Pickles and ferments

What makes a pickle a pickle? What is the difference between a Pickle and a Ferment?

Salt vs. Vinegar pickles

closeup-on-pickled-vegetablesPickled Vegetables

So, what DOES make a pickle? Is it salt cured in a brine? Or is it the vinegar that makes a pickle?

The answer? BOTH

Salt makes a slower pickle that tastes less sharp, or acidic, than vinegar. The joy of vinegar pickles is that you get to choose the vinegar you want to use. Different vinegars give a different taste to the finished product.

The making of each kind of pickle is different, and some people spend all their time "perfecting" one type over the other. 

Here, we cover the basics and leave the specialization to you. You are the artist in your kitchen. Only you know your family's needs, likes, and dislikes.


Most of us think of cucumber pickles as "PICKLES" but a pickle can literally mean ANY food that is pickled.

Vinegar pickles

grongar-bread-and-butterSource: Grongar

Bread and butter pickles, (shown), are an example of a vinegar pickle.  Made with either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, adding both sugar and (not too much) salt to the solution, along with the selection of pickling spices makes this pickle your own. 

Vinegar pickles can be eaten as soon as 24 hours after putting in the jar. They must be kept under refrigeration until they are water-bath canned. Once processed, they can easily keep on the shelf for two years or longer.

Once the seal is opened, keep them in the fridge again.

Specific recipes for this style of pickle can be found in the recipe section of this site. 

Salted Pickles, or Ferments

healthhomehappy-kimchi-to-fermentSource: Health Home Happy

Fermented pickles include salt and spices. These pickles need to process in a cool, dark place for up to 8 weeks before being eaten. You can test the brine after about ten days to see if you like the flavor. It will mellow as time goes on. The food must be kept below the level of the brine to avoid spoilage.

Many foods can be fermented, including olives, cabbage, cucumbers , and peppers. Many hot sauces are fermented.  Different salts can affect the flavor, and quality, of your pickle. Table salt is not recommended for fermenting.

Fermenting adds beneficial Probiotics to your diet. A discussion of probiotics is outside the scope of this website, but I do know that getting them in your food is better than taking a supplement. 

Pickle brine

No matter how you make a pickle, the brine, or juice, can be used after the pickle is eaten. 

Vinegar pickles produce electrolytes that balance your fluids and prevent, or help you recover from, dehydration

Fermented pickle brine can be used to retard spoilage in homemade mayonnaise, to start another ferment, make cheese, or even bake bread. It will help the body recover after a course of antibiotics and stabilize your digestion.


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