When pickling using the lacto-fermentation process, an anaerobic saline (salty) environment is required to encourage the reproduction of lactobacillus bacteria, which is naturally occurring on the surface of nearly all foods. The lactobacillus create lactic acid, which is the compound responsible for both the pickled vegetable’s signature sour flavor and the magical preservative properties. Typically a nonreactive container, either a stone crock, a glass jar, or a food grade plastic container, is sterilized and dried. The desired fruit or vegetable is added, along with any number of antimicrobial herbs and spices (mustard seeds, dill, garlic, or cloves, for example) and submerged under salt water. A weight is then employed to keep the product from ever being exposed to oxygen, and oxygen would spoil the anaerobic process. The container is then stored in a cool, dry place at a temperature that should not dip below 64 degrees nor over 78 degrees fahrenheit
Pickles made with vinegar are faster to make, and more shelf stable, but the aerobic nature of the acid used in preservation means the beneficial cultures and nutrients produced in naturally fermented foods are sure to die off. While this may sound unfortunate, the end result is a stable product which will not continue to deteriorate itself. In fact, the vast majority of commercially available pickled products are made using this method, for the aforementioned reasons. Similar to brine pickles, a sterilized storage medium is required. A mixture of salt, sugar and spices are combined with your desired ratio of vinegar to water. The “brine” is brought to a boil, and then poured over the product and left to pickle until the desired texture and flavor are reached.