grated root vegetables, garlic and herbs. You can also create a Korean-style kimchi with mixed forest garden vegetables, Szechuan pepper and elephant garlic.

Brining (pickling)

Brining is an all-inclusive method of fermentation, applicable to pretty much any kind of fruit or vegetable. Essentially, you create a brine solution, submerge your chosen food in it and wait. Some recipes, such as brined garlic or capers, are very simple and use only one food ingredient. Others, such as some traditional Indian pickles, are more exotic and complex.

Brined elephant garlic

1 elephant garlic bulb, separated and peeled
2 tbsp sea salt
400ml (14fl oz) water

You will need a 0.5l (18fl oz) sterilised glass storage jar and a piece of cloth.

Add the salt to the water and stir until fully dissolved. Place the peeled cloves of garlic into the storage jar and pour in the brine solution. The cloves are so big that you can wedge them in against each other and prevent them from floating to the top. Make sure there is at least 2cm (¾”) of brine above the garlic cloves, and fix the cloth to the rim of the jar with an elastic band or string.Allow to ferment for approximately one week, tasting the brine daily and removing any mould that forms on the surface. When the garlic is to your liking, if you have had a lot of mould you may choose to empty the jar contents into a clean bowl, re-sterilise the jar and return the contents to it for storage. Label and date the jar and store in a cool place. It will keep for several months out of the fridge, but refrigeration helps to reduce surface mould.


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  2. Caroline, I live on a 20 acre farm, a new venture for me. I would LOVE to be able to live year to year preserving my food without using a freezer or fridge (neither of which I have) and without using sugar (which I have removed entirely from my diet). Salt seems to be a useful way to preserve food but I'm concerned about the potential increased salt in my diet. Have you done any research into the food's salt absorption, to the extent you are confident you are not overdosing in the winter months?

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