Why is everyone so pumped about pickles/fermented veg these days and what is the difference between the two?

The main difference between pickling and fermenting is that pickling requires an acidic component (lemon juice or vinegar) to it’s preservation process where fermenting only requires a brine. 

Here’s the deal - as described by our friendly neighborhood GI Doctor (aka my brother).

Our gut flora plays a key role in our health. It can be altered by various environmental factors including infections, stress, diet, and particular disease processes. Once altered, the gut flora can be either more beneficial or more harmful to our health. The key is to keep our gut flora healthy and to get it back on track if it goes awry. Many of my patient’s complain of various ailments such as heartburn, bloating, abdominal pain, altered bowel habits, etc all of which can often be improved simply by attempts to revamp their gut flora. Pre-biotics and probiotics are both essential to accomplishing this change. Probiotics are bacteria that work well symbiotically with our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and can help promote a healthy GI tract and a healthy immune system. When taken or added to the diet, they can help redirect the gut flora to get back on the right track. These bacteria can survive and take charge in a more productive fashion if accompanied by the nutrients that they feed, on otherwise known as pre-biotics. Many companies have developed supplements for both but consuming food products such as yogurts, fermented foods (which contain lipoic acid, a type of pre-biotic) and pickled foods can provide a healthy balance of both probiotics and pre-biotics.
- Dr. Ryan O'Connor

We all have GI issues (tummy troubles) from time to time and even if we don't, on the whole, fermented foods sound like a fantastic idea for maintaining overall health. They have been used for centuries as a natural anti-bacterial...if you have a cold, reach for these yummy fermented foods.

If you need even more incentive to give it a try, pickling or fermenting is a great way to spice up your regular old, plain old veggie routine, and there are a million different ways to do it. You  can top salad with slices of pickled veg make it a whole lot more interesting than it’s raw alternative. They also make great appetizers along with cheese and crackers - and making it in advance is a requirement so no fuss on hosting day! There are a million different ways you can add flavor to your pickle/fermented foods - you can use all different spice and herb combos so you will never get bored! 

Here are the simple steps to getting your pickle/fermentation on, followed by a few experimental recipes I whipped up today.

  1. Place cleaned veg in a clean glass container with any spices or flavor adds you choose.
  2. Pour enough brine (water + salt + lemon/vinegar) to cover veg and spices and tightly seal contents with a lid.
  3. Let sit on your counter, room temperature, for 1-3 weeks or until veg have reached your desired pickle-ness. (the longer they sit, the more powerful the flavor)
  4. Refrigerate and eat anytime over the next couple months…although I highly doubt it lasts that long!



Middle East Inspired Pickled/Fermented Beets

2 cups brine (2 cups water + 2 TBS lemon juice + 2 TBS sea salt)

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole anise seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 whole cinnamon stick

1/3 cup thinly sliced onions

2 cups thinly sliced beets

*Follow steps above.


Smokey Pickled/Fermented Carrots

2 cups brine (2 cups water + 2 TBS lemon juice + 2 TBS sea salt)

2 small garlic cloves

1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds

1 bunch fresh parsley

6 medium carrots, halved (I used tai-colored carrots)

*Follow steps above.

Spiced Pickled/Fermented Rutabaga 

2 cups brine (2 cups water + 2 TBS lemon juice + 2 TBS sea salt)

1 teaspoon crushed chipotle chili seeds

1 small garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

1 bunch fresh dill

1 large rutabega, halved and thinly sliced

*Follow steps above.

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