Dill pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi—we all love to eat them! They have that crunchy and refreshing qualities that make every barbecue, sandwich, or burger bite perfectly balanced. I like how their distinct tart flavour tickles the taste buds and whets the appetite. But what makes pickled food different from fermented ones?
While it is good that we are fans of everything pickled and fermented, it is also interesting to learn how both processes are done and what sets them apart. In a nutshell, pickled foods get their sourness from the addition of an acidic liquid. Fermentation, on the other hand, makes food sour through bacterial reaction. Read this simple pickling vs fermenting guide and learn the key characteristics of these two preservation techniques.
Also, if you want to learn more on how to make your own pickled or fermented foods and their benefits, do check out the Ferment for Health and Flavour and Canned, Pickled, and Preserved workshops we have lined up for you!
What is pickling?
- Process starts with the preparation of a pickling solution usually composed of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and a choice of herbs and spices.
- Cooked solution is then poured into sliced fruits or vegetables in jars to start pickling.
- Flavour intensifies the longer the items remain soaked in the solution.
- Pickling preserves food by increasing its acidity level, mainly through the acetic acid content of vinegar, to keep harmful microbes away.
- Vinegar-based pickles may not have the probiotic benefit of fermented foods but they do contain natural vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They take less time to make, too.
- Get inspired with these pickle and food pairings and start pickling at home!
|What to pickle||Pair it with|
|Blueberry||Goat cheese toast|
|Carrot and radish||Banh mi sandwiches|
|Cucumber and beetroot||Salads and poke bowls|
|Ginger||Sushi and sashimi|
|Peach||Cheesecake or grilled pork and chicken|
|Pineapple||Ham and barbecued meats|
What is Fermenting?
- Fermentation needs three main ingredients: salt, the natural lactobacillus bacteria present in food, and air deprivation.
- Fermenting your food with salt and enclosing it in an airtight container makes it hard for harmful bacteria to thrive and survive, leaving the good bacteria (lactobacillus) to start eating the sugar present in food.
- This process produces lactic acid as a by-product which in turn preserves the fermented food and gives it its characteristic sour flavour.
- Because of their sourness, fermented foods at home can be considered both pickled and fermented.
- Aside from its vitamin, mineral, and fibre contents, the lactic acid produced in fermented foods make them rich in probiotics.
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that contribute mainly to good digestion and improved immunity.
- Here’s a table summarising the most common fermented foods and how you can best enjoy them.
|Combine||Makes||Tastes best with|
|Cabbage + salt||Sauerkraut||Sandwiches, soup, and casserole|
|Milk + kefir grains||Kefir||Smoothies and blended drinks|
|Milk + lactic acid bacteria||Yoghurt||Fruit, baked goods, and sauces|
|Napa cabbage + gochugaru||Kimchi||Rice, soup, and sandwiches|
|Soybeans + salt + fungi||Miso||Soups, dressings, and marinades|
|Soybeans + bacteria||Natto||Rice|
|Soybeans + fungi||Tempeh||Sandwiches and stir fries|
|Tea + SCOBY||Kombucha||Fruit, herbs, and spices|
Compared to pickling, fermented food needs more time to develop its flavour. Moreover, food texture and colour also changes significantly after the fermentation process. Despite that, both pickles and fermented food add wonders to our home-cooked meals. They may differ in health value but both are packed with important nutrients. With their ability to extend the shelf life of every season’s bounty, we get to enjoy fruits and vegetables all year round without wasting any. And with basic ingredients and simple tools, we can be creative in the kitchen and end up with these flavourful food in jars!