What is the difference between curing and fermentation?

Release time:2023-11-06 Number of views: 128

Pickling and fermentation are methods of preserving food, and each method has its own unique characteristics and advantages. They all produce a sour taste, but pickles are sour because they are soaked in acidic vinege-based brine, while fermented foods are sour because of a chemical reaction between naturally occurring sugars and bacteria, called milk fermentation. From making delicious deli plates to adding rich elements to recipes, marinating and fermenting foods can set your menu apart from the competition.

Fermentation and curing

Fermentation and salting are two different seasoning and preservation processes. Fermentation relies on bacteria or yeast that are naturally present in the food or added as a starter. These microbes consume sugars in food and produce lactic acid or alcohol as a byproduct. This acidification, or the production of alcohol, creates an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria, effectively preserving food.


Pickling preserves food in a solution of vinegar, salt, and sometimes sugar. This acidic environment prevents the growth of bacteria, making preserved foods safe to eat and extending their shelf life.


If you want to decide whether to pickle or ferment food, the preservation method that is best for your application depends on the flavor characteristics you want and the type of food you are working with. If you are looking for a quick and rich snack, pickling is your best choice. Acidic salt water gives food a strong sour taste in a relatively short period of time. If you're after a more detailed, complex flavor, the natural fermentation process takes longer, but produces a rich flavor unique to each batch. In addition, fermented foods are known for their probiotic benefits, which can promote gut health.

What is pickling?

Curing is a centuries-old method of food preservation that involves soaking food in a solution of vinegar, water, and curing salts. Optional marinade ingredients are savoury-enhancing marinade spices, sugars or aromatics (fresh herbs, citrus peel and garlic). Pickling can not only extend the shelf life of food, but also give it flavor and flavor. Although we often associate pickling with cucumbers, there are many kinds of pickles.

What is curing salt?

Pickling salt, also known as canning salt or preservation salt, is a zero-additive fine-ground salt designed for pickling and canning use. Curing salt does not contain additives such as iodine or anti-caking agents in table salt, ensuring that the flavor, color and texture of fruits and vegetables do not change during curing. Another important characteristic of pickling salts is their fine particle size. The fine particles dissolve easily in the water, allowing the salt to be distributed quickly and evenly throughout the brine. This is essential to ensure the proper preservation of fruits and vegetables and the success of the curing process.

Preserved food

Explore a variety of delicious preserved food options that will enhance and extend the shelf life of almost all ingredients. Explore our selection of preserved food creations below.


Pickled vegetables - The most common pickled foods are vegetables. You can pickle almost any vegetable, but it's best to choose vegetables with a firm texture, such as cucumbers, beets, carrots, broccoli, scallions, and Onions. Vegetables that should be kept away from pickling are leafy greens like spinach and kale. You can also make giardiniera, which is a mixture of pickled vegetables such as red peppers, carrots, celery and cauliflower. Giardiniera is commonly used to make Italian beef and muffin sandwiches.

Pickled fruit - Pickled fruit is a great way to add a sweet and sour element to a dish. Mangoes, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches, pears, apples and grapes are ideal for pickling due to their strong structure. The acidic salt water helps break down the firm structure, so the fruit becomes a little softer and the salt water adds brightness. Aromatic ingredients such as mint and citrus peel are added to complement the sweet fruit.

Pickled eggs - Pickled eggs are very popular in English, German, and Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. To make them, the chef places hard-boiled eggs in glass jars and tops them with curing liquid, herbs and garlic. Another popular addition to pickled eggs is beet juice, which gives the eggs a vibrant pinkish purple color and the sweet, earthy flavor of beets.

Cured meats - Cured meats are a great way to preserve specialty meats and give them a new, unique flavor. Ideal cured meats are sausage, sausage, Bologna sausage, kielbasa, beef and ham.

Kippers - Kippers are a delicacy in Russia, Eastern Europe and parts of Scandinavia. The most popular pickled fish is pickled herring, and other practical fish for pickling are perch, walleye, and other hard white fish.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a natural metabolic process in which microorganisms (such as bacteria or yeast) convert sugars into acids, gases, or alcohol. This acidification, or the production of alcohol, creates an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria, effectively preserving food. The metabolic activities of microorganisms in the fermentation process produce the characteristic rich, sour or umami taste of fermented food.


Fermentation has many benefits beyond preservation. It can improve the nutritional value of food by increasing the utilization of certain vitamins and minerals. For example, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi are rich in probiotics, which benefit gut health. Fermentation also breaks down complex molecules, making nutrients easier to digest.

Fermentation type

Fermentation can be divided into three types: lactic fermentation, alcohol fermentation, acetic acid fermentation. We will explain how each method works below.


Lactic acid fermentation - Lactic acid fermentation uses bacteria that produce lactic acid to break down and ferment food. It requires only water, salt, and sugars naturally present in food to convert starches and sugars into acids. Lactic acid fermentation is used to make pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi (as long as no vinegar is added).

Alcoholic fermentation - Alcoholic fermentation begins with grains and sugars, which are broken down by yeast or bacteria to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol molecules. It is used to brew beer, wine, cider, mead and sake. There are two options for yeast in the fermentation process: naturally occurring yeast on the fruit skin or cultured yeast. Both can be used to start fermentation, but cultured yeast works faster.

