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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1438: Making Fermented Pickles
Author: Lefevre, Edwin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                     U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

                       FARMERS' BULLETIN No. 1438

                        MAKING FERMENTED PICKLES

INFORMATION AND DIRECTIONS for pickling vegetables in brine have
been prepared for the use of housewives and producers of pickles, and to
meet the needs of extension workers.

Cucumber (salt, sour, sweet, dill, and mixed) pickles and sauerkraut
are given most attention. String beans, green tomatoes, chayotes, mango
melons, burr gherkins, cauliflower, corn on the cob, and some fruits,
such as peaches and pears, are mentioned.

Although intended mainly for guidance in putting up pickles on a small
scale in the home, this bulletin may be used also in preparing large
quantities on a commercial or semicommercial scale.

This bulletin is a revision of, and supersedes, Farmers' Bulletin 1159.

Washington, D. C. Issued August, 1924


By Edwin LeFevre, _Scientific Assistant, Microbiological Laboratory,
Bureau of Chemistry_



  How brining preserves vegetables          1
  Equipment for brining and pickling        2
  Supplies for brining and pickling         4
  Cucumber pickles                          5
    Salt pickles                            5
    Sour pickles                            7
    Sweet pickles                           8
    Dill pickles                            8
  Mixed pickles                            10
  Sauerkraut                               10
  Fermentation and salting of vegetables
    other than, cucumbers and cabbage      11
  Causes of failure                        12
  Coloring and hardening agents            14
  Tables and tests                         14

ALTHOUGH excellent pickles can be bought on the market at
all seasons of the year, many housewives prefer to make their own,
particularly when their home gardens afford a plentiful supply of

Brining is a good way to save surplus cucumbers that can not be used or
readily sold in the fresh state. Instead of letting them go to waste
it is very easy to cure them, after which they may be held as long as
desired or until they can be sold to advantage, either in local markets
or to pickle manufacturers. Thus growers are protected against loss by
overproduction or from inability to speedily market a perishable crop,
and the pickle market receives the benefit of a steady supply.


When vegetables are placed in brine the juices and soluble material
contained in them are drawn out by the force known as osmosis.

The fermentable sugar present in all fruits and vegetables, which is one
of the soluble substances extracted by osmotic action, serves as food
for the lactic-acid bacteria which break it down into lactic acid and
certain volatile acids. In some vegetables, like cucumbers and cabbage,
where the supply of sugar is ample and other conditions are favorable to
the growth of the lactic bacteria, a decided acid formation takes place,
constituting a distinct fermentation. The acid brine thus formed acts
upon the vegetable tissues, bringing about the changes in color, taste,
and texture which mark the pickled state.

As a rule, a solution of salt is used, although some vegetables quickly
give up enough moisture to convert dry salt into brine. Salt also hardens
or makes firm the vegetables placed in brine and checks the action of
organisms which might otherwise destroy the plant tissues.

Cabbage is well preserved in its own brine in the form of sauerkraut.
Other vegetables and some fruits may, under certain conditions, be
economically preserved by brining. As a rule, however, canning is
preferable for these products, because food values and natural flavors
are better preserved by that method. Lack of time, a shortage of cans, or
an oversupply of raw material may justify the preservation of vegetables
other than cucumbers and cabbage by curing in brine.


Stone jars are the most convenient and desirable receptacles (fig. 1) for
making small quantities of pickles. Stoneware is much more easily kept
clean and absorbs objectionable odors and flavors to a smaller extent
than wood. Straight-side, open-top jars, which come in practically all
sizes, from 1 to 20 gallons, are best for this purpose. Those used for
the directions given in this bulletin are 4-gallon jars which hold about
12 pounds (one-fourth bushel) of cucumbers. If only very small quantities
of pickles are put up, wide-mouth bottles or glass jars will do.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Some suitable containers for home-brined products]

Water-tight kegs or barrels are best for making larger quantities of
pickles. Those used for the directions given in this bulletin are barrels
holding from 40 to 45 gallons. They must first be washed, or possibly
charred, to remove all undesirable odors and flavors. Undesirable flavors
may be removed by using solutions of potash or soda lye. A strong
solution of lye should remain in the barrel for several clays, after
which the barrel should be thoroughly soaked and washed with hot water
until the lye is removed.

Boards about an inch thick make the best covers. These may be of any kind
of wood, except yellow or pitch pine, which would give the pickles an
undesirable flavor. They should be from 1 to 2 inches less in diameter
than the inside of the jar or barrel, so that they may be easily removed.
Dipping the covers in paraffin and then burning them over with a flame
fills the pores of the wood, thus making it comparatively easy to keep
them clean. Heavy plates of suitable size may be used instead of boards
as covers for small containers.

A clean white cloth is often needed to cover the material in the jar
or barrel. Two or three thicknesses of cheesecloth or muslin, cut in
circular form, and about 6 inches larger in diameter than the inside
of the receptacle, makes a suitable covering. Sometimes grape, beet,
or cabbage leaves are used for this purpose. Grape leaves are a good
covering for dill pickles, and cabbage leaves for sauerkraut.

In addition to the jars, crocks, or kegs in which the pickles are made,
2-quart glass jars are needed for packing the finished product. If corks
are used for sealing such containers, they should first be dipped in hot

When vegetables which have been fermented in a weak brine are to be kept
for any length of time, air must be excluded from them. This may be done
by sealing the containers with paraffin, beeswax, or oil. Paraffin, the
cheapest and probably the best of these three substances, is easily
handled and readily separated from the pickles when they are removed from
the containers. To remove any dirt, the paraffin should be heated and
strained through several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Thus the paraffin
may be used over and over again. The clean paraffin is melted and poured
over the surface of the pickles in quantities sufficient to make, when
hardened, a solid coating about half an inch thick. Where there are
vermin, lids should be placed over the paraffin in jars and other covers
should be placed over the paraffin in kegs. If applied before active
fermentation has stopped, the seal may be broken by the formation of gas
below the layer, making it necessary to remove the paraffin, heat it
again, and once more pour it over the surface.

In many cases a safer and better plan for preserving vegetables fermented
in a weak brine is to transfer the pickled product to glass jars as soon
as fermentation is completed and seal tightly.

Almost anything which furnishes the required pressure will serve as
a weight to hold the mass down in a jar or keg. Clean stones (except
limestone) and bricks are recommended.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Salinometer]

A pair of kitchen scales and suitable vessels for determining liquid
measure are, of course, essential.

The salinometer, an instrument for measuring the salt strength of a
brine, is very useful, although not absolutely necessary, in brining
(fig. 2). By following the directions given here it will be possible to
make brines of the required strength without the use of this instrument.
Results may be readily checked, however, and any changes in brine
strength which occur from time to time may be detected by the use of the

The salinometer scale is graduated into 100 degrees, which indicate the
range of salt concentration between 0°, the reading for pure water at 60°
F,; and 100°, which indicates a saturated salt solution (26½ per cent).
Table 1 (page 14) shows the relation between salinometer readings and
salt percentages.

Salinometers are sold for about $1 each by firms dealing in chemical
apparatus and supplies.

A sugar hydrometer is very useful in all canning and pickling work.
Either the Brix or Balling scale may be used. Both read directly in
percentages of sugar in a pure sugar solution. A Balling hydrometer,
graduated from 0° to 70°, is a convenient instrument for the tests
indicated in this bulletin.



Fine table salt is not necessary. What is known as common fine salt, or
even coarser grades, may be used. Caked or lumpy salt can not be equally
distributed. Salt to which anything has been added to prevent caking is
not recommended for pickling and brining. Alkaline impurities in the salt
are especially objectionable. Any noncaking salt which contains less
than 1 per cent of the carbonates or bicarbonates of sodium, calcium, or
magnesium may be used for this purpose.


A good, clear vinegar of 40 to 60 grain strength (4 to 6 per cent
acetic acid) is required in making sour, sweet, and mixed pickles, and
is sometimes used for dill pickles. Many pickle manufacturers prefer
distilled vinegar, as it is colorless and free from sediment. If fruit
vinegars are used they should first be filtered to remove all sediment.


Granulated sugar should be used in making sweet pickles. The quantity
of sugar required for each gallon of vinegar in making sweet liquors is
shown in Table 3 (p. 15).


