Fermentation Foibles: Matchstick Golden Beets

I was excited to see how these would turn out with a week or so of fermenting:

Fermentation Foibles: Matchstick Golden Beets Golden Beet Beet

Beets are relatively easy to ferment:

  1. Slice
  2. Add salt, apply pressure.
  3. Leave on counter; the salt should pull enough fluid to cover the beets within 6-12 hours
  4. Top up with salt brine if needed.
  5. Leave covered, taste often

While the flavor of these ended well, they ended up very slimy.  The texture just wasn’t my thing.

There’s a few possibilities (and I’m open to your ideas/ expertise as well):

  • The small pieces somehow created the texture.
  • There wasn’t enough salt and things fermented faster than I thought.
  • Was bad luck.
  • Caused by the type of beets.
  • My water didn’t end up de-chlorinating and fermentation was stopped.

I once-in-a-while get a slippery batch but it’s not enough to hold me back.  Clearly it’s time to do some more reading!

Comments

  1. The bacteria formed a biofilm of some sort?

    • That would describe likely describe it. :) There’s a neat description below by FermUp with some possibilities…I’m leaving it to temperature or quantity of salt.. :)

  2. That slimy texture may have been the result of a strain of Leuconostoc mesenteroides. It is one of the first fermenters in sauerkraut (and I’m assuming similarly for beets) and starts a lot of the creation of lactic acid. It’s responsible for a lot of flavor in fermented vegetables, but I’ve read that it is sometimes responsible for slimy or ropey texture. If the temperature is too high or there is too much salt, then L. mesenteroides can’t do it’s work.

    But in your case it was possibly overworking, so was there too little salt? Or were temperatures too low?

    • Hey FermUp – awesome answer, thank you!

      I had kind of concluded that it was too cold or that I used too much salt. I might be reading your comment wrong but am struggling to see if there’s a typo – the third last sentence mentions too much salt but then the second last asks if we used too little? I think I might be misunderstanding, would love clarity..

      I don’t think the salt was too low – thinking now I may try to ferment something with way too much salt (which would inhibit fermentation) to see if I can recreate the results.. :)

      • Sorry for the confused wording above. For clarification, it is my understanding the L. mesenteroides can’t proliferate in the first stage of fermentation if there is too much salt or too high of temperatures. We want L. mesenteroides in the first stage for the creation of lactic acid which sets the stage for the next bacteria to take over. In the second stage, L. mesenteroides is usually still hanging out and performing some duties, but it is no longer the main fermenter (we still want it later on for building up the full flavor profile).

        If we were to assume that L. mesenteroides was the culprit (which I have no idea; this is simply a guess from reading science literature), then it is a great environment starting out for L. mesenteroides. There is not too much salt or too high of temperatures. So we can throw out those as being the cause in this hypothesis.

        But we’re trying to guess at what would have caused L. mesenteroides to continue proliferating beyond the lactic acid build-up in the first stage. Why would it continue to be the main fermenter that could potentially be the reason for the slimy texture? A quick glance at some reference notes states that it is the “dextrans and other polysaccharides” that are produced by some strains of L. mesenteroides that cause this slimy or ropey texture.

        So if L. mesenteroides is over-producing, then that might mean that the second stage fermenting bacteria don’t have a proper environment for proliferation. If I’m not mistaken, the second stage bacteria can’t ferment if the temperatures are too low. And unlike L. mesenteroides that can’t do much in too high of a salt ratio, some of these other bacteria would do fine in the high salt content, but if it is too low, then they would have trouble performing.

        That’s why I asking about too little of salt or too low of temperature (because for the first stage, L. mesenteroides can do alright in low salt and/or low temperature).

        I’m not sure if that over-clarified or made things more confusing.

        • Sorry for the delay FermUp; work has eaten a lot of time lately! I adore your knowledge!

