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fermenting store-bought pickles?  RSS feed

 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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hey... i ve got some store-bought pickles in jars. they re marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt ... i d like to give them a healthy-boost by fermenting them. i am thinking of adding sauer-kraut juice as a starter. it might turn out very sour, when the sugar will be transformed into acid. that + the vinegar might turn out too sour. maybe i should rinse the veggies and put them into a new brine...

any thoughts or experiences?

thanks and blesses
tobias
 
Simon Fletcher
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Location: West grey, Ontario Canada
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Hello. I haven't tried doing this but I would look closely at the ingredients list of the store bought pickles. They often have a preservative in them which could undermine your fermentation bacteria. Also, I would suspect that the high acidity might be too much for the little guys to ferment in. If I were to try this, I would remove the pickles, rinse them and submerge them into a populated brine. But that's almost more trouble than using fresh cucumbers and you still might have the preservatives in there.
On another note, I've tried oak leaves to help keep the skins crisp and had some success.
Good luck
 
Simon Fletcher
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Location: West grey, Ontario Canada
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If you're just looking to use up your brines and get a healthy boost, try using brines in place of about 25% of your vinegar (or more if you like) in a salad dressing. It may not emulsify as well (which might be fixed with some Dijon) but it is tasty. Just be sure to use less salt when seasoning at the end on account of the salt present in the brine.
Cheers
 
r ranson
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The book for you is Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. In there, she talks about how to ferment commercially prepaired foods, how the different commercial preservatives effect a ferment, and generally ways to increase nutritional value in our Western Diet. I don't have the book in front of me, but I remember an interesting bit about adding active ferment juice (sauerkraut or whey I think) to a can of beans, leaving it room temp overnight, and the live culture activates all sorts of the dead nutrition. I haven't tried this myself as I don't trust commercially prepaired food enough to leave it open on the counter with or without a live culture in it. But the general theme is that if anyone can tell you how to ferment commercially prepaired pickles, then sally fallon is your gal.

One idea that Sally Fallon and a lot of writers since her use, is to add whey or live culture sauerkraut juice to a food just before serving it. So, if you have a bowl of soup, you heat it up, add a splash of sauerkraut juice to it, then chow down, the live cultures in the sauerkraut will activate things in your digestion that allow you to absorb more of the nutrition than you would have otherwise.



What I say next is a bit of interpretation from reading and personal experience. Keep in mind, I'm just anther person on the internet who claims to have healed herself from a life threatening ailment by using food as medicine. For a much more credible source, I highly recomend Katz's Wild Fermentation or for a more in depth take on the subject, Katz's extremely thick Art of Fermentation.

My understanding of fermentation is that it makes food more nourishing to us in two different ways. First way is to pre-digest the food so that it's broken down into simple to use parts for our body. The other way is that the live cultures (the probiotics) activate mechanisms in our body that help it absorb more nutrition than it would otherwise.

When we cook food, we've already broken down the raw ingredients, albeit differently than when we ferment food. We've also killed most or all of the live cultures that naturally occur in the food. There are very few traditional fermentation that start with cooked food, and most of them utilize a yeast or mold based ferment (like beer or miso). Bacteria based ferments, like sauerkraut or other fermented pickles, often start with raw food or with foods that haven't been heated enough to pasteurize them. This of course is generally speaking - there are exceptions.

Processed pickles (generally) have been pasteurized with heat, chemicals or more often both. The veg have also had their basic starting blocks changed a bit - by being cooked during processing, or by exposure to acid, what nots. So your basic live culture sauerkraut juice may or may not have anything to work with in the pickles.

But it will help your body absorb more nutrition.


In other words:

It's worth a try to ferment commercially prepaired pickles. It may work with some brands and not with others. Depending on how the pickles were prepaired it may help, it may do nothing, or it might not take and allow something unpleasant to grow in it. It's worth a try, but a cautious one. As usual with food you make yourself, trust your instincts and your senses as your primary guide to safety.

If you do go the fermentation route, please let us know your results.

Another option is simply adding the live culture juice at the time of eating. This may be enough to give you the nutritional boost you seek.
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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ok... i am fermenting a batch of cornichons (very small pickled cucumbers). they taste good, they re a bit softer now and less sweet. but maybe i put a bit too much garlic into it. which is nice, but very strong.
i rinsed them and used sauerkraut brine, water, salt and spices. the jar got pressure-builtup, so there must have been a fermentation going on inside.

some storebought pickled cucumbers are too sweet. but fermentation should deal with that and improve the quality a lot.

in germany most food preservatives are outlawed. the store bought pickles contain vinegar, sugar and salt, which should be enough for preserving them in the jar.

i d like to ferment small cucumbers, but they re hard to get fresh. maybe i could grow some this year, but they seem not to grow well without protection in this climate.
 
