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Quality of Cucumbers Commercially Fermented in Calcium Chloride Brine without Sodium Salts

Erin K. McMurtrie, Suzanne D. Johanningsmeier
Journal of food quality 2018 v.2018 pp. -
brining, calcium, calcium chloride, color, cucumbers, firmness, lactic fermentation, mesocarp, pH, photooxidation, potassium sorbate, product quality, seasonal variation, sodium, sodium chloride, starter cultures, storage time, tanks, texture, wastewater
Commercial cucumber fermentation produces large volumes of salty wastewater. This study evaluated the quality of fermented cucumbers produced commercially using an alternative calcium chloride (CaCl₂) brining process. Fermentation conducted in calcium brines (0.1 M CaCl₂, 6 mM potassium sorbate, equilibrated) with a starter culture was compared to standard industrial fermentation. Production variables included commercial processor (n=6), seasonal variation (June–September, 2 years), vessel size (10,000–40,000 L), cucumber size (2.7–5.1 cm diameter), and bulk storage time (55–280 days). Cucumber mesocarp firmness, color, bloater defects, pH, and organic acids were measured. Complete lactic acid fermentation was achieved, resulting in terminal fermentation pH values of 3.23 ± 0.09 and 3.30 ± 0.12 for CaCl₂ and NaCl processes, respectively. On average, CaCl₂ brined, fermented cucumbers were 1.8 N less firm, which remained significant in the finished product (P<0.0001). Color differences evidenced by higher hue and lower chroma values (P<0.0269) were consistent with increased photooxidation in CaCl₂ brined cucumbers. Commercial implementation of CaCl₂ brines for cucumber fermentation in open tanks variably resulted in texture and color defects that can impact product quality. Additional research is needed to understand the atypical softening observed at the commercial scale and identify process controls for quality improvements.