If you are like me, then you often wonder what the difference are when considering pickling vs fermenting. I love both, and often make pickled and fermented foods at home. Still, not everyone can tell these two apart and they may see both processes as the same, but they are not.
When you are getting ready to ferment or pickle foods, it is best to first inform yourself about the processes and how to carry out each one. You certainly want to avoid mistakes and possible contamination by not totally understand the differences of pickling vs fermenting.
These Are The 8 Facts About Pickling vs. Fermenting That You Should Keep in Mind
Fact #1: Pickling gets its acid from an added liquid
Unlike fermentation, when you pickle foods, you usually add an acidic liquid, like brine, to preserve food. The traditional flavor from pickled foods comes from the brine, whether it is with acetic acid, lime, or other liquids.
Fact #2: The acid in fermentation is a result of a chemical reaction
In fermentation, there is no acid liquid added, but instead, a chemical reaction between the food and bacteria occurs. The name fermentation comes from this process, where bacteria ferment the present food to create a particular flavor.
Fact #3: Vinegar is a product of fermentation
Although vinegar can be a product of fermenting foods, such as wine, rice, or others, pickled foods aren’t fermented and won’t produce any enzymatic reactions that result in vinegar.
Fact #4: Fermentation is one of the oldest preservation methods
The truth is, you don’t need more than a container and salt to ferment foods. However, there is plenty more that goes into it these days. Because fruits and vegetables have naturally occurring bacteria, when these are deprived of air, the process of spoilage is stopped.
Instead, during fermentation, the natural bacteria can convert the carbohydrates and sugars in foods like milk or vegetables, into an acid that preserves the food longer.
Fact #5: Lacto-fermentation is what gives yogurt its signature flavor
If, like me, you like yogurt, then you know that it has a unique tartness to it. This is the result of a process called Lacto-fermentation, which occurs thanks to the presence of Lactobacillus. This type of bacteria ferments dairy products, like milk, creating a tart and tangy flavor, as well as probiotics that aid during digestion.
Fact #6: Pickling also requires little to no work
This food preservation method dates back to thousands of years in India, and it has been a part of preserving foods since. It only requires the introduction of an acidic liquid to food, which not only changes the flavor but also the texture, making things softer.
To pickle at home, all I do is mix vinegar, sugar, salt, and water. After these ingredients boil, I prepare my pickling jars with the vegetable I want to pickle and then add this brine on top.
The next step requires patience, as the mixture has to sit in a cool and dark place for at least a week, but usually more time. The longer the food sits in the brine, the more acidic the flavor.
Fact #7: Pickles can be both pickled and fermented
This may sound confusing, but nowadays, pickles are not only pickled, but also fermented. This happens because the brine used has been fermented as well. Usually, the brine has vinegar, which is only made through fermentation itself.
Fact #8: Fermented foods are often considered healthier than pickled ones
Pickled foods don’t contain microorganisms, so they don’t have any health properties. However, when the food goes through the process of fermentation, it utilizes bacteria that are healthy for our bodies.
The result is a probiotic food or a food that contains healthy microorganisms, all of which are essential for digestion. Some foods like yogurt, sour cream, kombucha, or apple cider vinegar, are considered extremely beneficial for the gut.
Our digestive systems contain bacteria naturally, but sometimes these are not functioning well, or die off. That’s why it is a good idea to consume foods that are probiotic and can give your gastrointestinal tract the microorganisms it is lacking.
When you feel bloated, undigested, constipated, or full, a bit of these types of food a day can help speed things up. Keep in mind, though, that these foods contain live organisms, so they can spoil after a few days, and most of them have to be refrigerated.
What’s The Verdict?
Both of these processes are a great way to preserve your vegetables and fruits, and sometimes, other foods.
If you are looking for simplicity and flavor, then pickling is the right choice. But if you want the added health benefits as well, why not try fermentation?
If you like canning, fermenting and pickling foods will come naturally to you! Time to start trying your favorite pickled and fermented foods at home and discover the differences of pickling vs fermenting!