How do I know if my cucumber pickles are spoiled?

Image Pickle Scum 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.

Your nose will tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether your lacto-fermented foods are still healthy.

Instead of having a saliva-response, a signal your body recognizes healthy food, you’ll have quite the opposite – feeling repulsed and probably taking a step or two away from the container, when its opened. You’ll know it when you smell it.

Slimy pickles are usually soft, discolored pickles. It’s rare to have soft, slimy pickles without the “smell”, so use your senses to help you decide.

Tip Star Wise friends suggested I should intentionally leave a small container of ferment-of-my-choice sitting out at room temperature (in the middle of summer, no less!) and take an occasional sniff of it over the next few months. It was good training, fast-tracking in my question to reclaim lacto-fermenting skills.

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Here are two helpful sources offering more ideas about common pickle problems including soft spots, “off”-smell, soft texture or hollow areas:

What Causes Spoilage?

Oregon State University – Pickle & Relish Problems and Solutions

National Center for Home Preservation