Q. What is the difference between pickling and fermenting? — Brie, Appleton
A. The quick answer to this question is foods that are pickled are prepared by placing them into an acidic solution and foods that are fermented create their own acidic solution. Both pickling and fermenting are natural methods of preservation, both produce a change in flavor and texture, and both produce a finished product that has a pleasant sour taste. I ask my students to remember that whenever they hear the word “pickled” to always think of vinegar. Most things that are pickled are placed in vinegar brine that includes a variety of different seasonings that create many different variations. Pickled foods taste great, but are not fermented and therefore do not have the same health benefits of eating fermented foods. When foods are fermented, natural bacteria in the food convert sugars into acids that then ferment the finished product. The health community is encouraging people to eat fermented foods which are full of probiotics and good for the digestive system. I remember as a kid helping my grandmother make sauerkraut by shredding the cabbage and then packing it with salt in a large clay crock using a big wooden mallet. In little time the salt made the cabbage quite juicy, and we covered the crock and put it in the cool basement where it would do its fermentation magic over several weeks.