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Pickling A Lost Tradition

May 16, 2015

By Joan McDaniel                  May 16, 2015

Updated May, 23, 2015

Dill Pickles

Continuing Series

This article is part of my continuing discussion on how I regained my Gut Health.  The first article was “Are We Too Clean”. Todays article is an introduction to fermentation by discussing the traditional pickle and pickling.

An Introduction to Fermentation

I found fermentation isn’t a subject that is easy to understand.  There is a good side of fermentation and a bad. Good when done to produce a food product, bad when your gut is fermenting itself. It took me some time to even find a source for good fermented food and probiotics. I had to do it by trial and error depending on how my gut felt after eating it.

The fermentation of food has been with us for thousands of years and pickles have been made since the 17th Century.  Unfortunately, so far I haven’t found a reliable source for a good natural probiotic.  You are on your own and like sprouting you have to ferment your own food.  Relax it is really very easy and fun see video at end of this article.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic supplements are available, but eating real food seems to pass through the stomach acid barrier a little easier.  A natural food probiotic is stronger, alive longer, and better acting than a bottled supplement. I had better results from actual food than any supplement and that also includes vitamins.

Pickling a lost Art

Not many years ago, fermentation or pickling took the place of refrigeration. Fermentation is preserving, even expanding the lifespan of food by either an anaerobic fermentation, or in a brine (sea-salt solution). Food immersed in Vinegar is preserved and soured but does not create probiotics.  If you have ever tasted a true dill pickle from salt brine vs vinegar, you can tell the difference.

The natural probiotics created during fermentation contain live bacteria and enzymes that keep your gut happy and you healthy.

The Pickle A Tradition

Our tradition – There is something about the pickle that speaks tradition.  Many cultures across the world have their traditional pickled food used to maintain health.  Manufactured pickles are also a source of healthy probiotic microbes.  These traditions use unique recipes and a salt brine.  Any food can be pickled for an example “pickled (fill in the blank)”.

N.Y. Pushcart Territory

Push Cart War

Pushcart War

PushCart War A book about the PushCart War between Vendors and the increasing truck traffic.  The Pushcart came first but the truck is bigger.

In the United States, there was a time when the Lower East Side of NY was known as “pushcart territory” .  One of the best known of these pushcarts wares was the pickle.  The pickle is still a fixture in New York delis, where a half-sour spear is often wrapped up with each sandwich.

Guss Pickles


At Guss’s Pickles, a 91-year-old establishment on Essex Street. NY, NY

Guss’  certified Kosher pickles are packed in barrels with their own blend of all natural pickling spices, freshly – chopped garlic, and a saltwater brine.

Guss Pickles headquarters moved to neighboring Brooklyn and is now named Ess-A-Pickle.  Today it’s The Pickle Guys who are still located appropriately on the Lower East Side.

The full sours are pure pickled perfection, but there are also half and 3/4 sour options for the more timid pickle lover. (49 Essex St; 212-656-9739;

New York celebrated its annual Pickle Day in 2010

To Maintain Good Gut Health You Need Prebiotics and Probiotics.

Some Terms

Pasteurization – As a result of the Germ Theory, pasteurization was invented by a French Chemist Louis Pasteur.  Heating beer and wine was enough to kill most of the bacteria that caused spoilage.  Today the process of pasteurization is used in the dairy and food industries to control microbes and preserve the food.  Pasteurization doesn’t kill all bacteria like sterilization but most of it.  All dairy products must be pasteurized according to the FDA each state has its own exceptions check side bar of this blog for each state’s rules.

Probiotic – Refers to a dietary or food supplement that contains “good live bacteria” bacteria which become viable in our digestive tract.  Probiotic are the actual bacteria and enzymes. Probiotics come from pickled or fermented food.  Probiotics are also available in supplement form.

Prebiotics – are also referred to as roughage, or dietary fiber that helps establish a healthy environment for the actual bacteria to life.  See my article on fiber.

Trying to Find Fermented Food

In my drive to improve my health, my research turned up the importance of probiotics.  I found you get probiotics by eating fermented foods.  I remember as a kid eating a good dill pickle or small side dish of sauerkraut so I went shopping.

As I went down the aisle of my local grocery store looking for pickled food, reading labels I found all products were fermented using distilled vinegar not salt.

I have problems with vinegar, I don’t like it, I don’t like the taste – I never have like it so I could’t of enjoyed pickles made with vinegar when I was young.  Sure enough, I found out the pickle from my past was fermented using a salt brine (sea salt) not vinegar. This process is called Lacto-fermentation.

Most Processed Food Being Sold is Pasteurized

Fermented or Pickled food cannot be pasteurized and still contain live microflora for pasteurization kills most if not all live bacteria and enzymes.

The Modern Day Pickle May Not Be That Good For Your Health

A pickle once was good for you but today that seems to be hard to find.  I found, in order to get this traditional tremendous benefit you will have to make it your self.  For the pickle you buy in the store not only uses vinegar (pasteurized distilled vinegar) there are some other very nasty ingredients.


Sweet Mixed Pickles

Take a look at the back of any pickle jar at any major grocery retailer and in many cases you will see High Fructose Corn Syrup, or artificial sweeteners, dangerous preservatives, toxic chemicals and dyes.  Note the Salt they are talking about is refined table salt (All Sodium no Salt).


Pickle Label

Look For the Phrase Lacto – Fermented 

What you should be looking for is the phrase lacto-fermented using sea-salt brine.  Products made with vinegar are more convenient and easier to make and they have a reliable mass market shelf life.  A true fermented pickle with salt brine will keep fermenting until it has been refrigerated. It needs either to be immersed in vinegar, canned, refrigerated or stored in the open or it will blow its top.

