Probiotics are a very big deal when it comes to eating healthy, and naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha and pickles have tons of these good-for-your gut bacteria. Yes, pickles, but only if and this is the big IF they're cured with salt, not vinegar. At the Britt's Pickles counter in bustling, historic Pike Place Market, manager Andrew Berg explains the difference between vinegar pickles and salt-cured pickles to thousands of customers every year since opening in 2010.
"Instead of using vinegar, we rely on lactic acid fermentation, which has been used for thousands of years. We cure our pickles in a salt brine in wooden barrels," said Berg. The production facility on nearby Whidbey Island is actually nicknamed "The Hatchery" because good bacteria are encouraged to grow during the two-week fermentation process. Curing in barrels is a time-honored tradition that dates back to Eastern Europe. Immigrants to the United States bought pickles straight from barrels in delis. Curing in barrels means the brine is tempered by the tannins in the oak, allowing lactic acid to flourish, preserving food naturally.
Because these pickles and other fermented products are considered "alive", they must be refrigerated. A little fizzing when the jar is opened is fine. While there are plenty of recipes that include pickles as a star ingredient -- like the red hot pickle soup -- many customers who frequent Britt's prefer their pickle in its pristine state. The staff is happy to sell pickles on stick for $3 apiece.
Take a look at this short video of Berg talking about the natural fermentation process.