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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Canning, Preserving and Dehydrating / ~ Fermentation ~ Pickles, Sauerkraut and Vegetables
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    ~ Fermentation ~ Pickles, Sauerkraut and Vegetables

    Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next Page >>
    Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:41 am
    Forum Host

    Ever thought of how people in the past survived without refrigerators, freezers, and other modern luxuries?

    Before the advent of modern day canning, most of our ancestors understood the process of fermentation. They had crocks of real sauerkraut, fermented cucumber pickles and other treasures such as beets, onions or garlic waiting out the winter in the root cellar.

    Fermentation is the oldest method of pickling, when a naturally occurring bacteria transforms the sugars present in the ingredient into an acid, preserving the food is called "processed" pickles, and though they take as many as five weeks to cure, they last up to 2 years. They have a very sharp flavor, and their texture is somewhat softer than other types. Fermentation is the controlled decomposition of food. In the case of fermented pickles, salt controls the pickle's texture, limits unwanted micro-organisms, and ensures ingredients don't ferment too quickly. Dry-salted pickles extract water from the vegetable itself to produce the brine; brined pickles are covered with salt dissolved in water.

    Fermented pickles played an important role in Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492. Around the time of Columbus, many transoceanic voyages were thwarted because crews suffered from scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Columbus’s ship stocker, a pickle merchant named Amerigo Vespucci, stored ample quantities of vitamin C-rich fermented pickles on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, helping to prevent scurvy outbreaks on the historic voyage across the Atlantic. A common dish found on sailing ships, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) was prepared in the German manner, with water and salt.

    Pickling vegetables not only improves their flavor, it can also make them more nutritious and easier to digest. During fermentation, bacteria produce vitamins as they digest vegetable matter. Also, if the salting causes a vegetable to lose water, the fat-soluble vitamins will become more concentrated. According to Korean scientists, kimchi (a traditional pickled cabbage dish in Korea) contains as much as double the levels of vitamins B1, B2, B12, and niacin as unfermented cabbage contains.

    Scientifically, a pickle is any perishable ingredient that has been preserved in a brine. But pickling isn't only about's about tradition, community, economy, responsibility, and family. Our ancestors - no matter what part of the globe they hailed from - pickled to preserve fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. They pickled to save money. They pickled together with family and friends, to assure safety and make the most out of their foods. Harsh winters, humid tropical climates, short growing seasons, poor soil, fast-spoiling staples (such as fish), even summer abundance and gardening pride - all have spawned the arts of pickling and food preservation.


    Cucumber pickle factories usually ferment cucumbers in large outdoor vats of salt brine. Surprisingly, these vats have no cover, and are wide open to falling bird droppings, insects, and other airborne objects. But according to Jim Cook, a food scientist with the Minnesota-based pickle manufacturer Gedney, tanks are left open for an important reason: The sun’s ultraviolet and infrared rays prevent yeast and mold growth on the brine surface—potentially a much more serious problem than bird droppings. In fact, Cook recommends that home picklers leave their fermenting pickles in the sun to prevent the spread of these microorganisms. Please see these two recipes to make a similar pickles at home:
    Sunshine Pickles
    Sunshine Dill Pickles

    According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, fully fermented pickles may be stored in the original container for about 4 to 6 months, provided they are refrigerated and surface bloom/scum and molds are removed regularly. Pickle products are subject to spoilage from microorganisms, particularly yeasts and molds, as well as enzymes that may affect flavor, color, and texture. Processing the pickles or kraut in jars in a boiling-water canner will prevent both of these problems. Standard canning jars and self-sealing lids are recommended. Processing times and procedures will vary according to food acidity and the size of food pieces.

    Other vegetables were also fermented to preserve them from spoilage. Most of the pickled products found on our grocery shelves were at one time a fermented product: pickles, sauerkraut, and even catsup/ketchup.

    Russians and Poles eat pickled green tomatoes and peppers. The peoples of Japan, China and Korea enjoy pickled cabbage and eggplant, as well as fermented soy products like miso and tempeh. Cultured raw milk yogurts and cheese have been popular in India and Europe for centuries. Fermented sour dough bread, wine, artichokes, olives, sauerkraut and grape leaves are still staples in the European diet today

    Cabbage is the basis for the German sauerkraut, Korean kimchi, Japanese tsukemono, Filipino atchara, Vietnamese Dua Cai Chua, Latin American Cortido (links) and Indonesian sayur asin.

    Fully-cured sauerkraut keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at or below 15°C (59°F). Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required as long as the surface bloom and molds are removed periodically, although these treatments may prolong storage life. However, pasteurization will destroy all of the beneficial digestive enzymes and lactic acid bacteria, as well as the valuable vitamin C content, so it greatly diminishes the nutritional value without any significant benefit.

