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Cucumber Fermentation

Wendy Franco, Suzanne Johanningsmeier, Jean Lu, John Demo, Emily Wilson, Lisa Moeller
Lactic Acid Fermentation of Fruits and Vegetables 2016 pp. 107-155
calcium chloride, starter cultures, carbon dioxide, shelf life, lactic acid bacteria, cucumbers, Lactobacillus plantarum, ambient temperature, yeasts, pickles, brining, bioactive compounds, flavor, oxygen, probiotics, sodium chloride, odors, lactic fermentation
Humans have consumed fermented cucumber products since before the dawn of civilization. Although cucumber fermentation remains largely a traditional process, it has proven to be a consistently safe process by which raw cucumbers are transformed into high quality pickles that have a long shelf-life at ambient temperatures. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), especially Lactobacillus plantarum, which drives the fermentation process in community with yeast, both aerobic and anaerobic, confer the flavor and aroma characteristics of the end product. Conditions for natural fermentations that consistently result in high quality products that are microbially stable for many months include: 1) brining with sodium chloride and calcium chloride to equilibrate with the cucumbers at 6-7% (wt/vol) and 0.2-0.4%, respectively; 2) purging fermentation brines during active fermentation to remove carbon dioxide which can cause hollow cavities inside whole cucumber fruits; and 3) excluding oxygen from the process as much as possible during fermentation and storage. However, to create more sustainable industrial processes, continued efforts will be needed to further reduce the salt used for brining while still delivering safe, high quality fermented cucumber products to consumers. Future developments will likely involve the strategic selection of LAB starter cultures with health promoting properties (probiotic and bioactive compound generating) to enable controlled fermentation processes and develop novel products.