Not all salt is equal. Some salts are more dense than others. This is why it is important to weigh salt by the gram as opposed to using imperial measurements such as tablespoons when fermenting vegetables.
At least this is what I set out to expose when taking the photos for this post. Yes, measuring by weight will produce the most consistent results. However, if you are fermenting a relatively small amount of vegetables, the difference between salts measured using tablespoons is negligible.
If you’re only familiar with table salt and processed sea salt, then it might surprise you to know that there are many different kinds of salt available for purchase. While most of these salts are not available at local grocery stores, they are available through specialty shops.
Some of these salts are denser than others due to the way that they are cut or from the trace minerals in the salt. This density will effect how many grams of salt will fit in a tablespoon. If you’re using less than two tablespoons, which is the amount that I used for the photos in this post, then using imperial measurement versus a gram scale will not matter much. However, if you are looking for consistency and reproducibility in a fermented recipe, then a gram scale is still your best option.
I didn’t use exotic salts, but I did use a few different salts differing in density, shape and brand. When measuring the weight of two tablespoons for these salts, I realized that the difference between the salts was one gram or less. So on the small scale, weighing is not necessary. But if you were going to ferment a 55-gallon batch of sauerkraut, then that one gram of difference could drastically change the final product.
I prefer to use a gram scale when preparing fermented foods because I find it much easier to use ratios. When I make sauerkraut, I first measure the cabbage and then I measure out 2.25% of that vegetable weight in salt. Of course, it is possible to skip measurement entirely and simply salt to taste, but that is a little too unpredictable for me.
So use whichever method fits into your work style the best unless you will be making a large batch of fermented vegetables that you would like to turn out the same every year. In that case, I definitely recommend a gram scale.