Acetic acid fermentation - Also known as natural fermentation, acetic acid fermentation usually requires SCOBY (a symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast) or other starter cultures composed of living organisms. The acetic acid fermentation method is used to produce kombucha, sour dough, kefir, ginger beer, apple cider vinegar, and red or white wine vinegar.

Type of fermented food

Fermentation opens up a world of possibilities for chefs, food manufacturers and even bartenders. It enables them to create innovative and delicious products to meet the growing demand for unique and artisanal foods and beverages. Fermented ingredients can be used to add depth and complexity to dishes, while fermented drinks such as kombucha and kefir are popular among health-conscious consumers.


Sourdough is bread that is fermented with bacteria and natural yeast. This unique method gives sourdough its characteristic rich flavor and chewy texture. It is also easier to digest compared to other types of bread.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by adding kefir granules (a combination of bacteria and yeast) to milk. The grains ferment the liquid, producing a rich, slightly fizzy drink. Kefir has a creamy texture and refreshing taste and can be enjoyed on its own or used as an ingredient in smoothies, salad dressings and baked goods.

Vinegar is made through a two-step fermentation process that converts alcohol into acetic acid, giving the vinegar its distinctive, rich flavor. There are many types of vinegar, such as white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar, each with different flavors and uses.

Type of fermented food

Kimchi is a traditional Korean condiment made from fermented vegetables (most commonly cabbage) along with spices and seasonings. The fermentation process gives kimchi its distinctive rich and spicy taste. Its versatility allows it to be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to stir-fries, and even as a topping for burgers or tacos.

Sauerkraut, a much-loved staple of German cuisine, is a fermented cabbage. To make sauerkraut, chopped cabbage needs to be fermented with salt, allowing beneficial bacteria to naturally convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from soybeans that are fermented to form cake-like patties, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein. During fermentation, a beneficial fungus called Rhizopus oligosporus is added to soybeans, which helps break down protein and makes it easier to digest. This fermentation also gives tempeh its distinctive nutty flavor and firm texture.

Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with cultures of live bacteria, specifically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. During fermentation, these bacteria convert lactose (the natural sugar in milk) into lactic acid, which gives the yogurt its rich flavor and creamy texture.

Lactic fermentation Kimchi is made through a natural fermentation process that involves the growth of beneficial bacteria called lactobacillus. When lactic acid bacteria consume the sugars in vegetables, it produces lactic acid, which gives pickles their rich flavor and helps preserve them. Lactic acid fermented kimchi has a unique texture and sour taste, which is not acidic like traditional kimchi.

Miso is a major ingredient in Japan and is made from fermented soybeans ground into a paste. Miso has an umami flavor and unique aroma, and is often used in soups, marinades, condiments, and even desserts.

Type of fermented beverage

Food isn't the only thing that can ferment. Fermentation also extends to drinks, with a wide variety of fermented drinks, and you may be surprised to find your favorite beverage appearing on the list:


Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from fermented ginger, yeast and sugar, perfect for making non-alcoholic cocktails.

Wine is an alcoholic beverage traditionally made from fermented grapes.

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from yeast, hops, malt and other grains.

Kombucha is a carbonated drink made from tea, yeast, sugar and bacteria.

Cider is an alcoholic drink made from apples.

Mead is an alcoholic drink made from honey, water and yeast.

Sake is an alcoholic drink made from bran removed rice.

Curing and fermentation frequently asked Questions

Here we answer the puzzles and frequently asked questions that chefs have about preserved and fermented foods:

Is the pickle fermented?

Fast kimchi does not ferment, but lactic fermented kimchi does ferment. Quick pickles, the most common type of pickles found in grocery stores, do not ferment because they use an acid, such as vinegar, in the curing brine. However, lactic fermented pickles ferment because they follow the lactic fermentation method, using only water and salt from salt water.

Is vinegar fermented

Yes, vinegar is fermented! Vinegar uses two fermentation processes: alcohol fermentation and acetic acid fermentation. To begin the process of fermenting vinegar, yeast consumes natural sugars. This process expels the alcohol and causes alcohol fermentation. Next, oxygen is injected into the alcohol, causing the bacteria to grow and produce acid, thus carrying out the acetic acid fermentation process.

How long can preserved foods last?

Freshly preserved foods can be stored unopened in the refrigerator for more than 75 days. After opening, be sure to store the remaining kimchi in the refrigerator and soak it in salt water to maintain freshness. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pickles stored this way can stay fresh for at least three months. So whether you like pickles, Onions, or jalapenos, you can rest assured that they will stay delicious for quite some time.

Canning and curing

Canning is a food preservation process that typically involves heating food to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, then sealing it in an airtight container (usually a glass jar) to prevent spoilage. The right canned food can last for months or even years and still retain its nutritional value and flavor.


Salting, on the other hand, is a preservation method that involves soaking food in a solution of vinegar, water, and salt (called brine) or fermenting it with beneficial bacteria. This process not only preserves the food, but also gives the pickled food a rich taste and crunchy texture.


Now that you know the difference between fermentation and curing, you can make your own cured and fermented foods in your restaurant kitchen. There's no better feeling than being able to write "homemade kimchi" or "homemade pickled jalapeno" on the menu to really show your guests how much you care about the quality of your food and how far you and your staff's passion for cooking extends.