Spices are used to some extent in making nearly all kinds of pickles,
but chiefly for sweet, mixed, and dill pickles. Various combinations are
used, depending on the kind of pickles to be made and the flavor desired.

Peppers (black and cayenne), cloves, cinnamon, celery seed, caraway,
dill herb, mustard (yellow), allspice, cardamom, bay leaves, coriander,
turmeric, and mace, are the principal whole spices for this purpose.
Ginger and horse-radish root are used sometimes. All of these spices
may be purchased in bulk and mixed as desired. Mixed whole spices,
specially prepared for pickling purposes, sold in the stores, are, as a
rule, satisfactory. Care should be taken to see that they are of proper

Oil spices may be desirable under some circumstances, but their effect is
not so lasting as that of the whole spices.

Turmeric has been much used in both the commercial and household
preparation of pickles. While some of its qualities entitle it to be
classed among the spices, it does not rank in importance as such with the
others named. It is employed largely because of its supposed effect on
the color of pickles, which is probably overestimated.

Dill herb is practically always used with cucumbers when they are
fermented in a weak brine and often with other vegetables fermented in
this way. It gives the pickle a distinct flavor which is very popular.
The dill herb, a native of southern Europe, can be grown in nearly all
parts of the United States and usually is obtainable in the markets of
the larger cities. While the entire stalk of the dill herb is of value
for flavoring, the seeds are best suited for imparting the desired
flavor. For this reason the crop should be harvested only after the seeds
have become fully mature but are not so ripe that they fall off. The
herb may be used green, dried, or brined. When green or brined dill is
used, twice as much by weight as would be required if the dried herb were
used is taken. Dill retains its flavor for a long time when brined. To
preserve it in this way it should be packed in a 60° brine, or in an 80°
brine if it is to be kept for a long time. Dill brine is as good as the
herb for flavoring.


Because of their shape, firmness, or keeping quality some varieties of
cucumbers are better adapted for making pickles than others. Among the
best of the pickling varieties are the Chicago Pickling, Boston Pickling,
and Snow's Perfection. Cucumbers of practically all varieties, sizes, and
shapes, however, make good pickles.[1]

[1] Information on the cultivation of cucumbers, and the diseases and
enemies which attack them, may be obtained from the United States
Department of Agriculture.

Cucumbers to be pickled should retain from one-eighth to one-fourth inch
of their stems, and they should not be bruised. If dirty they should be
washed before brining. They should be placed in brine not later than 24
hours after they have been gathered.

Cucumbers contain approximately 90 per cent of water. As this large water
content reduces materially the salt concentration of any brine in which
they are fermented, it is necessary to add an excess of salt at the
beginning of a fermentation in the proportion of 1 pound for every 10
pounds of cucumbers.

The active stage of cucumber fermentation continues for 10 to 30 days,
depending largely on the temperature at which it is conducted. The most
favorable temperature is 86° F.

Practically all the sugar withdrawn from the cucumbers is utilized during
the stage of active fermentation, at the end of which the brine reaches
its highest degree of acidity. During this period the salt concentration
should not be materially increased: for, although the lactic bacteria
are fairly tolerant of salt, there is a limit to their tolerance.
The addition of a large quantity of salt at this time would reduce
their acid-forming power just when this is essential to a successful
fermentation. Salt, therefore, should be added gradually over a period of


Salt pickles, or salt stock, are made by curing cucumbers in a brine
which should contain not less than 9.5 per cent of salt (approximately
36° on the salinometer scale) at the start. Not only must the brine
be kept at this strength, but salt should be added until it has a
concentration of about 15 per cent (60° on the salinometer scale). If
well covered with a brine of this strength, the surface of which is kept
clean, pickles will keep indefinitely.

Proper curing of cucumbers requires from six weeks to two months, or
possibly longer, according to the temperature at which the process is
carried out and the size and variety of the cucumbers. Attempts to use
short cuts or to make pickles overnight, as is sometimes advised, are
based on a mistaken idea of what really constitutes a pickle.

Curing of cucumbers is marked by an increased firmness, a greater degree
of translucency, and a change in color from pale green to dark or olive
green. These changes are uniform throughout the perfectly cured specimen.
So long as any portion of a pickle is whitish or opaque it is not
perfectly cured.

