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Title: Effects of Leuconostoc mesenteroides starter culture on fermentation of cabbage with reduced salt concentrations

item Johanningsmeier, Suzanne
item McFeeters, Roger
item Thompson, Roger

Submitted to: Journal of Food Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/30/2007
Publication Date: 6/30/2007
Citation: Johanningsmeier, S.D., McFeeters, R.F., Fleming, H.P., Thompson, R.L. 2007. Effects of Leuconostoc mesenteroides starter culture on fermentation of cabbage with reduced salt concentrations. Journal of Food Science. 72(5):M166-M172.

Interpretive Summary: Variability in the texture and flavor of sauerkraut and the costs associated with treatment and disposal of sauerkraut brine containing high levels of sodium chloride and organic matter are problems for the commercial sauerkraut industry in the United States. The results of this investigation have shown that addition of an appropriate starter culture to shredded cabbage yields sauerkraut with increased uniformity and quality (i.e. firm, crunchy texture and reduced off-flavor) even under reduced salt conditions. Results of this study suggest that good quality sauerkraut using only 1% NaCl (a 50% reduction from current practices) could consistently be produced if cabbage were initially inoculated with a suitable strain of L. mesenteroides. Reduced chloride in the waste brine generated during the manufacture of sauerkraut would reduce the cost of waste treatment and disposal.

Technical Abstract: Sauerkraut fermentations rely upon selection of naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria by addition of 2.0 to 2.25% granulated sodium chloride (NaCl) to shredded cabbage. Excess brine generated is a waste product with high levels of organic material (BOD) and non-biodegradable NaCl. The objective was to determine whether addition of Leuconostoc mesenteroides starter culture to reduced salt cabbage fermentations would yield sauerkraut with reproducible and acceptable chemical composition and sensory qualities. Shredded cabbage was salted with 0.5%, 1.0%, or 2.0% NaCl (wt/wt) at 2 starter culture levels, none or L. mesenteroides strain LA 81, ATCC 8293 (106 cfu/g). Fermentation products were quantified by high performance liquid chromatography and pH was measured during the initial stages of fermentation and after 10 months storage at 18°C. A trained descriptive sensory panel used category scales to rate flavor and texture of selected sauerkrauts. A modified Kramer Shear test was used to measure firmness. Cabbage fermented with L. mesenteroides consistently resulted in sauerkraut with firm texture and reduced off-flavors across all salt levels (P < 0.05). Conversely, sauerkraut quality was highly variable with softening and off-flavors occurring as salt concentrations were decreased in natural fermentations (P < 0.05). Fermentations were rapid with a more uniform decline in pH when starter culture was added. L. mesenteroides addition to cabbage fermentations ensured that texture and flavor quality were retained while allowing 50% NaCl reduction. Application of this technology to commercial sauerkraut production could improve the uniformity of fermentations and substantially reduce generation of non-biodegradable chloride waste.