    No special culture of lactic acid bacteria is needed because these bacteria already are present on raw cabbage. Yeasts also are present, and may yield soft sauerkraut of poor flavor when the fermentation temperature is too high. The fermentation process has three phases. In the first phase, anaerobic bacteria such as Klebsiella and Enterobacter lead the fermentation, and begin producing an acid environment that favors later bacteria. The second phase starts as the acid levels become too high for many bacteria, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides and other Leuconostoc spp. take dominance. In the third phase, various Lactobacillus species including L. brevis and L. plantarum ferment any remaining sugars, further lowering the pH.

    Salt (sodium chloride) is a major component in both the fermentation process and the flavor profile of sauerkraut, and typically is added in proportions between 0.6% and 2% relative to the amount of cabbage. For preparation at home, the USDA recommends a greater amount of salt than is traditional, making the sauerkraut unpalatably salty unless rinsed before eating. Such rinsing removes much of the nutrient content and flavor. When traditional amounts of salt are used, temperature control is critical, because spoilage leading to food poisoning can occur if the fermentation temperature is too high. However, once made, sauerkraut is a very safe food because its high acidity prevents spoilage. USDA also recommends pasteurizing sauerkraut for storage. This is not necessary if the raw sauerkraut has been properly made and stored, and will needlessly diminish the nutritional value. A slimy or excessively soft texture, discoloration, or off-flavor may indicate spoilage.

    The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.

    As an example, unpasteurized sauerkraut juice is accredited with high medical qualities; its consumption is recommended for flu prevention, as a gastro-regulator for a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, from diarrhea to constipation, ulcers, bronchitis and various other digestive and respiratory diseases and disorders, anemia, and as a health tonic for youngsters. Interestingly, its most popular use in the regions where it's produced has always been as a major remedy against hangover, since it is credited with driving away the headache, neutralizing the effects of alcoholic intoxication on the stomach and intestinal mucosa and cleaning the liver.

    Regular dill pickles and sauerkraut are fermented and cured for about 3 weeks. During curing, colors and flavors change and acidity increases.

    Fermented cucumber pickles:
    East Side New York Half-Sour Pickles
    Pop's Half Sour Pickles
    Shlomo's Kosher Sour Pickles/Tomatoes by Sy
    Nine Day Sweet-Sour Pickles
    Naturally Fermented Dills (No Vinegar)
    Ukrainian Dills Fermented Naturally
    Nine Day Sweet-Sour Pickles
    Old Fashioned Sweet Cucumber Pickle
    Dilly Sun Pickles
    Fermented or Brined Pickles
    Polish Dill Pickles Made in a Crock
    Uncle Bill's Dill Pickles in a Crock

    Sauerkraut Recipes:
    Sauerkraut Made from Chinese Cabbage
    Sauerkraut ~ USDA
    How to Make Sauerkraut (heirloom Pennsylvania Dutch recipe)
    Sauerkraut with Dill by Sy
    Uncle Bill's Sauerkraut With Wine

    For the best sauerkraut, use firm heads of fresh cabbage. Shred cabbage and start kraut between 24 and 48 hours after harvest. Store at 70º to 75ºF while fermenting. At temperatures between 70º and 75ºF, kraut will be fully fermented in about 3 to 4 weeks; at 60º to 65ºF, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60ºF, kraut may not ferment. Above 75ºF, kraut may become soft.

    Kimchee/Kimchi Recipes:
    Kimchi or Kimchee

    Other Fermented Vegetables/Fruits:
    Pickled Red Cabbage
    Gundruk Sadheko (Fermented Vegetables Marinated in Spices)
    Ketchup - Corn Syrup Free - Lacto-Fermented
    Mango Pickle
    Homemade Lemon Pickle
    Sweet/Sour Lime Pickle
    Brinjal Eggplant (Aubergine) Pickle (Goa, India)
    Lemon Pickle
    Cauliflower, Turnip and Carrot Pickle Recipe
    Tomato Pickle
    Carrot Daikon Pickle
    Garlic and Chilli Pickle
    Japanese Takuan Pickle
    Lemon Pickle, Moroccan Style
    Uncle Henry's Pickled Cherries

    Fermented Dairy Products:
    Buttermilk Lovers Buttermilk by Sy
    Homemade Yogurt by Sy
    Koomis, Fermented Horse Milk from Kazakhstan

    Reference books you may be interested in:

    Please feel free to add a comment, suggest a recipe or relate a story.

