10.2.6 Fermentation and pickling
Not all microorganisms are bad. Certain microorganisms are necessary in the preparation and preservation of many foods and beverages. Essentially, fermentation (a controlled microbial action) is a process of anaerobic or partially anaerobic oxidation of carbohydrates that produces acids and alcohol. It is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. In fermentation, food preservation is achieved by the presence of acid or alcohol, which creates unfavourable environmental conditions for decomposing and other undesirable bacteria.
Foods commonly processed and preserved by fermentation methods are milk and milk products, beef, vinegar, drinks like beer and wine, and pickled fruits and vegetables. Pickling is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation either in brine (salt solution) or in an acid solution, usually vinegar. The concentrations of the pickling agents and the time needed for pickling are determined by the type of food. Fermented and/or pickled food products are semi-perishable and must be protected from moulds, which are able to attack the acids and permit the invasion of spoilage organisms.