Saturday Share Recipe: Pickle & Ferment

If you think pickling vegetables is the same as fermenting vegetables, then you're mistaken.

Even worse, you may be missing out on health benefits you thought pickling gave you.

What is Pickling?

Both pickling and fermenting are the oldest methods of preserving food, but they are 2 different processes.

Pickling dates back thousands of years. There are records in India of pickled cucumbers around 2000 BCE.

My mom pickled dozens of quarts of cucumber and other vegetables every summer, and I helped. Pickling is easy but doing it on that scale is a lot of hard work. To create a pickled vegetable to serve at a meal is very easy. 

All you do is mix up vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, and water and heat it to boiling. Pour it over the food to be pickled and let it "marinate" so to speak in this solution for a few hours up to a few days. The longer it sets in the solution, the stronger the pickled taste.

Pickled food tastes sour, and the food is softened by pickling. The hot brine solution kills bacteria and other microorganisms. 

Be sure and cover and refrigerate the pickling food so it won't spoil unless you want to "can" the pickled vegetables.

You can create your own spice mixture for pickling or you can buy one that's already put together. Amazon offers several like a canister of Pickling Spice that is naturally sourced and Non-GMO.

If you want to read more about pickling, try The Complete Guide to Pickling by Julie Laing.

What is Fermenting?

Sauerkraut, bread, and beer are probably the most commonly known fermented foods. My mom told me how her parents would make a big barrel of sauerkraut every year. I remember thinking how odd that was because to me, sauerkraut was something we had on hot dogs occasionally.

Talk about something old being new again! Fermented foods are huge on everyone's must eat list in today's world because it is superior in creating a healthy gut. 

People are taking classes on how to ferment foods, not just sauerkraut but all kinds of vegetables.

Like pickling, fermentation is a simple process that dates back earlier than pickling—around 7000 BCD in China. By 2000 BCE, fermentation had spread to pre-Hispanic Mexico. 

Fermenting is using microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast, rather than an acid, to convert carbohydrates to alcohol. This process usually takes place in a brine that has no acidic ingredients.

There are 2 types of fermentation. Both work on the same principle, but one is a more advanced form.

Alcoholic fermentation—no pickling involved—is what you find in bread, beer, and wine. It's the process of pyruvate breaking down into ethanol and carbon dioxide by bacteria and yeast.

Lactic Acid fermentation is the second type and is the process of pyruvate molecules further breaking down into lactic acid. Fermentation encourages probiotics which are very good for the gut.

Summary of the Difference

Not all pickles are fermented, and not all fermented foods are considered pickled.

An easy way to remember the difference between pickling and fermenting?

Pickling involves putting food into an acidic brine to produce a sour flavor. Fermenting does not require any acid to give the food a sour flavor.

For those who want to learn more about fermented foods, try Fermented Vegetables on Amazon.

By the way, you may drink a fermented food every morning like I do—a tablespoon of organic ACV, that is, apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.

Apple cider vinegar is actually apple cider that has been fermented using yeast which breaks down the natural sugar in the apple and turns it into an alcohol.

There are many recipes online for pickled foods and fermented foods.

Try Quick Pickled Vegetables, a recipe from Food & Wine.

If you're into kits, you can get a fermenting kit like the one shown at left. It has jars and special plastic lids that won't rust from the brine solution, The Easy Fermenter.

What to ferment? Beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, fresh green beans, garlic, peppers, radishes, turnips—any crisp vegetable will work. 

To learn how to ferment vegetables, watch this video from ProHomeCooks, one of my fave cooking channels: The Complete Beginner's Guide to Fermenting Foods at Home.

Takeaway Truth

Let me know if you try pickling and fermenting. I'm trying fermented jicama just to see if it turns out well. Enjoy cooking this weekend.


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