    The Science of Cooking ~ Fascinating Pickle Facts
    Wild Fermentation ~ Sandor Ellix Katz
    Sauerkraut and It's Health Benefits
    The Pickle Museum

    Last edited by Molly53 on Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:50 pm, edited 6 times in total
    Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:45 am Groupie
    I have the preserving food without canning or freezing book. I haven't tried any of the recipes out of it yet but it does cover a wide range of preserving methods including with sugar, alcohol, and vinegar and a few others. Many of the recipes are written as if they've been handed down orally for years.

    I made Debber's Sunshine Dill Pickles this weekend. I have 11 quarts of them sitting on my front porch. I made them last year and my husband and son devoured them--wonderfully crunchy and dilly. I have about 10 pounds of cucumbers left to use and I'm having a tough time deciding which kind to make.

    Saeriu icon_smile.gif
    Sue Lau
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:37 am Groupie
    I recommend the Ball Blue Book for canning- it's great for beginners.
    Buy them every year- some recipes may be the same (popular ones) but they do have new ones.

    My latest book find was the Better Homes and Gardens "You Can Can". It has lots of pretty pictures and possibly everything you want to put up.
    Queen Dragon Mom
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 9:18 am Groupie
    Fascinating info, Molly, thank you. I had no idea commercial pickles were left outside to ferment! I am going to give those sunshine dills a try. (The Crew complains heartily and at great length about the "stink" when I ferment pickles. We shall not speak of sauerkraut... rotfl.gif )

    I have made cider vinegar before from windfalls. I don't know what kind of apple it was but it was an heirloom of some sort. Was an easy process, too, surprisingly. Just picked up the apples, shook off any bugs, hacked them in 2 or 3 pieces and put them all in a crock. Covered the crock with that nylon mesh stuff to keep flies out and set the whole thing out on the picnic table in the sun for a couple of weeks. Didn't add water nor sugar nor yeast, just let it go. Had some of the best cider vinegar ever! It can be a hit-or-miss proposition, though. The next batch, I did the same thing and it simply wouldn't ferment! icon_mad.gif

    This year I made spicy dills and tried something different: fermenting the slices. Mixed up vinegar, water and salt plus all the herbs and suchlike in a big stainless bowl. Didn't set it outside (darn it!) but it was covered and weighted so the slices stayed under the brine. Left them on the counter for several days until I had time to jar them up. They stayed crisp and green and tasted good even before I canned them up. Used a water bath, 20 minutes full boil, and all the jars sealed up nicely. (That is such a great sound: pop pop pop pop icon_cool.gif ) Some of them will go to family but we will eat the majority on burgers or just plain.

    Also made dill relish from recipe Scutch's Tangy Dill Relish with a few changes to suit our tast. Used half white and half cider vinegar and reduced the amount of sugar to 3/4 cup, half white and half brown. Also used strong white onions and a couple of red ones for added color. Increased the dill, mustard and so forth because we like a good bite in our relish. The stuff smelled SO good. I did find that I had to quarter, blanch and chop the red peppers as the skins were so tough they wouldn't go through my grinder. Looking forward to trying the relish after I has some time to sit and "think" about how it will develop.

    Great thread, Molly. BTW, an important point when making any kind of pickle is iodine in regular table salt will make anything mooshy and can interfere with the fermentation process. Only use pickling or kosher salt. If it isn't possible to find those, try to get any kind of salt that has no iodine. Also, use high acid vinegar. It should be at least 5% acidity. If you make your own cider vinegar, don't worry about the acidity, it will be waaay higher than that.
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 9:49 am Groupie
    This is such a great topic Molly! I really want to make kraut this year, however I'm not sure I can handle the DH during the process-stun gun maybe?
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:19 pm
    Forum Host
    QDM, I wonder if you might not have better, more consistent success with your windfall vinegar if you saved some mother of vinegar (mycoderma aceti)
    from a good batch and added it to the new.
    Queen Dragon Mom
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:46 pm Groupie
    Absolutely, Molly. The first batch wasn't ready when I started working the second or would have used the mother. I still have a tiny bit of the vinegar, too, even though it was made in the summer of 1983. icon_rolleyes.gif It's still just fine and could use it but it's more of a keepsake, you know?
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:51 pm Groupie
    Hello Molly,

    Great Top and Thread! And thanks for all the work you had done to set it all up.. in detail, comments, photos.... I can almost taste the sour pickles and other foods (the photos) just this moment... icon_biggrin.gif

    If possible can you add the following recipes;

    Sauerkraut with Dill by Sy

    Buttermilk Lovers Buttermilk by Sy

    Homemade Yogurt by Sy

    Further, I tried making Olives from scratch one time... but it was very hard. It took a long time to ferment in the salt or salted brine... and still hard to the bite.