Now that can’t happen in a nice clean organized Grocery Store shelf now can it?

Update 5/23/15 – I just found in a special cold refrigerator section of my local grocery store “Half Sour” pickles made by Schorr’s Pickles from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  The label says the ingredients are only “cucumber, water, salt, garlic, spices” with No additives and no preservatives. It does not say if the salt is sea salt or processed salt, but I don’t think processed salt can be used to ferment for it would not work.  These are half sour so not the full probiotic but at least you are getting a real preserved natural cucumber. The company has a full sour pickle but it uses salt and vinegar therefore is not probiotic.  I bought a jar brought it home opened and tasted and it taste like the real thing only not as salty as a full sour. I went on-line, they do not have a web-site but according to marks daily apple blog spot a Q & A session seems to think Shorr’s Pickles ”Sounds like the real deal to me.” It taste like a somewhat tangy and crisp cucumber not soft and sour like a pickle done with vinegar . The label also says “Keep in the Refrigerator”—-Joan

Now Pasteurized Distilled Vinegar is Bad But It Gets Worse

Now What is This About Petroleum?

White Distilled Vinegar great for cleaning not too good for eating

I am speaking about white distilled vinegar not unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Not only is vinegar pasteurized with a very long shelf life it may not even be food. Distilled Vinegar is that “sparkling clean”vinegar you find on grocery store shelves. White Distilled Vinegar has a reputation of “free from impurities of all kinds. White Distilled Vinegar – Cleanliness, purity and wholesomeness – the secret of H.J Heinz Company’s great success in making vinegar.”

images-3Some Vinegars are not even made from food

From the website Happy Mothering;

“I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago picking up a few things. As I walked down one aisle, I saw a man pick up a bottle of white distilled vinegar and the woman standing next to him asked if he was going to be using it for cooking. He said, “No, why?” (He said he was using it to clean an engine or something.)

She told the man unless it says, “Made from Grain,” on the bottle, then the white vinegar is most likely made from petroleum. I had never heard that before, so of course I had to do my own research.

What did I discover? According to the FDA’s website, petroleum can be utilized to begin the process of vinegar making. And the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to label the vinegar as being derived from a petroleum starter. “

Many foods are made with distilled vinegar take a look at some labels.

25 benefits of vinegar cleaning

Click the above link for 25 uses of vinegar for cleaning not eating

Other uses for distilled Vinegar

Unclog a drain – Pour 1 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar then 1 cup very hot water.  The drain will bubble then clear almost instantly

Sunburn – The acetic acid in white distilled  vinegar is said to reduce the burning pain of a sunburn – I know for as a kid it worked for me.  I was a natural red-head and summer meant sunburn.  I spent many a day with my vinegar bottle to help with the tremendous sting pain of the sun burn.

Grow and Make you own

A Cucumber is a very perishable but super healthy food. Dr. Mercola has several articles on why you should eat cucumbers.

Cucumbers are 95% water, anti-inflammatory, low in calories, high in fiber with the skin on and great for digestive health. Cucumbers are mostly water and are very perishable  that is why they are pickled to preserve this life-giving food.  They also bruise easily with handling so that is why most cucumbers are heavily sprayed or coated for shipping with synthetic waxes.

I found this out from my local farmer.  In some cases this wax is a synthetic petroleum-based wax.  I am not sure about organic cucumbers.  Cucumbers do not have much of a shelf life and need to be eaten pretty soon after being picked they go bad fast. They don’t even last very long in the refrigerator.  The best way to eat a store-bought cucumber is peeled and then you lose most of the cucumber’s nutrients.

So the only safe cucumber is one you have grown yourself or from your local farmer who has just picked it off the vine.

Greek Olives

I have found and Indian Health Food Store that sells greek olives fermented in brine.  This is rare and you may find other foods in speciality stores but basically you are on your own.  Most canned olives have been soaked in lye to remove their tart taste like California-style black olives.

Probiotic Supplements

If you can’t find a good source for fermented food there are probiotic supplements available.  Make sure the supplements come from a good reliable supplier like Dr. Mercola’s.  The problem with supplements is getting them past the stomach destructive acid into the intestine where they do their work.

Not to Leave You In A Pickle

I will spend more time in the future on fermentation but it is very easy to ferment your own food.

You just need to like working in the kitchen and know when to stop the fermentation process and put it in the refrigerator or your food may end up on the ceiling.  I have this cute and short video on how to make the pickle.  There are tricks I found and will go into more detail later.

You find it kind of fun and will spend your time looking for mason jars and live natural herbs.  Growing your own cucumbers make the finished product even more fun.

I give you Meghan’s Pickles A video.

I haven’t done cucumbers yet but I did ferment carrot sticks.  They were great and a great snack to have around.  I have planted cucumbers this year and eagerly await the work of the sun for a harvest of cucumbers I can pickle.

Now, who doesn’t love a good dill pickle: delicious, crunchy, a little pungent, slightly sour, a touch salty, and a tinge of garlic.

And these phallic shaped warty green numbers are healthy too!

Here are the Ingredients for my pickles:

Meghan’s Pickles

by Meghan Telpner

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: None

Ingredients (1 jar)

•Mason jar’s worth of cucumbers (or vegetable of choice)

•2 Tbs celtic sea salt

•1 Tbs Dill seeds or 1 bunch fresh dill

•1 Tbs mustard seeds

•1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced (optional)

•Water- enough to cover vegetables.  If you water contains chlorine boiling it for 15 minuets removes the chlorine.

You want all the cucumbers to stay below the water line to remove all the Oxygen  You also want to use filtered water free from fluoride and chloride.

Until next time


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