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Thick Brine?

Thick Brine

Thick Brine in Fermented Mustard Seeds

Do you ever experience thick, slimy, viscous brine in your ferments? It happens more with carrots than any other vegetable but it has happened with every vegetable at different times for me.  Not every batch of carrot sticks produces a thick brine but most do.  Not all of my sauerkraut has a watery brine.  Occasionally I get a thick brine.  Same with my cucumber pickles.  Heck, I’ve even had my water kefir end up thick and viscous which was very weird.  Sometimes the brine is thick, sometimes it’s not.  Thickened brine has baffled me for years.

While researching something entirely different, I came across this little sentence, “Certain species of Leuconostoc have been found to produce dextran slime or mucilaginous substances in wine.” A light bulb went off.  I believe this might be the answer to my question. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/wine/lactic-acid-bacteria-and-wine-spoilage

According to Wikipedia (Yes, I’m citing Wikipedia.  It’s concise and easy to read.  Look at the sources there if you want the scientific mumbo jumbo), Leuconostoc produce dextran and are “generally slime-forming.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leuconostoc

There are a other strains of bacteria that create this dextran slime like Lactobacillus brevis which is found in many fermented foods. Water kefir and milk kefir grains are comprised mostly of dextran. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dextran and http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html

So is it pectic, is it dextran slime, or both?  Without expensive lab tests, I have no clue.  I do believe it’s perfectly safe, as long as it smells like a ferment should and there is no mold.  I’ve been eating pickles and kraut with thickened brine with no ill effect for years now.

Like I said earlier, I never know when I’m going to end up with a thick brine.  I haven’t found a pattern but I do know it’s fairly common in my neck of the woods.  I hear reports of thick brine often.  Maybe it’s controlled by temp, maybe we just have more of these dextran producing bacteria here than elsewhere.  I have no idea.

Do you experience thick brine too?


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14 comments to Thick Brine?

  • Bryan

    Being a ‘fermented foodie newbie’, I have wondered why my broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mixture had a thick brine in it. It smells fine, but I find myself rinsing it before eating it…I guess the thick slime just is kind of off putting to me.

  • Have you paid attention to if you’re doing the ferments 5 days leading up to the New or Full Moons? I tend to try to do mine at these times as the cultures are the most active….just not within the 24 hours of. ;~)
    I also notice they come out according to the “energies” of the household. It took me a while to get my Kombucha to its smooth flavor after moving in with my Dad – he’s a bit “acidic” & so was the result for the first few months.

  • Nicola

    I have had slime brine with carrots. I found it a bit,erm, challenging! Like Lana, I rinsed before eating. I asked about it at a workshop and the leader didnt know why either, but had had it happen. Lacto fermenting is always a bit like magic to me, slime is just one of the interesting consequences ;-D

  • I once lived in an apartment where I found that all my wild ferments would go slimy, however they tasted fine. Since moving I have not encountered any. I thought it was a result of the bacteria in that particular environment, your post seems to confirm that.

    I resorted to using starter to get things going, but the pickles weren’t as good…

  • […] soft or slimy which is an indication your ferment is off, but to make sure I googled it and found this post about this sauerkraut condition. Have you ever had a thick brine? Gosh, I love the […]

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  • Samantha

    Just doing my very first veggie ferment (grated carrot with cinnamon) and im noticing a very thick syrupy brine. Yours is the first page ive found that gives any explanation other than “try it see what happens” so thank you! I have enough disabling health issues without adding food poisoning.

    Stillhavent tried them but im glad to have an idea why it happened

  • Moragh

    Thank you.

    Is have the same with my Kefir milk occasionally I get a thick batch and I am over the moon. Then back to runny… crazy

  • Manya

    Thank you so much for researching and writing about this! I’m just starting to experiment with pickling and fermentation, and noticed this phenomenon in one of my kim chi batches (raw fermented like sauerkraut, but with other ingredients, including grated carrots). Everything else seemed fine and normal, but I wasn’t sure if it was safe to eat or not. Glad to hear I’m not alone in having experienced this–and that (knock on wood) it hasn’t sent anybody to the hospital! Thanks again–going to check out your Pinterest posts : )

  • I thought I was doing something wrong, several batches have been thick in my current location.

    The biggest difference here is probably the heat, which has been 30c+ on a regular basis this summer.

  • Yvonne

    My brine seems to get goopey more in the summer when it is 30c too or if I leave it at room temp. for too long instead of transferring the harsh to a cooler area of the house after a few days.

  • Gnarles

    Avid sour beer brewer I believe your “slime” is being formed by pediococcus which can form exopolysaccharides which is a thick “slime”. A lot of sour and Belgium beer Brewers experience it in their naturally fermented beers. The addition of Brettanomyces to your culture may help

    But If you want to do more research Google “sick sour beer”

    Cheers

  • HaloInverse

    If the slime goes away with a longer fermentation time, it’s not pectic slime, and may be dextrans – which is fixable. If the slime doesn’t go away after a few more weeks, it may be pectic slime, or a sign of other contamination – much harder to get rid of.

    I looked into this a couple years ago, when I was starting to diversify from basic kimchi and sauerkraut into other vegetable ferments. While Ln. mesenteroides can definitely produce slimy dextrans when fermenting high-sugar vegetables, other LAB are capable of breaking down those dextrans for food – if given a chance.

    The next batch of fermented carrots I did, I noticed sliminess after about a week – but they lost their sliminess completely after around four weeks, confirming the theory. Now, if I’m fermenting carrots or other root vegetables, I just leave it to ferment for one month minimum, before even thinking about tasting the batch. Haven’t had any issues with slimy carrots since.

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