After proper processing in water, salt pickles may be eaten as such or
they may be converted into sour pickles (p. 7), sweet pickles (p. 8), or
mixed pickles (p. 10).


Pack the cucumbers in a 4-gallon jar and cover with 6 quarts of a 10
per cent brine (40° on salinometer scale). At the time of making up the
brine, or not later than the following day, add more salt at the rate of
1 pound for every 10 pounds of cucumbers used--in this case 1 pound and 3
ounces. This is necessary to maintain the strength of the brine.

Cover with a round board or plate that will go inside the jar, and on top
of this place a weight heavy enough to keep the cucumbers well below the
surface of the brine.

At the end of the first week, and at the end of each succeeding week for
five weeks, add one-fourth pound of salt. In adding salt always place
it on the cover. If it is added directly to the brine, it may sink, as
a result of which the salt solution at the bottom will be very strong,
while that near the surface may be so weak that the pickles will spoil.

A scum, made up usually of wild yeasts and molds, forms on the surface.
As this may prove injurious by destroying the acidity of the brine,
remove it by skimming.


Put into a barrel 5 to 6 inches of a 40° brine (Table 1, p. 14) and add
1 quart of good vinegar. In this brine place the cucumbers as they are
gathered. Weigh the cucumbers each time before they are added. Put a
loose-fitting wooden cover over the cucumbers and weight it down with a
stone heavy enough to bring the brine over the cover. After the cover and
stone have been replaced add to the brine over the cover 1 pound of salt
for every 10 pounds of cucumbers.

Unless the cucumbers are added too rapidly, it will be unnecessary to
add more brine, for when a sufficient weight is maintained on the cover
the cucumbers make their own brine. If, however, the cucumbers are added
rapidly, or if the barrel is filled at once, more brine may be required.
In such a case, add enough of the 40° brine to cover the cucumbers.

When the barrel is full, add 3 pounds of salt each week for five weeks
(15 pounds to a 45-gallon barrel). In adding the salt, place it on
the cover. Added in this way it goes into solution slowly, insuring a
brine of uniform strength throughout and a gradually increasing salt
concentration. Thus, shriveling of the pickles is prevented to a great
extent and the growth and activity of the lactic bacteria are not
seriously checked.

Stirring or agitation of the brine may be harmful for the reason that
the introduction of air bubbles is conducive to the growth of spoilage

From time to time remove the scum which forms on the surface.

Where cucumbers are grown extensively for the production of pickles,
curing is done in large tanks at salting stations. While it involves
certain details of procedure not required in barrel quantities, this
method of curing is essentially the same.


After being cured in brine, pickles must receive a processing in water
to remove the excess of salt. If they are to be used as salt pickles,
only a partial processing is required. If, however, they are to be made
into sour, sweet, or mixed pickles, the salt should be largely, but not
completely, removed. Pickles keep better when the salt is not entirely
soaked out.

Under factory conditions, processing is accomplished by placing the
pickles in tanks, which are then filled with water and subjected to a
current of steam, the pickles being agitated meanwhile. In most homes,
however, the equipment for such treatment is not available.

The best that can be done in the home is to place the pickles in a
suitable vessel, cover them with water, and heat them slowly to about
120° F., at which temperature they should be held for from 10 to 12
hours, being stirred frequently. The water is then poured off, and the
process is repeated, if necessary, until the pickles have only a slightly
salty taste.


After processing, the pickles should be sorted. To secure the most
attractive product, pickles should be as nearly as possible of uniform
size. At least three sizes are recognized--small (2 to 3 inches long) ,
medium (3 to 4 inches long), and large (4 inches or longer). Only the
small sizes are selected for bottling. Fairly small and medium-large
cucumbers are well adapted to the making of sweet pickles. The larger
sizes may be used for sour and dill pickles. Imperfectly formed pickles,
the so-called crooks and nubs, can be cut up and added to mixed pickles
or other combinations of which cucumbers form a part. The number of
pickles of various sizes required to make a gallon is shown in Table 4,
page 16.