          I’m going to give it another go soon; I’ll reduce salt and use greater care with my water. Temperature could have been a factor but it’s consistently above 65-70 degrees in here. I thought my next effort will include some whey to give it a kickstart and see what happens…

          You have explained yourself really well indeed – and given me lots more to google. :)

          Joel

  3. Joanne K-J says:

    I just prepared a jar of shredded red beets for fermentation yesterday. I am kind of new to this process and often refer to “The Great One” of fermentation Sandor Katz before I try a new veg. In The Art of Fermentation he states,”A large proportion of beets, being so sugary, can encourage a yeasty fermentation, and produce thick, syrupy brine.” Could his description “thick, syrupy, yeasty” = slimy? Not sure but then it seems Sandor hasn’t met too many ferments that he would deem inedible (I don’t count myself as that adventurous). I do follow his salting recommendation of 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of veg although he continually states that he does not typically measure salt. So I am now anxious to see if my beets will be yeasty? Zesty? Slimy?

    • Hi Joanne!

      How did they turn out? I think Sandors syrupy is my slimy. :) I will indeed use yeast next time to speed it along and see what happens. Look forward to hearing about your results!
      :)

      Joel

      • Joanne K-J says:

        You are correct – Sandor’s syrupy = slimy. I checked the beets at about the three day mark and they were developing a nice tang. I should have popped them in the fridge at that point. I let them go a few more days and foam developed – just foam no mold. I planned to skim the foam, taste and evaluate but it was quite evident upon skimming that there was no chance I was going to taste what was going on in that jar – I just can’t do slimy. The beets didn’t smell bad but the color of the liquid had turned from a deep beet purpley red to brownish and the liquid was thick and extremely slimy – compost in other words. If I ever do that again I will be making small amounts that I will refrigerate after a couple of days. I did use an air lock on my jar – a homemade contraption but as I said no mold or odd smell. I guess I will stick to roasting my beets. I follow your blog and will be interested in reading about any further attempts to ferment beets in the mean time I am loving my current batch of kimchi – no slime!

        • We will update when we overcome the slime for sure! :)

          If you ever end up ‘slimy’ again – it’s worth a try to rinse the product in fresh water. you have to eat it ‘fresh’ at that point but if the texture is just the liquid (i.e. if you catch it soon enough), you may still have something usable.

          We’re not turning our back on beets yet. :)

          Glad you’ve had success with kimchi!

  4. Hi Joel,
    I made super slimy fermented shredded raw beets a few years back. I think that beets just don’t produce enough juice on their own, and that the evaporation of what little liquid you start with results in a thick, sugary slime after a week or so. It’s possible that L. mesenteroides is also producing dextrans and other sugars, but because you have so many sugars right off the bat from the beets, I’m not sure that the main culprit is a faulty succession of Lactobacteria. Rather, I think that the eventual sliminess of the brine (from it being sugary and almost jelly-like) inhibits further fermentation.

    My solution is to dilute the beet sugars with water, and I now ferment beets (raw) in chunks or slices in a brine ( 2-3 Tbsp salt per litre water).

    I remember how disappointed I was with that bad batch of beets! Good luck on your next try.

    • Hi Haley!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences – I’m glad I’m not alone! :) I think that’s a fine point about the jelly inhibiting fermentation – it was so thick it almost reminded me of the ‘sludge’ you get when picking cattails (which I’m told is edible too!). Wasn’t my cup of tea.

      I’m going to try a few variations – although I had some salt, I’m not sure of the exact ratio any more. Will try with your ratio plus one with whey and perhaps a few other attempts. I’ll share success or failure!

      Thanks for sharing again! :) Joel

  5. Wow, this is all very interesting.

    I made a shreded beet ferment 13 days ago that went very much how you describe. I was calling it slimy.

    It seemed after a few days it started to get slimy. At about a week I started to worring it was going wrong and I added some juice from another beet ferment (that I had bought from RAW Ferment). I think it may have turned it around (or maybe it just got better on its own). But before I added the juice I tried some. And felt like I was getting a stomach bug that night. Now I am afraid to try it again. It doesn’t smell bad. Do you know if stomach cramps and “bug” type symptoms would be what would happen if you ate a bad ferment?

    • hi Kim,

      I’ve read that some people have gotten the occasional stomach cramp but haven’t read worse than that. For me, it was often more psychological worry than actual symptom. From the perspective of the beets, I just didn’t like the texture – even after rinsing.

      Most advise sampling a small bit and seeing how they feel (fermenting kills most bad bacteria). What did you do?

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