How Fermentation Works

What is the fermentation process?

Wake Robin utilizes a historic fermentation process, lacto-fermentation, to obtain the unique flavors in our pickled vegetables, while at the same time preserving them without heating or canning. For this process to work we bring together salt, vegetables, and some water in a closed container with very little oxygen.

The salt causes the vegetables to give up some of their water and provides an environment for a genus of bacteria (lactic acid bacteria) to flourish. The lactic acid bacteria, which naturally occur on the surface of vegetables and fruits, transform the sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid which lowers the pH (the acid level) of the vegetables, suppressing the growth of other bacteria and yeast which would otherwise cause the vegetables to spoil. The lactic acid is primarily responsible for the wonderful flavor and aroma of traditional pickles.

This preservation process has been around for thousands of years and is especially prominent in Eastern European (sauerkraut) and Korean (kim chi) cuisines. Until the advent of canning and refrigeration it was the only method many cultures could use to store vegetables for extended periods after harvest.

Our process is simple really. We obtain fresh vegetables from local farmers, which are washed and cleaned of blemishes and then chopped or sliced in a food processor. They are then mixed with sea salt, spices (depending on the product), and some filtered water. They are then packed into a barrel with an airlock allowing the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process to escape. This airlock also does not allow oxygen into the fermentation barrel.

The vegetables stay in the barrel for one to 8 weeks. Then they are packed into jars and refrigerated to slow the fermentation process and will last for a couple of years though as time passes the vegetables will become softer.

To learn more about fermentation we recommend books by Sandor Katz including Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation.