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Frequently Asked Questions

Fermenting

How did the brine get into the airlock?
How does carbon dioxide (CO2) get into the fermented food?
How do I know when the initial fermentation is complete?
Why do I need to keep my fermenting foods in the dark?
I'm afraid of bacteria. Why do we need them for fermenting?
Does "lacto-fermented" mean that dairy is used?
What is lacto-fermentation?
What is the white sediment on my pickles and on the bottom of the jar?
How do I know if my cucumber pickles are spoiled?
What is kimchi?
What is acetic acid?
What is carbon dioxide?
What are the homofermentative lactobacilli? (And why should I care?)
What are Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB)?
What is anaerobic fermentation?
What is aerobic fermentation?
What is lactic acid?
How quickly should I ferment my harvest?
Can I use Bragg's "raw" vinegar in my brine?
What is fermentation?
Is fermented food safe?
What are the nutritional requirements of lactic-acid bacteria?
Why is my cow-milk kefir fishy tasting?
Which Vegetables Are Best Fermented?
White foam on my pickles? Help!
What causes spoilage?
If I open the Pickl-It, to remove foam or yeast, won't that ruin the batch?
Why did the garlic cloves in my pickles turn green or bluish-green?
What is the step-by-step process of microbial lacto-fermentation?
Don't white oak and grape leaves have high levels of tannins?
Do ferments need to be refrigerated?
There's frothy foam on my beet juice kvass. Is it spoiled?
What resources on Sauerkraut are available on the Pickl-It site?
How did the brine get into the airlock?

Many vegetables expand, and when it expands, the only direction to move is up – toward the airlock. If it comes in contact with the bottom of the airlock, the brine will be suctioned up and out the airlock which is called “overflow”.

If this occurs, simply open the Pickl-It, removing a few tablespoons (or more) of food. You will also need to rinse out the airlock. We’ve found the easiest way to do that is…

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How does carbon dioxide (CO2) get into the fermented food?

By the conversion of sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide which gives it the “fizz.” Follow the “Read more…” link for additional details.

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How do I know when the initial fermentation is complete?

Gently tap the side of the Pickl-It or pick it up and gently set it down. If you see bubbles rising through the brine, there is still active fermentation. If you do not see bubbles, it means your initial fermentation is over. Depending on room temperature, this can take anywhere from 3 to 10-days. Ideal room temperature is between 68 and 72-degrees Fahrenheit.

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Why do I need to keep my fermenting foods in the dark?

Because light destroys lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria are crucial to a good, healthy fermentation, so please guard your fermented foods, keeping them out of strong light.

If you don’t have an out-of-the-way corner on your kitchen countertop…

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I'm afraid of bacteria. Why do we need them for fermenting?

Bacteria, part of a microscope group called “microbes”, are primarily our friends, with only 8% causing harm according to a superb article, The Matrix – Life’s Supporting Systems

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Does "lacto-fermented" mean that dairy is used?

“Lacto”, used in “lacto-fermentation” and all of its derivations, refers to lactic-acid bacteria, familiar to most people as “lactobacillus”. “Lacto” is simply the shortened name of “lactobacillus”, the same way that we shorten “Samual” to “Sam”, or “Susan” to “Sue”.

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What is lacto-fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a microbial process using beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp. and other lactic acid bacteria (LAB) (commonly known as probiotics), which thrive in an anaerobic fermenting environment.

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What is the white sediment on my pickles and on the bottom of the jar?

White sediment can either come from salt which contain anti-caking additives, or from naturally-occurring yeast which forms during the fermentation process. Neither one is harmful, although many people are trying to remove chemical additives from diet, and opt to use only salt that contains no anti-caking agents.

For more problem-solving information about pickles: Oregon EDU


How do I know if my cucumber pickles are spoiled?

Our senses come in handy when determining the condition of lacto-fermented foods. Slimy, soft, smelly = spoiled. Each of these undesirable attributes can be seen, smelled, or felt.

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What is kimchi?

Kimchi is a side-dish, condiment, and even part of main-entrees, a lacto-fermented Korean delicacy that defies being just one thing. Kimchi is made from a wide-variety of vegetables, often cabbage, daikon radish, with over 200-variations. Multiply that times how many people have developed their own recipes, and kimchi even defies description!

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What is acetic acid?

Acetic acid is developed from aerobic fermentation, in the making of vinegar. An open-vessel system is important for this process, quite the opposite of what is needed for anaerobic lacto-fermentation required by sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir.

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What is carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide plays an important role in creating tasty anaerobic fermented foods, and serves many purposes.

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What are the homofermentative lactobacilli? (And why should I care?)

Homofermentative lactobacilli occur in the 3rd stage of lacto-fermentation, producing the all-important lactic acid which is crucial, preserving lacto-fermented foods, and keeping them safe. Read more about homofermentative lactobacilli in the Microbial Step-by-Step article.

