We received a great question from Rodney today:

Do you ever use some of the brine from one fermented batch of peppers to start a new batch instead of yogurt whey?


His question was attached to an article we wrote on fermenting dried peppers with whey.  I started to write an answer when I realized I was typing an entire post and that others may want to know the same thing so I thought I’d answer it here.

The short answer is, “yes.”  But there is some fine print:

  1. In most cases you don’t need a starter at all.  I use when or brine to add bacteria to dried peppers to kick things off and speed the fermenting.  It’s also necessary if the peppers were dehydrated with intense heat (the actual temperature is debated though many argue enzymes will die over 115 degrees).  Whey or brine can add enzymes that will increase your success while fermenting.
  2. The age of the brine matters.  If it’s been sitting in your fridge or cold storage for a year, the brine will have a lot less enzymes than it started with (or compared to whey).  On the bright side it will add flavor and it will likely have more enzymes than water that you’d be using otherwise!
  3. Brine can alter the amount of salt in a ferment.  I like to measure the salt I add (to make the results repeatable) – when you add brine to a ferment you are adding an unknown quantity of salt.  I recommend adding brine before adding salt and then adjusting to taste.
  4. It doesn’t last long.  I’m not suggesting that brine can’t be stored in a fridge – it’s just that we tend to use it in cooking (you can drink it, if it’s not too spicy, add it to cooking like you would use vinegar or use it to marinade meat or tofu).

I’m just about to finish writing this piece and found a similar article from last year.  My answers were similar but have more food for thought so I’ve decided to keep both pieces and link them together.  If you want more info/ perspective on re-using brine,

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