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Published on August 09, 2022

woman canning pickles at home

Comparing Methods of Pickling

Summer garden produce is great fresh – but it preserves well and can provide splashes of sunshine all winter long. Here’s a look at a couple of methods you can use to save veggies and other foods at home.

Preserving quality foods can be an important part of overall nutrition.

Method No. 1: Lacto-Fermentation

This method of preserving is unique, as vegetables are submerged in a saltwater solution, salty enough to kill harmful bacteria.

Lactobacillus, a beneficial bacteria, thrive in these salty conditions. They begin converting the sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid.

The lactic acid created preserves the vegetables and provides a terrific tangy flavor.

Tips for Success

  • Make sure you use the right amount of salt, and don’t use iodized table salt. It has too many additives, so instead try a canning salt or high-quality sea salt.
  • Use purified or distilled water. Chemicals in tap water, like chlorine, can harm the lactobacillus leading to poor fermentation.
  • Use fresh, washed vegetables; however, don’t use any antibiotic cleaners as they may kill the lactobacillus.
  • If mold forms on top of your brine you can skim it off and continue. If mold grows within the brine you have to throw it out. Fermenting in a container with an air-tight seal can help prevent mold growth.

Reasons Why You Should Try It

  • Beneficial probiotics to improve gut health
  • Doesn’t require many supplies
  • Easy to tell if it didn’t work: funky taste, look and/or smell

Reasons It Can Be Tricky

  • Takes longer
  • Always salty
  • Must be stored in cooler temperatures
  • Flavor constantly changing, and more variability batch to batch

Method No. 2: Pickling with Vinegar

This method is also known as “fresh-pack” and it again can help you save vegetables. It uses vinegar and you can create the desired flavor by using a combination of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices.

You have to sterilize the jars before you fill them; you should also process cans/jars after filling to ensure all bacteria and enzymes have been destroyed.

This method has no fermentation.

Tips for Success

  • Use canning or pickling salt. Iodized table salt will cause your pickling liquid to be cloudy.
  • Must use a vinegar with an acidity of 4-6%. Cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar are popular.
  • Jars and screw bands must be sterilized in boiling water. The flat metal lids don’t need this step, but they cannot be reused.
  • Make sure to leave an appropriate amount of headspace, which is the space between the top of the jar’s filling and the lid. You’ll want to use:
  • About a quarter-inch for jams, jellies, juices, pickles and relishes.
  • For acidic foods such as tomatoes and fruit, a half-inch headspace is best.
  • When canning low-acidic foods such as meats and most vegetables, a full inch of headspace is required.

Reasons to Try It

  • Stable at room temperature until opened
  • Can be made with less salt
  • Easy to create consistent flavors

Reasons It Can Be Tricky

  • No probiotics, and some vitamins destroyed in processing
  • Requires many supplies and smaller batches
  • Most common contaminant is botulism which is flavorless and odorless

Give It a Try

Learn more about nutrition and your health by contacting Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota Dietitian Lauren Cornay.

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