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What are Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB)?

Talking about Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) is as exciting to us as what the retooling of the Hubble telescope must be to those intrigued by the discoveries of new space frontiers! It’s new frontiers, amazing science, and the quest for life all rolled up in one and we don’t even have to leave Earth!

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What is anaerobic fermentation?

Anaerobic fermentation means “absence of oxygen”, the opposite of aerobic fermentation

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What is aerobic fermentation?

“Aerobic” fermentation means that oxygen is present. Wine, beer and acetic acid vinegar (such as apple cider vinegar), need oxygen in the “primary” or first stage of fermentation.

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What is lactic acid?

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) create lactic-acid during fermentation, a by-product of the bacteria converting energy from food sugars and starches of fruits, vegetables and dairy.

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How quickly should I ferment my harvest?

This depends on the kind of vegetable, ‘short-term’ or ‘long-term’ storage. Follow the “Read more…” link for details.

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Can I use Bragg's "raw" vinegar in my brine?

The short answer is: “no”.

Lactic acid is the dominant acid created by lactic-acid bacteria, during fermentation. Although acetic acid (vinegar) is also created, the proper ratio of lactic:acetic acids needs to be in a 4:1 ratio.

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What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a process in which naturally-occurring lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) break down carbohydrates, generate lactic acid and carbon dioxide, and make food more easily digestible.

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Is fermented food 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.

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What are the nutritional requirements of lactic-acid bacteria?

One of our customers mentioned they view their lacto-fermented foods as “pets”. They’re not far from wrong! Lactic-acid bacteria – foundational to all fermentation processes – have complex nutritional needs and thrive on starches, amino acids, nucleotide bases, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and carbohydrates from vegetables, grains and dairy.

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Why is my cow-milk kefir fishy tasting?

This is not a Pickl-It-specific question, but one that we’ve heard repeated a few time over the years, so we decided to include it in our FAQ, just-in-case.

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Which Vegetables Are Best Fermented?

All vegetables and many fruits are great candidates for becoming fermented goodies! The lactic acid bacteria, which are stored on the exterior, as well in the cell walls of the fruit or vegetable, are the power behind fruits and vegetables, turning them into a wide variety of naturally-nutritious foods and beverages, including:

  • sauces (jalapeno, ketchup)
  • wines
  • liquors, juices and fruit soda
  • jams and chutney
  • sauerkraut, kimchi, half-sour pickles, and a wide variety of other vegetable “pickle”

Vegetable pickles are a family favorite….

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White foam on my pickles? Help!

During cucumber fermentation, you will (or should) develop foam. It is a sign that you have an active, healthy, vibrant batch of pickles in the works. Congratulations!

The foam should begin to form on the 2nd day of your initial 3 to 5-day fermenting…

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What causes spoilage?

There are a variety of reasons including fruits or vegetables that were:

  • over-ripe
  • had “bad” spots, already beginning to decay
  • blossom ends (pickling cukes – especially important!) weren’t removed
  • improperly stored
  • stored too long
  • immature – picked too early so not enough sugar/starch development

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If I open the Pickl-It, to remove foam or yeast, won't that ruin the batch?

During the first week of fermentation, if you open the Pickl-It to scoop away foam – especially during fermenting of cucumbers – your pickles will not be ruined.

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Why did the garlic cloves in my pickles turn green or bluish-green?

Blue or purple pigments are caused by all amino acids (proteins) (except for cysteine, proline and 4-hydroxy-proline) in crushed, sliced, or fermented garlic.

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What is the step-by-step process of microbial lacto-fermentation?

The “Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods”, p. 349, illustrates steps of lacto-fermentation, using sauerkraut as an example, describing the process of lacto-fermentation as:

  • Spontaneous, complex microbiological process
  • Has a strict sequence of different microorganisms
  • Changing environmental conditions within the fermenting substrate (brine)

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Don't white oak and grape leaves have high levels of tannins?

The addition of grape, white oak, sour cherry or horseradish leaves to the cucumber pickling brine, is a traditional method going back hundreds of years.

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Do ferments need to be refrigerated?

Since most people no longer have an 1800s style root cellar, cave, or a fermentation burial chamber in their backyard (popular in Korean for making kimchi), all of which never go above 50ºF or below 32ºF, we suggest lacto-fermented food should be stored in a refrigerator.

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There's frothy foam on my beet juice kvass. Is it spoiled?

The sign of “frothy foam” sitting on top your beet juice kvass should not be taken as a sign-of-doom, but instead, a sign-of-success!

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What resources on Sauerkraut are available on the Pickl-It site?

We have collected our most popular Sauerkraut articles and created a directory of links for your convenience.

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On the Web

Did you know...

  • Numbers 11:5 ““We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic…”. The Hebrew word for cucumber is “kishshuim“.

    —Cucumbers In the Bible

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