Pasteurize Refrigerate

Figure 7-1. Manufacture of sauerkraut. Adapted from Harris, 1998.

most certain to occur if too much or not enough salt is added or if the salt is not uniformly distributed, because salt performs several essential functions during the sauerkraut fermentation. Very soon after the salt is mixed with the shredded cabbage, water begins to diffuse out from the interior of the plant tissue to the exterior medium, due to simple osmosis. The brine that forms also contains sugars and other dissolved nutrients that diffuse out with the water.Thus, it is this water phase that ultimately serves as the location for most of the microbial activity.

Next, salt (dissolved in the brine) provides the selective conditions that discourage growth of most of the non-lactic microorganisms that would otherwise compete with the lactic mi-croflora.Although salt at a concentration of only 2.25% is, by itself, not ordinarily sufficient to inhibit all of the indigenous, non-lactic bacteria, it is enough to provide the lactic acid bacteria with a substantial growth advantage. Furthermore, combined with other environmental factors, the selective effects of this relatively moderate salt concentration can be increased appreciably (discussed below). Moreover, once the pH has been decreased by the production of organic acids, the combination of salt plus acid contributes significantly to the long preservation properties of the finished product. Finally, salt imparts a desirable flavor to the product and helps to maintain a crisp texture by preventing softening of the tissues.

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