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At first thought, pickles typically produce a mental image of a cucumber soaked in vinegar. While those are super tasty, they are just a small glimpse of the world of pickle possibilities. Just in the cucumber realm, there are bread and butter, dill, half-sour, full-sour, sweet, gherkin, relish, and the list goes on. While cucumbers have stolen the spotlight, you can “pickle” just about anything!

Are Pickles Fermented?

So, are pickles fermented? Some are! Pickling refers to the preservation of food in an acidic solution. Some fermentation, such as lactic acid fermentation, produces acid naturally, resulting in a pickle. Other types of pickles utilize vinegar, which is the product of fermentation. Are vinegar pickles fermented? It’s up for debate. While the vinegar is fermented, there’s not much active fermentation going on during the pickling process. Rather, the vinegar is acting more like a marinade, penetrating the food, providing flavor, and a slight change in texture.

What is a pickle?

A pickle, as a noun, generally refers to a cucumber that has soaked in vinegar or fermented. As a verb, pickle becomes much more versatile, referring to preserving food in an acidic medium. You can pickle vegetables, fruit, beans, and some more diverse foods like herring, eggs, or pig’s feet!

Pickling vs. Fermenting

What are the different types of pickles?

We can split pickles into two categories, vinegar and fermented, dictated by the pickling liquid. Vinegar pickles use a brine made up of vinegar, water, spices, and typically a little sugar. Since the acid is added right from the beginning, vinegar pickles are relatively quick to produce. Fermented pickles use a salt brine, along with spices, and time. The saline brine creates an environment that promotes the growth of lactic acid bacteria. While the fermented pickles take longer, there are some health benefits such as probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins. The flavor is also different between vinegar and fermented pickles. It’s fun to try both!

Are vinegar or fermented pickles better?

There are benefits to both vinegar and fermented pickles, so neither one is better; they are just different.

If you are looking for a quick solution, then vinegar pickles are the way to go. Our vinegar pickle pickling kit is a great option to get you started. Vinegar is a powerful tool to bring enormous flavor to a dish, and using veggies as a vehicle for vinegar adds even more. If you’ve ever had pickles onions on a taco, you know what I mean. Vinegar is also great at preserving, so if you have excess veggies, you can place them in a vinegar brine to extend their life and reduce your food waste.
If you are looking for a way to preserve food while boosting its health benefits, opt for fermentation. The fermentation process produces lactic acid, which acts as a preservative. The lactic acid bacteria consume any sugars in the food and convert them to lactic acid, enzymes, and vitamins making fermented pickles a great addition to your diet. If you’re looking to get started fermenting foods, our complete mason jar fermenting kit includes everything you need to get started down the path of fermenting foods.

The Perfect Pickle - Vinegar Pickling Kit

The Perfect Pickle – Vinegar Pickling Kit

Here are two essential brine recipes, one vinegar and one fermented, that you can use as a guide for your own pickles!

Vinegar Brine Recipe

Makes 1 quart of brine

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp pickling spice
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Bring all but vinegar to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar. Let the brine cool completely then add vinegar. Now use as desired to pickle onions, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, watermelon, or whatever you want!

Salt Brine for Lacto Fermentation Recipe

3.5% salt brine for Lacto-fermentation:
Makes 1 quart of brine

Bring everything to a boil, stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let the brine cool completely and then use it as desired to ferment whatever you want! When fermenting, make sure to keep everything submerged under the brine using some fermentation weights.