Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600560


Fermented pickles require more time and effort to make
than fresh-pack pickles. Brined dill pickles are an example
of fermented pickles that are prepared by soaking cucumbers
in brine (salt water) for about 3 weeks. During this time,
lactic acid bacteria--which are naturally present on
cucumbers--convert sugars in the cucumbers into lactic acid.
Lactic acid not only preserves the pickles but also gives
them good flavor. (Vinegar, which contains acetic acid,
gives fresh-pack pickles a "sharper" flavor.)

When making the brine, measure the salt and water
carefully. It is important to get just the right
concentration of salt so the lactic acid bacteria--which
can tolerate salt--will be able to grow. Most spoilage
organisms cannot tolerate salt and will die in the brine.
If the brine is too salty, even the lactic acid bacteria
will die. If the brine is not salty enough, undesirable
organisms will grow and spoil the pickles.

Make the brine with cold or room temperature water. Do
not use boiling water--it will kill the lactic acid
bacteria. During fermentation, keep the pickles at room
temperature between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fermenting pickles must be kept submerged. Uncovered
pickles will spoil. Use a plate to cover the pickles and
weight it down with a glass jar or plastic bags filled with
brine (6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon of water). Remove any
scum which forms on the surface of the brine daily. The
scum consists of yeasts which destroy lactic acid and
produce enzymes that make pickles soft. If the scum is
not removed daily, pickles will spoil.

After three or more weeks, fermentation should be
complete. Pickles will have an olive-green color and a
desirable flavor. The brine will be cloudy as a result of
yeast growth during the fermentation period. Strain the
brine, then heat it to boiling. Pack the pickles into
clean, hot jars. Do not wedge tightly. Cover with
boiling hot brine. Put lids on the jars and process in a
boiling-water bath.

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