or corning, is the process of preparing a food by soaking
and storing it in a brine containing salt and/or acid (usually
vinegar), a process which can preserve perishable foods for
months. The resulting food is called a
Pickling in brine often results
in anaerobic fermentation, by either lactic acid bacteria or by
If the food contains sufficient
moisture, a pickling brine may be produced simply by adding dry
salt. Some pickling forms, including sauerkraut and Korean kimchi, salt the vegetables to draw out excess water, then allow
natural fermentation to create a vinegar-like solution
containing lactic acid. Other pickles are made by placing the
vegetable in vinegar.
Unlike the canning process, pickling which
includes fermentation requires that the food not be completely
sterile before it is sealed. The acidity or salinity of the
solution, the temperature of fermentation, and the exclusion of
oxygen determine which microorganisms dominate, and determine
the flavor of the end product.
When the salt concentration and
the temperature is low, Leuconostoc mesenteroides
dominates, producing a mix of acids, alcohol, and aroma
compounds. When the temperatures are higher, Lactobacillus
plantarum dominates, which produces primarily lactic acid.
Many pickles start with Leuconostoc, and change to Lactobacillus
with higher acidity.
Pickling began as a way to
preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys,
especially by sea. Salt pork and salt beef were common staples
for sailors before the days of steam engines. Although the
process was originally used to preserve foods, pickling is
frequently done because people enjoy the resulting flavor.
Fruits are sometimes pickled in
high-sugar solutions or with flavorings such as cinnamon,
mustard, or dill seed.