Pickling & Fermenting

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Pickles and Fermenting

How were vegetables preserved without the use of freezers or canners? Back before the invention of canners, dehydrators, or freezers, vegetables were preserved through pickling and lacto-fermentation. The history of pickling food dates all the way back to 2040 BC!

What’s the difference between Pickling and Fermenting? 

Pickling involves soaking foods in an acidic liquid (such as vinegar) to achieve a sour flavor; when foods are fermented, the sour flavor is a result of a chemical reaction between a food’s sugars and naturally present bacteria — no added acid required.


That is a big word, but put simply, it is the process of bacteria breaking down the sugars in food and forming lactic acid. The increased acidity from the lactic acid preserves the food. Fermentation is a type of pickling, but not all pickles are fermented. 

Why are fermented foods good for you? First, they contain probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help support your gut health. When your gut is healthy, your body is able to fight off sickness and diseases more easily. 

How to Lacto-Ferment Food

Lacto-Fermented food is easy to do and does not require specialized equipment.

  • If you have a wide mouth, quart size jars and something to pound with, you are set.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables completely and cut them up.
  • Then mix them with salt and spices or herbs, pound them briefly, then press into an airtight container.
  • Leave about one inch of space between the produce/liquid and the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
  • Close the jar very tightly because oxygen will ruin the product.
  • The added salt will keep it from spoiling until there is enough lactic acid to keep it for several months.
  • To reduce the amount of salt used, or even remove it altogether, whey can be added.
  • Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after curds are formed.
  • Using whey will help produce more consistent results.
  • Keep the jars at room temperature (about 72 degrees F) for 2-4 days to ensure the lactic acid fermentation is happening.
  • Then put the jars in a dark, cool place, 40 degrees F is the best.
  • During pioneer times, crocks were used to ferment, and were kept in root cellars or caves.
  • The flavor of fermented foods increases over time, but they can be eaten as soon as the initial room temperature fermentation is finished.
  • Wondering how you will know if a batch has gone bad? The smell will be so awful there is no way you would want to eat it. 

Sauerkraut Instructions and Recipe<<<<<


Pickling is preserving food in a vinegar sauce or salty water (fermentation). The vinegar creates a highly acidic environment that discourages the growth of bacteria. Pickled foods are healthy because they contain natural antioxidants. Antioxidants can prevent or delay some types of cell damage in your body due to environmental or other causes. Pickled foods could also help prevent blood sugar spikes because of the vinegar. 

Pickles were first brought to America by Christopher Columbus. Like many explorers, Christopher loved traveling with pickles because they could survive the long journeys, and they helped prevent scurvy. 

How to Pickle

Pickling is also a relatively easy task.

  • If you are pickling cucumbers you can leave them whole or slice them.
  • Find a recipe for the type of pickles you want – dill, sweet, refrigerator, etc.
  • There will be a brine to make, pour over the cucumbers in the jar, and processing to do if you plan to keep them on a shelf.
  • You can pickle zucchini and yellow squash in much the same way. Eggs, garlic, peppers, and some meats can also be pickled. 

Does your family ferment or pickle foods? What are the foods that are processed this way?  

Math/Science/Life Skills/Cooking


  • Taste various types of pickled and fermented vegetables.
  • Choose one or two favorites. Draw labels for pickled or fermented vegetable jars.
  • Help put vegetables into the jars for fermenting or pickling.
  • If your family cans pickles or ferments, have this age group count the number of jars you have filled.
  • Count how many of each vegetable goes into jars. 

Preschool Canning Color Page<<<<< Special Thanks to Iris Richards!

Middle School 

This age group can 

  • Fill canning jars for fermenting and pickling. 
  • Cut up vegetables. 
  • Choose a vegetable to ferment or pickle and demonstrate the process.
  • Research different types of fermented and pickled vegetables. 
  • Conduct a poll of their family or friends showing favorite types of fermented or pickled vegetables.
  • Make a graph from the poll.  

High School 

This group can 

  • Fermenting or pickling process from start to finish.
  • Research the science behind fermenting or pickling and report on it. 
  • Locate fermenting and pickling recipes and try some. They can even
  • Work at creating their own pickling brine!
  • Using ratios of ingredients they can find in their research, have them try to make some unique tastes using spices.


Watermelon Rind Pickles are a sweet way to use something you usually throw away or compost. This is just one recipe to try:

Pickled Watermelon Rind Recipe

Weekly Bible Verse

Psalm 16:1 Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.

When we trust the Lord, He preserves us. He keeps us in His tender care and shows us the way we should go. If we trust the Lord with our homestead and homeschool, He will guide us and
show us the things we need to do and learn. If we ask Him to bless our lives, He will do so.


1 Comment

  1. sgslong@icloud.com on September 8, 2020 at 10:02 am

    I LOVE how each age group is broken down. This allows each of my kids to participate and learn all at once.

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