Maybe not a deep burning question for most people, but it sure feels like one to us! Is sauerkraut a pickle? What defines a pickle compared to fermented foods? Are all pickles pickled equal?
Pickle, or not a pickle?
It’s actually hard to say. Both pickling and fermentation are ancient preservation techniques, developed across all cultures as a way of keeping food edible for longer in the days before refrigeration. However, not all preservation techniques are pickles, and not all pickles are fermented.
We don’t blame you! Simply put, a pickle is food preserved in a brine (salt water), whereas fermented food is preserved by the activation of good bacteria found on vegetables or fruit using sugar or salt. What this means is, dishes that are fermented with the natural water found in the vegetables with added salt, can also be considered pickles.
So… is it a pickle?
With the above definition at hand, we can definitely say that yes! Sauerkraut is a pickle! The naturally high water content in cabbage, mixed with salt, makes a brine, which therefore makes sauerkraut and kimchi a pickle as well as a fermented food.
But like we said, not all fermented foods are pickles - for instance, you wouldn’t call kefir a pickle! You probably wouldn’t call beer or kombucha a pickle either!
It can be pretty confusing, but if you walk away with at least one new fact today, let it be this:
Sauerkraut is a pickle!