Simon Fletcher
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Location: West grey, Ontario Canada
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I'm not surprised you had some fermentation happening. But I wonder if it tasted good?
Perhaps you could plant some little cucumbers in a pot inside and train them up and around a window. They do trail around and if you use scraps of cloth to hold up the stem it would help prevent choking it to death. If you feed it well and have a big enough pot, you might get enough for a ferment batch. I've been fermenting things directly in the jars I intend on storing them and bypassing the crocks phase. It's quite easy and I don't mind each jar being a little more different. It's a little quicker this way and takes up less space. I haven't done this with cucumbers but I have with other trailing plants. Who knows, maybe you could even stick a clove of garlic and sprinkle some dill and/or coriander in the pot as well and have a pickle garden? Good luck!
 
r ranson
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Thank you for telling us how it went. So glad you got a frement. How does it taste?

My dad says back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, when he was visiting Germany, there were some amazing traditional fermented foods (and the spaetzel, he loved the spaetzle - though I might not be spelling it right). Fermented cucumbers, cabbages, brussels sprouts... all these things he craves from his time in Germany. It makes me think that if they were fermenting these things in Germany back then, maybe, there are varieties that grow well there? It's a thought. Maybe you can grow bigger cucumbers and pick them early to make small cucumbers?
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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heya.... taste is good. less sweet. but i put too much spices into it.

our window-space is used up by herbs, aloe-vera and soil-sprouts. we have an allotment. but cucumbers do not do very well in our climate. they need quite warm temperatures to sprout.
maybe, if i start them inside.
the woman who rents the allotment next to our said, we can use her greenhouse (approx. 2 by 2 meters) this year. so cucumbers would be an option now.

do you have any advice on growing cucumbers?
thank you
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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hey r. ranson,

it s Spätzle ... some german words are difficult to write. we use äääää and ööööö and üüüüü and ßßßßßßß .... like in Hügelkultur.
Spätzle are fresh made noodles. it s eggs, flour and some fine semolina(soak in eggs maybe 30 min and maybe add some milk). these are pressed into boiling water with a special press (can be used to make mashed potatoes), or scraped off a wooden board into the water or pressed through kinda sieves with larges holes.
easy and good stuff.

germany has some traditional ferments. sauerkraut. saure gurke (cucumbers), which start out in a very much salty brine with spices (dill, yellow mustardseed, pepper ...), which then turns into lacto fermentation over time. we even have fermented herrings, called matjes. there s some part of the intestines whuch they leave in it, then it comes into barrels for a few months. tastes extremely fishy.

cucumbers grow better in central germany, where it s warmer. they re supposed to grow here, but it s better to start them indoors or with glass-panels as protection. i d like to try that.
we have small varieties for pickling, the large for salad and large, fat ones for cooking/baking.

i use store.bought salad cucumber cut into pieces to ferment. it s good, but somewhat soft. they ferment quickly and very sour. at the beginning they taste spritzig (is that a word in englisch), like prosecco.

i did not like fermented brussel sprouts. any advice on that? i suppose, they ll need more time to ferment.
 
Tobias Ber
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the store bought pickled cucumbers went very well. they went from sugar-vinegar-taste to fermenty-salty-taste with dill, mustard and garlic.
they went from crunchy to a bit mushy, which is ok.
 
r ranson
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Thanks for the update. Sounds like a great taste. Mushy isn't as awesome, but sounds like the taste makes up for it.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Last year i bought The Perfect Pickler fermentation kit. I've only got to use it twice so far. I made sauerkraut from the instruction booklet that came with it. I wish i had shredded the cabbage a little finer. I thought it was okay otherwise. I made a Squash/Cucumber relish (recipe online) that i thought was too sour for my taste. I added a little bit of sugar then it was edible but i wasn't impressed. I'll be trying more recipes this year.
The kit included a plastic screw top with gasket, an air lock system, an overflow brine cup and instructions.
IMG_20160321_114627226.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20160321_114627226.jpg]
Perfect Pickler
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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it s not tooooooooo mushy. it s just not that crunchy anymore. i think it s not (very much?) different from pickling "saure gurken" from fresh cucumbers.

i am determinded to grow some cucumbers this year ...yay!
 
Mike Harmon
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Location: Port Lavaca, Texas
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Mr Tobias,
You could try adding a grape of oak leaf to the pickles. Tannic acid works to keep cucumbers from turning to mushy when fermenting or some have used calcium or alum or lime concoctions as well. Ferment at a lower temperature will help also. But because you are dealing with an already processed food, you may have all the crisp you will ever get also
I have used a brand here called "Pickle Crisp" when fermenting but not sure if it is recommended or not.
I am like you though. I eat the good and the not so good.
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