Commonly asked questions about our pickles
How does the fermenting community support each other?
One of our favorite aspects of fermenting in Portland is the community. We share ideas and resources, and celebrate each other’s wins. While there is competition within the community, it is friendly, and primarily focused on improving the flavor of our products. With so many fermented foods being produced here, and a rising demand for fermented foods in the U.S., things are getting exciting!
Does eating fermented foods support immune system health?
Emerging studies are indicating that eating fermented foods positively impacts immune function. This, in turn, can have a variety of positive health benefits. There’s evidence that an unhealthy gut microbiome may contribute to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Fermented foods promote good gut health by introducing “good” microorganisms into the gut, which balances the gut microbiome and lowers inflammation.
Why do fermented foods taste so good?
Besides the natural flavor of the vegetables, fermented foods also contain glutamates. Glutamates give food that “umami” taste. Umami is that lip-smacking sensation you feel when eating savory foods like sauteed mushrooms, aged cheeses, broths, grilled meats, and fermented vegetables. The fermentation process naturally produces glutamates, increasing the savoriness of the fermented food. That’s why a plain cucumber tastes rather bland compared to a lip-smacking, delicious pickle that’s been fermenting for a week or two.
Why are fermented foods good for us?
Fermentation can boost the nutritional value of food. As the microorganisms responsible for fermentation break down food, they create essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, and other beneficial compounds. Fermentation can also increase the availability of nutrients in food. That’s partly because fermentation breaks down food components, such as starches, fiber, and complex sugars, making them easier to digest. And of course, the beneficial bacteria in fermented food may help balance our intestinal microbiomes, which can promote good gut health and may help stave off certain diseases.
What is lacto-fermentation?
In 1856, Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast were the culprits behind fermentation. By the early 1900s, it was understood that microorganisms from the genus Lactobacillus produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide when they break down sugars in food (hence, lacto-fermentation). This creates an acidic, low-oxygen environment that promotes beneficial microorganisms and prevents the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria.
Isn't bacteria bad for us?
Our bodies are host to trillions of bacteria. Most of these bacteria are either beneficial or simply neutral. While our bodies do encounter “bad” bacteria, these microorganisms usually don’t cause disease, because our immune system and symbiotic bacteria provide a defense. Fermented foods contain millions of beneficial bacteria that can help balance our microbiome and protect against the adverse effects of these “bad” bacteria. The fermentation process itself kills spoilage- and disease-causing bacteria in the fermenting food.
Why is the brine cloudy?
It’s normal for some fermenting brines to turn cloudy. Cloudy brine is usually caused by a combination of lactic acid and yeast that precipitates during the fermenting process. Some ferments rely on this process to enhance their flavor. If the brine of your Buckman Brines ferment is cloudy, that’s on purpose! Do note, however, that even fermented veggies can spoil if they’ve been sitting around too long. If your jar smells “funky,” it may be time to compost what’s left.
What makes a pickle "Kosher"?
A “kosher” pickle doesn’t necessarily mean it was prepared according to Jewish dietary restrictions, although it could mean that, depending on where the pickle was made. “Kosher” in this sense refers to the way the pickle was prepared. A kosher pickle recipe includes garlic, dill, and a salty brine. This method was invented in Jewish New York delicatessens, which is why it got the moniker “kosher.”
How do you choose your produce?
1. How “local” is it? - Ideally all of our produce comes from the Portland Metro area. 2. How “organic” is it? - Ideally all of our produce is grown organically, or biodynamically. 3. How fresh is it? - Ideally the produce goes directly from the farm and into the fermenter. 4. How expensive is it? - We pay the farmers’ asking price, always. This can mean that we spend more. Balancing these to produce the most flavorful and beneficial fermented foods is something we do every day.
How did you select your salt?
There are so many salts to choose from! The salt that people are most used to is industrially produced iodized salt or “table” salt. It’s horrible for fermentation. For starters, we don’t use it because its production harms the environment. But there’s also evidence it’s also harmful when eaten. So, “no” to table salt. When finding the perfect salt, we looked for flavor of course, but also sustainable production, local brand, and cost. After much testing, we have chosen to exclusively use Jacobsen’s Sea Salt in all of our products. We use their Trapani salt for all of our brines, and we use their kosher salt in our finished products, like pesto.
How do you keep your pickles so crunchy?
Tradition backed by science tells us fermenters that adding tannin-rich leaves (like grape, black currant, horseradish leaves, sour cherry, or oak) to the fermenting brine supports the cell structure of the veggie, preserving its crunch. That’s the Buckman Brine’s secret to crunchy pickles. Some fermenters add calcium chloride for the same effect.
What gives your ferments their tang?
The tang in our products is the natural result of lacto-fermentation. As Lacto bacillus bacteria break down carbohydrates in vegetables, they produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. The longer the bacteria digest the veggies, the more lactic acid gets made. Lactic acid conveys a tangy flavor; the more lactic acid, the tangier. We ferment our products longer than most other producers, so don’t be surprised by a little extra zing when you take your first bite.
Where do your spices come from?
We find the freshest and most exciting spices to flavor our brines. We only purchase ethically and sustainably produced herbs and spices, working with local farmers whenever possible.
Why is my ferment fizzy?
The fizziness of your ferment is the result of carbonation from the fermenting process. Fermentation microorganisms create CO2 as they break down sugars and starches in the fermenting food. This CO2 dissolves into the liquid in the jar, which is sealed and under pressure. When the lid is removed, the pressure releases, and the CO2 fizzes as it turns back into a gas. Soda drinks fizz for the same reason, although the CO2 is pumped into the soda water artificially, rather than naturally through fermentation.
Can I drink the brine?
You can, it’s delicious! And Buckman Brines brines are chock full of the beneficial microorganisms that make our ferments so nutritious and tasty. And if you’re a french fry or tater tot fan, try this amazing recipe for the best dip you’ve ever tasted: Mix 2 parts ketchup to 1 part yellow mustard and 1 part Buckman Brines brine. Then fold in mayonnaise in an equal portion to the ketchup-mustard-brine mixture.
Do I have to share?
If they aren’t eaten right away, our products are best consumed within six months of purchase. We have seen delicious ferments last two or more years in the fridge, though. Each product is different.Oh my, we’re torn on this one! On the one hand, we don’t want you to miss out on a single scrumptious molecule of your Buckman Brines fermented treat. On the other hand, the more people you share your fermented veggies with, the more joy is spread in the world. Either way, the world is a better place!
How long does a Buckman Brines ferment keep in the jar?
If they aren’t eaten right away, our products are best consumed within six months of purchase. We have seen delicious ferments last two or more years in the fridge, though. Each product is different.