Let’s Talk: Fermenting vs Pickling

If you know me, you know I looove my fermented stuff! But WHY?! What’s so special about it? And is it the same as pickling?! Well, they’re both delicious and they BOTH have their own unique benefits but they are definitely NOT the same!

Essentially, pickled foods are a fast process that perverse ingredients using an acidic mixture, whereas fermented foods are a longer process that preserve ingredients through the bacteria (like lactobacilli) in the fermentation processes!

pickling

The process for pickling generally involves: a solution of a vinegar, salt, maybe sugar and water (also known as a brine). Using jars and of course your favourite ingredients to pickle! It’s a fast process that only takes a day or two until your pickled products are good to go. Pickled foods can be stored on the counter or in the fridge as-is (no need for canning) and can last a few weeks.. a few months.. or a few years if pickled and preserved properly!

Pretty much ANYTHING can be pickled… even meat! Proper protocols need to be followed depending on what you are pickling so always research recipes and know what is needed before getting started! Once you’ve got comfortable with some recipes, switch it up by using different ingredients for added nutritional benefits. I like suggesting filtered water, distilled or safe well water to make the brine in however, because you will be boiling it, it’s not that big of a concern. I will say that ALL of my ferments LOVE the more mineral rich water though! Tap water with chlorine doesn’t seem to work as well. Most types of vinegar will work well, but I love using apple cider vinegar- for cost and nutritional benefits! For salt, I use a high mineral salt like Himalayan because I find all of the ferments/preserves love it! But any salt will do 🙂 and if a recipe calls for sugar I use a raw cane sugar or high mineral one like panela or coconut. And of course, we can’t forget the flavouring with SPICES and HERBS … keep them whole and organic when possible – fresh or dried is fine – and maybe a drop or two of DoTERRA food grade oils?!

BENEFITS
  • Quick, easy and cost-effective way to preserve food
  • Variety of flavour and health benefits when using a variety of ingredients – making it a great nutrient-dense topping or side dish with most meals!
  • Generally kills all pathogens which is good for long-term shelf-stable storage however if you want to save some of the good bacteria as well then you’ll need to store it in the fridge for semi-long-term storage! Pros and cons to both just depending on what you are hoping to get from your pickled goods 🙂
  • Some nutritional benefits from pickling (depending on your process and the ingredients you use) could be: help improve healthy gut bacteria, generally high in antioxidants, could be high in amino acids, could help improve digestion, helpful in weightloss, may have prebiotic and probiotic properties, high in electrolytes, could also help with mental health, my reduce yeast infections, may reduce spleen cancer risk, relieve headaches, help with nausea, support liver health and help balance blood sugar.
examples
  • Pickles! (pickled cucumbers)
  • Beets
  • Eggs
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Ginger (think sushi!)
  • Berries
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Carrot
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Green Tomatoes
  • Mangos! (I want to try this!)
  • Kimchi/Sauerkraut
  • Corned Beef
  • Herring
  • Seafood
  • …pretty much everything and anything! Even watermelon rinds, walnuts and AVOCADOS?!
quick Pickled veggies recipe
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 – 8 tsp dried spices
    • opt for whole seeds and try: mustard, coriander, black pepper, red pepper flakes, allspice, bay leaf, fennel…
  • 4 sprigs fresh herbs
    • keep them whole and try: dill, parsley, thyme, sage, hot peppers..
  • 2 cups water
    • opt for filtered, distilled or safe well water
  • 1.5 cups vinegar
    • apple cider vinegar is a great nutrient dense/cost effective option however any vinegar will do!
  • 2 tbsp salt
    • opt for high mineral such as himalayan or sea however any salt will do
  • 1 tbsp sugar *OPTIONAL*
    • opt for high mineral such as raw cane or panela or coconut… this is optional but adds a nice sweet touch!
  • 4 – 8 cups Raw Seasonal Vegetables
    • try a different mix of carrots, green beans, cauliflower, radishes, cucumbers, onions…
  1. Clean, cut and prep your vegetables into desired sized pieces.
  2. Ensure jars are recently sanitized – dishwasher is the safest bet!
  3. Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar if using to a light boil to create your brine.
  4. Divide garlic, dried spices, fresh herbs and cut up vegetables into your sanitized containers and pour the brine over top ensuring that all of the ingredients are fully submerged but leaving a bit of space from the lid.
  5. Let the jars cool at room temperature (I usually let them sit on the counter overnight) either with the lids lightly on or a cheese cloth over top so that nothing lands in them! Close the jar lid tight once cooled and place in the fridge. They can be consumed right away but taste best after a few days of patiently waiting! They should keep in the fridge for at least 2 months.

This process is a bit more “nutrient-dense” as it will kill the bad bacteria but won’t kill all the good bacteria meaning it will need to be kept in the fridge! BUT you’ll also get a lot more nutritional value and flavour from it as well 🙂

From left to right: sourdough, brie, rice vinegar, ACV, ginger beer, wine, milk kefir, kimchi hot sauce, pickled onions, fermented hot sauce, sauerkraut, fermented hot sauce, pickled sauerkraut, miso, pickled veggies, tamari, homemade medicinal mushroom beer, pickled radishes, pickles and water kefir fermented sodas!
fermenting

The process for fermenting is similar but can be a bit more intimidating for new-comers! Fermenting can be done a few different ways but generally it involves salt, why and/or some sort of bacterial starter or culture (usually specific to that ferment). Some example of starters would be: Ginger Bug or Wild Yeast Starter, SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), Kefir Grains, Sourdough Starter, Yogurt, Cheese… Check out this awesome website for every starter you could ever dream of!!!