    Thanks Molly,


    P.S. Do not know if you would include dairy products...
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:29 pm
    Forum Host
    Queen Dragon Mom wrote:
    Absolutely, Molly. The first batch wasn't ready when I started working the second or would have used the mother. I still have a tiny bit of the vinegar, too, even though it was made in the summer of 1983. icon_rolleyes.gif It's still just fine and could use it but it's more of a keepsake, you know?
    It turns out you can purchase the mycoderma aceti from brewing stores if you don't happen to have any mother, QDM.

    Skipper/Sy wrote:

    If possible can you add the following recipes;
    Sauerkraut with Dill by Sy
    Buttermilk Lovers Buttermilk by Sy
    Homemade Yogurt by Sy

    Queen Dragon Mom
    Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:58 pm Groupie
    I have some detailed instructions about the olive around here somewhere. It's pretty labor and time-intensive so I've never tried it but will dig them up.
    William (Uncle Bill) Anat
    Sat Sep 04, 2010 3:24 pm Groupie
    Hello Molly;
    You certainly went to a lot of work to start this thread. The information you provided is superb.
    I will put in my two-cents worth for the moment, my sauerkraut and dill pickle recipes.
    Uncle Bill's Sauerkraut With Wine
    Uncle Bill's Dill Pickles in a Crock
    "Uncle Bill"
    Queen Dragon Mom
    Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:27 pm Groupie
    Uncle Bill, great recipes! Thank you for putting them up for me to use (and drool over...) icon_lol.gif
    Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:03 pm Groupie
    I have been on a fermenting binge all summer, learning by doing. By far the best reference book I have seen is "The Joy Of Pickling".

    My pantry floor will stay at 72 degrees if I open the door and let in cold air every morning. At that temp I find most things are done in two weeks. I have completed 10 ferments of differing vegetables and combinations this summer. Most have been with a 5% brine, but the kraut and some summer squash was just salt added by weight, no water was necessary.

    Today finished my first attempt at hot pepper sauce. I fermented the peppers for three weeks in 5% brine, drained and macerated them in a food processor. Then I put it through a food mill on the smallest screen. The result was a beautiful red tangy hot sauce!

    Just call me the Fermenting Queen icon_lol.gif
    Queen Dragon Mom
    Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:18 pm Groupie
    ZenLineDancer,m could you possibly post a recipe or proportions for your hot pepper sauce?! NOM

    The dills out on the deck are doing beautifully. All nice and firm, turning a lovely dark green and no mold nor ickynesses. Likely will be another week at least but might be longer as it's been pretty cool.
    Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:44 pm Groupie
    Molly...thanks for sharing...this info is a GEM! And thanks for showing off my Sunshine Dill Pickles recipe.

    Someone mentioned that using iodized salt causes smooshiness of cukes. So true.

    Also....I learned another trick that helps with ensuring crunchy cuke pickles: nipping off the "blossom" end of the cuke (the end where the flower once was). I don't know why, but ever since I've done that, I've had better success with my pickles. Plus they look nicer.

    I remember (fondly, sort of) the years when my folks made sauer-kraut. The house we moved into had this HUGE crock....I mean--you would've thought it was a garbage can--it was SO big. My dad and mom took us kids to this truck farm outside of town where they bought all these heads of cabbage (the back end of our station wagon was FULL!).

    Once we got home, my dad took over the slicing-outfit (sort of like a giant mandoline) with a wooden box that held half-a-head of cabbage. Back-n-forth he went with that, and the cabbage piled up in the crock below. Then we sprinkled on like a cup of salt. I also remember my folks hemming and hawing over how much salt was required. Of course we had a phone and COULD have called my maternal grandparents to ask them, but you know--back in those days--it cost a whole quarter to make a call! Anyway, somehow or other, my parents came to an agreement as to how much salt to add.

    Our little ol' neighbor lady (the one who made the Sunshine Dill Pickles) Gramma Smart, gave my folks this awesome kraut smasher---an old wooden table leg. My five brothers and I thought it was great fun to do the smooshing-down thing with that.

    That crock was deep, but I'd reach all the way in to grab out a pinch of salty cabbage---boy, that stuff was good! I don't know if they ever added anything else to it (like vinegar?).....but then we set it to "work" out in our north-facing back porch. Pa made a wooden cover for it, which he weighted down with a huge stone. Every few days or so, Ma would frig around with it.

    Every time my brothers or I came tearing through the back-porch, we'd smell that 'kraut working, and boy--it was STRONG! Grown men would've cried! Ma and I then canned it--after it had worked for the proper length of time. Loading up those jars, I remember my dad coming in the kitchen and smacking his lips and saying how that would be good "come winter." Yep. We ate a lot of that stuff!!!

    Thanks for letting me trip down Memory Lane!
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