After pickles have been processed sufficiently, drain them well and cover
them at once with vinegar. A 45 or 50 grain vinegar usually gives all the
sourness that is desirable. If, however, very sour pickles are preferred,
it would be well to use at first a 45-grain vinegar, and after a week or
10 days transfer the pickles to a vinegar of the strength desired. As
the first vinegar used will in all cases be greatly reduced in strength
by dilution with the brine contained in the pickles, it will be necessary
to renew the vinegar after a few weeks. If this is not done and the
pickles are held for any length of time they may spoil.

The best containers for sour pickles are stone jars, or, for large
quantities, kegs or barrels. Covered with a vinegar of the proper
strength, pickles should keep indefinitely.


Cover the cured and processed cucumbers with a sweet liquor made by
dissolving sugar in vinegar, usually with the addition of spices.
Depending upon the degree of sweetness desired, the quantity of sugar may
vary from 4 to 10 pounds to the gallon of vinegar, 6 pounds to the gallon
usually giving satisfactory results. The chief difficulty in making sweet
pickles is their tendency to become shriveled and tough, which increases
with the sugar concentration of the liquor. This danger can usually
be avoided by covering the pickles first with a plain 45 to 50 grain
vinegar. After one week discard this vinegar, which in all probability
has become greatly reduced in strength, and cover with a liquor made by
adding 4 pounds of sugar to the gallon of vinegar. It is very important
that the acidity of the liquor used on pickles be kept as high as
possible. A decrease in acidity much below a 30-grain strength may permit
the growth of yeasts, with resulting fermentation and spoilage.

If a liquor containing more than 4 pounds of sugar to the gallon is
desired, it would be best not to .exceed that quantity at first, but
gradually add sugar until the desired concentration is obtained. A sugar
hydrometer readily and accurately indicates the sugar concentration (p.
4). A reading of 42° (Brix or Balling) would indicate a concentration of
approximately 6 pounds of sugar to the gallon of vinegar. (Table 3, p.

Spices are practically always added in making sweet pickles. The
effect of too much spice, especially the stronger kinds, like peppers
and cloves, however, is injurious. One ounce of whole mixed spices
to 4 gallons of pickles is enough. As spices may cause cloudiness of
the vinegar, they should be removed after the desired flavor has been
obtained. Heating is an aid to a better utilization of the spice. Add the
required quantity of spice, in a cheesecloth bag, to the vinegar and hold
at the boiling point for not longer than half an hour. Heating too long
causes the vinegar to darken. If considered desirable, add sugar at this
time, and pour at once over the pickles.

If the pickles are to be packed in bottles or jars, after such
preliminary treatment as may be required, transfer them to these
containers and cover them with a liquor made as desired.


The method for making dill pickles differs from that for making salt
pickles in two important particulars. A much weaker brine is used, and
spices, chiefly dill, are added.

Because of the weaker salt concentration, a much more rapid curing takes
place. As a result they can be made ready for use in about half the time
required for ordinary brined pickles. This shortening of the period of
preparation, however, is gained at the expense of the keeping quality of
the product. For this reason it is necessary to resort to measures which
will prevent spoilage.


Place in the bottom of the jar a layer of dill and one-half ounce of
mixed spice. Then fill the jar, to within 2 or 3 inches of the top, with
washed cucumbers of as nearly the same size as practicable. Add another
half ounce of spice and layer of dill. It is a good plan to place over
the top a layer of grape leaves. In fact, it would be well to place these
at both the bottom and top. They make a very suitable covering and have a
greening effect on the pickles.

Pour over the pickles a brine made as follows: Salt, 1 pound; vinegar,
1 pint ; water, 2 gallons. Never use a hot brine at the beginning of a
fermentation. The chances are that it would kill the organisms present,
thus preventing fermentation.

Cover with a board cover or plate with sufficient weight on top to hold
the cucumbers well below the brine.

If the cucumbers are packed at a temperature around 86° F., an active
fermentation will at once set in. This should be completed in 10 days to
2 weeks, if a temperature of about 86° F. is maintained. The scum which
soon forms on the surface and which consists usually of wild yeasts, but
often contains molds and bacteria, should be skimmed off.