Again, pretty much ANYTHING can be fermented… yes, even meat! And of course, proper protocols need to be followed depending on what you are fermenting and how you are doing it so always research recipes and know what is needed before getting started! Once you’ve got comfortable with some recipes, switch it up by using different ingredients for added nutritional benefits. When it comes to any sort of Water (filtered, safe well or distilled), Acid (ACV, lemon, vinegars..), Salt (high mineral – himalayan, sea salt..) or Sugar (high mineral- raw cane, panela, coconut..) recipes, I use the same types as I do for pickling! I keep them clean, raw, high mineral content and always free of chlorine and other chemicals- the only thing I like to sterilize are my jars! 😉 And of course, we can’t forget the flavouring with SPICES, HERBS and maybe a drop or two of DoTERRA food grade oils?! Make sure they are always food-grade safe ingredients and trying opting for fresh, raw, organic or GMO-free!

BENEFITS
  • High probiotic content – very rich in beneficial digestive enzymes that help support a healthy gut flora.
  • High in vitamins and minerals such as: B and C, D Vitamins, K2 (which can be hard to get for vegans!), iron, zinc, calcium, protein, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • Antimicrobial properties with high antioxidant content making it a great way to reduce inflammation in the body and help support your immune system.
  • Help to lower anti nutrient content and increase the nutritional value and bioavailability of certain foods (example: fermenting soybeans/grains will reduce the phytic acid and fermenting bread/sourdough will promote the breakdown of gluten)
  • Variety of flavour and health benefits when using a variety of ingredients – making it a great nutrient-dense topping or side dish with most meals!
  • Some other nutritional benefits from fermenting (depending on your process and the ingredients you use) could be: help improve healthy gut bacteria, help improve digestion, helpful in weight loss, help with optimal cognitive function, decrease yeast infections, help with optimal cardiovascular function, may reduce yeast infections.
examples
  • Fermented Foods
    • Sauerkraut
    • Kimchi
    • Pickles/Pickled foods
    • Sourdough/Bread
    • Cheese/Milk products
    • Cocoa/Chocolate (google this!)
    • Bean Paste
    • Fish
    • Miso
    • Nattō
    • Salami/Meat
    • Sour Cream
    • Tempeh
    • Tofu
    • ….and so much more! Let me know your favourite
  • Fermented Liquids
    • Vinegars
    • Soy Sauce
    • Some Hot Sauces
    • Kefir (Milk, Water, Yogurt..)
    • Kombucha
    • Rejuvelac
    • Ginger Beer/Ginger Ale
    • Root Beer
    • Buttermilk
    • Cod Liver Oil (so good for you!)
    • Fish Sauce
    • Ketchup
    • Kvass
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • ….and so much more! Let me know your favourite
  • Fermented Alcohol
    • Beer
    • Wine
    • Rice Wine/Sake
    • Mead
    • Cider
    • ….and so much more! Let me know your favourite
quick sauerkraut recipe
  • 1 head of cabbage, shredded
  • 3 tbsp high mineral salt (himalayan, sea salt..)
  • 4 – 8 tsp dried or fresh herbs/spices (juniper berry with ginger is quite traditional but create blends unique to you!
  • 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 4 – 8 tbsp vinegar or water (optional – see notes below)
  1. Shred all of the ingredients into a sanitized bowl and add salt. Massage all together for at least 5-15 minutes – the longer the better! We want alllll the juices to come out of the cabbage! You should get a lot of water content from it- enough to fill the jars but if not, you can add more vinegar or water to top it up.
  2. Ensure jars are recently sanitized – dishwasher is the safest bet! Stuff the jar(s) FULL – we want them FULLY packed with no air bubbles anywhere and completely submerged under all of the yummy juices. Top up with vinegar/water if it is not fully submerged.
  3. Leave about 1 inch at the top for cabbage to expand. If the cabbage is not fully submerged you can use a weight (you can buy them or use a rock or a thick piece of cabbage) to place on top before placing the lid on. You can also purchase fermentation  kits with airlocks and special lids! I keep it simple and just use my jars and lids 🙂
  4. Cover lightly with a lid and set in a cool dark place for a minimum of 7 days – the longer, the better! You can check on it and “burp it” every few days if you’d like to make sure it’s still submerged under the brine and it is bubbly and happy! Taste test as you please. Once ready to use, place in fridge and consume within 9 months.

This is the super-nutrient-dense version! Full probiotics in effect here. Boost the nutritional content by adding more than just sauerkraut!

what will you choose?!

Pickling is a great place to start! Very user-friendly and you still get a lot of benefits! Personally, I love mixing it up and using both as they both have different flavours, nutritional content and benefits that I love! Let me know in the comments below if you tried one of these recipes or if you have a favourite fermented/pickled food you love!

Click here for more of my recipes or connect with me for a 1-on-1 fermenting class!

With love,
Heidi MacAulay
“Eat more plants. Do more yoga. Read more books.”

Leave a Reply