Fermenting Revolution: The Universal Fermented Pickle Recipe

| 7/27/2015 8:57:00 AM

Tags: pickling, fermenting, canning, food preservation, Kevin West,

Making fermented pickles requires us get friendly with bacteria.

As discussed in my previous post, a pickle is nothing more than a vegetable preserved in an acidic brine. Acid is the silver bullet against botulism and also gives pickles their signature tangy taste. For quick pickles, often called vinegar pickles, the brine is acidified with vinegar.

In making fermented pickles, also called brined pickles or lacto-fermented pickles, the brine acidifies naturally, thanks to the activity of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. The microbiology is fascinating and complex, but all you really need to know is that the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria occur naturally on the vegetables you’ll pickle, and the fermenter’s role is to encourage them to do their thing. In one sense, fermenting is akin to gardening. Gardening requires patience, diligence, and careful attention, but you don’t actually make the garden grow. Instead, you create the conditions for the garden to flourish as nature takes it course. Likewise, with fermenting, you don’t make the ferment bubble, but you do tend the microenvironment of your ferment in order to foster conditions favorable to the beneficial bacteria. And, just as the gardener takes steps to discourage weeds, you take steps to discourage undesirable microorganism such mold and yeast.

Some people prefer the unique, rich flavor of traditionally fermented pickles (kosher dills, for instance) to the sharper flavor of vinegar pickles, but to me the most significant difference between the two classes of pickles is that fermented pickles are a raw, live, pro-biotic food. (See Michael Pollan’s New York Times Magazine article here for an overview of research linking our bodies’ microbiome, including gut flora, to health.) In my experience, the effect of fermented pickles on digestion is noticeable and beneficial.

Many firm vegetables—including cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, turnips, and green tomatoes—can be fermented. The only essential ingredients apart from the vegetables themselves are sea salt and bottled water.

8/20/2015 10:10:15 AM

what happens if the vegetables don't stay submerged under the brine water? I checked on them a few days into the process and there was the scum on the water a bit on the some of the vegetables...

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