After active fermentation has stopped, it is necessary to protect the
pickles against spoilage. This may be done in one of two ways:

(1) Cover with a layer of paraffin. This should be poured while hot
over the surface of the brine or as much of it as is exposed around the
edges of the board cover. When cooled this forms a solid coating which
effectually seals the pickles.

(2) Seal the pickles in glass jars or cans. As soon as they are
sufficiently cured, which may be determined by their agreeable flavor and
dark-green color, transfer them to glass jars, and fill either with their
own brine or with a fresh brine made as directed. Add a small quantity of
dill and spice. Bring the brine to a boil, and, after cooling to about
160° F., pour it over the pickles, filling the jars full. Seal the jars

The plan of preserving dill pickles by sealing in jars has the merit of
permitting the use of a small quantity without the necessity of opening
and resealing a large bulk, as is the case when pickles are packed in
large containers and sealed with paraffin.


Fill a barrel with cucumbers. Add 6 to 8 pounds of green or brined dill,
or half that quantity of dry dill, and 1 quart of mixed spices. If brined
dill is used, it is well to add about 2 quarts of the dill brine. The
dill and spices should be evenly distributed at the bottom, middle, and
top of the barrel. Also add 1 gallon of good vinegar.[2]

[2] This addition of vinegar is not essential, and many prefer not to
use it. In the proportion indicated, however, it is favorable to the
growth of the lactic bacteria and helps to prevent the growth of spoilage
organisms. Its use, therefore, is to be regarded with favor. Some prefer
to omit the mixed spices for the reason that they interfere with the
distinctive flavor of the dill herb.

Head up tight and, through a hole bored in the head, fill the barrel with
a brine made in the proportion of one-half pound of salt to a gallon of
water. Add brine until it flows over the head and is level with the top
of the chime. Maintain this level by adding brine from time to time.
Remove the scum which soon forms on the surface.

During the period of active fermentation, keep the barrel in a warm
place and leave the hole in the head open to allow gas to escape. When
active fermentation is over, as indicated by the cessation of bubbling
and frothing on the surface, the barrel may be plugged tight and placed
in storage, preferably in a cool place. Leakage and other conditions may
cause the brine in a barrel of pickles to recede at any time. The barrels
should be inspected occasionally, and more brine added if necessary.
Pickles put up in this way should be ready for use within about six weeks.

When pickles are to be held in storage a long time, a 28° brine, made by
adding 10 ounces of salt to a gallon of water, should be used. Pickles
packed in a brine of this strength will keep a year, if the barrels are
kept filled and in a cool place. The important factor in preserving
pickles put up in a weak brine, such as is ordinarily used for dill
pickles, is the exclusion of air. When put up in tight barrels this is
accomplished by keeping the barrels entirely filled with brine.


Onions, cauliflower, green peppers, tomatoes, and beans, as well as
cucumbers, are used for making mixed pickles. All vegetables should first
be cured in brine.

For making mixed pickles, very small vegetables are much to be preferred.
If larger ones must be used, first cut them into pieces of a desirable
and uniform shape and size. Place in the bottom of each wide-mouth
bottle or jar a little mixed spice. In filling the bottle arrange the
various kinds of pickles in as neat and orderly a manner as possible. The
appearance of the finished product depends largely upon the manner in
which they are packed in the bottle. Do not completely fill the bottles.

If sour pickles are desired, fill the bottles completely with a 45-grain
vinegar. If sweet ones are wanted, fill with a liquor made by dissolving
4 to 6 pounds of sugar in a gallon of vinegar.

Seal tight, and label properly.


For making sauerkraut in the home, 4 or 6 gallon stone jars are
considered the best containers, unless large quantities are desired, in
which case kegs or barrels may be used.

Select only mature, sound heads of cabbage. After removing all decayed
or dirty leaves, quarter the heads and slice off the core portion. For
shredding, one of the hand-shredding machines which can be obtained on
the market is much the best, although an ordinary slaw cutter or a large
knife will do.

In making sauerkraut the fermentation is carried out in a brine made from
the juice of the cabbage which is drawn out by the salt. One pound of
salt for every 40 pounds of cabbage makes the proper strength of brine
to produce the best results. The salt may be distributed as the cabbage
is packed in the jar or it may be mixed with the shredded cabbage before
being packed. The distribution of 2 ounces of salt with every 5 pounds of
cabbage probably is the best way to get an even distribution.

