Mar 15, 2019

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Fermenting vs. Pickling: What’s the Difference?

Fermenting and pickling foods have been around for a long time, and are some of the oldest ways of preserving food before there were refrigerators. But while the two methods are different, they actually overlap so much that it’s hard to tell one from the other.

So what’s the difference between the two?

What You Need to Know About Pickling

Pickling is the general term for food preservation where the food is partially broken down by bacteria in an environment without oxygen or air.

The process of pickling starts with boiling the container and lid to sterilize them, and fruits or vegetables are added to the jar along with the brine and left to process on their own until the desired taste is achieved. This brine can be anything from lemon juice, to hot vinegar, to even salt and water.

If it sounds a lot like fermentation, that’s because it falls under this category – and why it can be so difficult to distinguish between the two.

What’s With Fermentation?

Fermentation is essentially the process where sugars are broken down by bacteria in a chemical process that doesn’t involve oxygen.

While this is often used for brewing alcoholic drinks, such as beer, cider, and wine, fermenting has also been used for storing fruits and vegetables in a way that would enhance their flavor while making them last longer.

There are two types of fermentation processes you need to know about:

  • Alcohol fermentation – This process breaks down sugars and converts them into ethanol using yeast, and produces alcoholic drinks. It also takes much longer to break the sugars down to ethanol fully, depending on a variety of factors.
  • Lactic acid fermentation – With lactic acid fermentation, the natural bacteria in fruits and vegetables break down the sugars in vegetables and release lactic acid as a by-product, which adds to the vitamin content in the food.

While fermentation and pickling is in many ways similar to each other, keep in mind that not all fermented foods are pickles, and not all pickles are fermented.

Pickling can extend to vegetables and even certain spices, such as garlic, and a lot of foods such as yogurt and sourdough bread are the products of fermentation.

Achieving a Healthy Diet

Fresh produce and whole foods can add so much more to your diet when you ferment them, such as the health benefits and the complex flavors that are introduced once the food has been processed by bacteria.

Additionally, fermenting vegetables and fruits can even be something you can do as a hobby that lets you enjoy good food and have something healthy at home – you can enjoy it anytime even if you’re unable to take the time to cook because it’s so easy to prepare.

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