What is fermentation?

Image Tomato & Serrano Salsa Fermentation is a process in which naturally-occurring lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) – covering the surface of foods, as well as buried in plant cells – get to work with the help of a little salt-water brine and air-free (anaerobic) environment, digesting the starches, sugars, fats, and minerals of a plant, converting them into other forms of energy.

The raw food is changed by these amazing little microbes, into foods that are more easily digestible for humans. In addition, lactic-acid bacteria have been recognized for more than 100 years, as having life-giving probiotic-properties, which help heal, restore, and replenish the digestive tract.

During the process of fermentation, carbon dioxide is created, a by-product of the lactic-acid bacteria. The carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, so it pushes oxygen up and out the Pickl-It through the airlock. Oxygen works against lactic-acid bacteria, so the less oxygen there is, the better! It’s called an anaerobic process.

Lactic acid, created by the lactic-acid bacteria, is the natural preservative eliminating any need for vinegar or canning.

So, is it really safe?

U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt says properly fermented vegetables are actually safer than raw vegetables, which might have been exposed to pathogens like E. coli on the farm.

“With fermented products there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria,” says Breidt, who works at a lab at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where scientists have been studying fermented and other pickled foods since the 1930s.

Breidt adds that fermented vegetables, for which there are no documented cases of food-borne illness, are safer for novices to make than canned vegetables. San Francisco Gate Interview, June, 2009

To Learn More Graphic

Biology Animation Anaerobic Fermentation

Tutor – Lactic-Acid Fermentation

Classification of fermented foods: worldwide review of household fermentation techniques