Pack the cabbage firmly, but not too tightly, in the jar or keg. When
full, cover with a clean cloth and a board or plate. On the cover place a
weight heavy enough to cause the brine to come up to the cover.

If the jar is kept at a temperature of about 86° F., fermentation will
start promptly. A scum soon forms on the surface of the brine. As this
scum tends to destroy the acidity and may affect the cabbage, it should
be skimmed off from time to time.

If kept at 86° F., the fermentation should be completed in six to eight

A well-fermented sauerkraut should show a normal acidity of approximately
+20, or a lactic acid percentage of 1.8 (p. 16).

After fermentation is complete, set the sauerkraut in a cool place. If
the cabbage is fermented late in the fall, or if it can be stored in a
very cool place, it may not be necessary to do more than keep the surface
skimmed and protected from insects, etc.; otherwise it will be necessary
to resort to one of the following measures to prevent spoilage:

(1) Pour a layer of hot paraffin over the surface, or as much of it as
is exposed around the cover. Properly applied to a clean surface, this
effectually seals the jar and protects the contents from contamination.

(2) After the fermentation is complete, pack the sauerkraut in glass
jars, adding enough of the "kraut" brine, or a weak brine made by adding
an ounce of salt to a quart of water, to completely fill the jars. Seal
the jars tight, and set them away in a cool place.

The second method is much to be p referred to the first. Sauerkraut
properly fermented and stored in this way has kept throughout a season
in good condition. Placing the jars before sealing in a water bath and
heating until the center of the jar shows a temperature of about 160° F.
gives an additional assurance of good-keeping quality of the "kraut."

In the commercial canning of sauerkraut, where conditions and length of
storage can not be controlled, heat must always be used.


There are three methods of preserving vegetables by the use of salt:


Experiments have shown that string beans, green tomatoes, beets,
chayotes, mango melons, burr gherkins, cauliflower, and corn (on cob)
may be well preserved in a 10 per cent brine (40° on the salinometer
scale) for several months. Peppers and onions are better preserved in
an 80° brine. The brine must be maintained at its original strength by
the addition of salt, and the surface of the brine must be kept free
from scum. Some of the vegetables listed, notably string beans and green
tomatoes, are well adapted to fermentation in a weak brine (5 per cent
salt), in which case dill and other spices may be added. The general
directions given for dill pickles (p. 8) should be followed.


This method, of course, can be used only for vegetables which contain
enough water to make their own brine. String beans, if young and tender,
may be preserved in this way. Remove tips and strings, and, if the
pods are large, break them in two. Older beans, and doubtless other
vegetables, could be preserved by this method if first shredded in the
same manner as cabbage (p. 10). Use salt equal to 3 per cent of the
weight of the vegetables (1 ounce salt to about 2 pounds vegetables).


Enough salt to prevent all bacterial action must be added. Wash and weigh
the vegetables. Mix with them thoroughly one-fourth their weight of salt.
If after the addition of pressure there is not enough brine to cover the
product, add brine made by dissolving 1 pound of salt in 2 quarts of
water. As soon as bubbling ceases, protect the surface by covering with
paraffin. This method is especially well adapted to vegetables in which
the sugar content is too low to produce a successful fermentation, such
as chard, spinach, and dandelions. Corn can also be well preserved in
this way. Husk it and remove the silk. Cook it in boiling water for 10
minutes, to set the milk. Then cut the corn from the cob with a sharp
knife, weigh it, and pack it in layers, with one-fourth its weight of
fine salt.

The methods of preservation outlined are not limited to vegetables. Solid
fruits, like clingstone peaches and Kieffer pears, can be preserved in
an 80° brine for as long as six months. After the salt has been soaked
out, they may be worked up into desirable products by the use of spices,
vinegar, sugar, etc. Soft fruits, like Elberta peaches and Bartlett
pears, are best preserved in weak vinegar (2 per cent acetic acid).[3]

[3] Report of an investigation in the Bureau of Chemistry on the
utilization of brined products, by Rhea C. Scott, 1919.



A soft or slippery condition, one of the most common forms of spoilage in
making pickles, is the result of bacterial action. It always occurs when
pickles are exposed above the brine and very often when the brine is too
weak to prevent the growth of spoilage organisms. To prevent it keep the
pickles well below the brine and the brine at the proper strength. To
keep pickles for more than a very few weeks a brine should contain 10
per cent of salt. Once pickles have become soft or slippery as a result
of bacterial action no treatment will restore them to a normal condition.


Hollow pickles may occur during the process of curing. This condition,
however, does not mean a total loss, for hollow pickles may be utilized
in making mixed pickles or certain forms of relish. While there are
good reasons to believe that hollow pickles are the result of a faulty
development or nutrition of the cucumber, there is also a strong
probability that incorrect methods may contribute to their formation. One
of these is allowing too long a time to intervene between gathering and
brining. This period should not exceed 21 hours.

Hollow pickles frequently become floaters. Sound cucumbers properly cured
do not float, but any condition which operates to lower their relative
weight, such as gaseous distention, may cause them to rise to the surface.


So-called hard waters should not be used in making a brine. The presence
of large quantities of calcium salts and possibly other salts found
in many natural waters may prevent the proper acid formation, thus
interfering with normal curing. The addition of a small quantity of
vinegar serves to overcome alkalinity when hard water must be used. If
present in any appreciable quantity, iron is objectionable, causing a
blackening of the pickles under some conditions.


Shriveling of pickles often occurs when they have been placed at once in
very strong salt or sugar solutions, or even in very strong vinegars.
For this reason avoid such solutions so far as possible. When a strong
solution is desirable the pickles should first be given a preliminary
treatment in a weaker solution. This difficulty is most often encountered
in making sweet pickles. The presence of sugar in high concentrations is
certain to cause shriveling unless


Perhaps the most common cause of failure in making sauerkraut is the use
of too much salt. The proper quantity is 2| per cent by weight of the
cabbage packed. When cabbage is to be fermented in very warm weather
it may be well to use a little more salt. As a rule, however, this
should not exceed 3 per cent. In applying the salt see that it is evenly
distributed. The red streaks which are sometimes seen in sauerkraut are
believed to be due to uneven distribution of salt.


Spoilage of the top layers of vegetables fermented in brine is sure to
occur unless the scum which forms on the surface is frequently removed.
This scum is made up of wild yeasts, molds, and bacteria, which, if
allowed to remain, attack and break down the vegetables beneath. They
may also weaken the acidity of the brine, in which way they may cause
spoilage. The fact that the top layers have spoiled, does not necessarily
mean, however, that all in the container are spoiled. The molds and other
organisms which cause the spoilage do not quickly get down to the lower
layers. The part found in good condition often may be saved by carefully
removing the spoiled part from the top, adding a little fresh brine, and
pouring hot paraffin over the surface.


Temperature has an important bearing on the success of a lactic
fermentation. The bacteria which are essential in the fermentation
of vegetable foods are most active at a temperature of approximately
86° F., and as the temperature falls below this point their activity
correspondingly diminishes. It is essential, therefore, that the foods
be kept as close as possible to 86° F. at the start and during the
active stages of a fermentation. This is especially important in the
production of sauerkraut, which is often made in the late fall or winter.
The fermentation may be greatly retarded or even stopped by too low a

After the active stages of a fermentation have passed, store the food in
a cool place. Low temperatures are always an aid in the preservation of
food products.


To make what is thought to be a better looking product, it is the
practice in some households to "green" pickles by heating them with
vinegar in a copper vessel. Experiments have shown that in this treatment
copper acetate is formed, and that the pickles take up very appreciable
quantities of it. _Copper acetate is poisonous._

By a ruling of the Secretary of Agriculture, made July 12, 1912, foods
greened with copper salts, all of which are poisonous, will be regarded
as adulterated.

Alum is often used for the purpose presumably of making pickles firm. The
use of alum in connection with food products is of doubtful expediency,
to say the least. If the right methods are followed in pickling, the salt
and acids in the brine will give the desired firmness. The use of alum,
or any other hardening agent, is unnecessary.


Table 1.--_Salt percentages, corresponding salinometer readings, and
quantity of salt required to make 6 quarts of brine_

             |            |  Salt in
    Salt in  |Salinometer |  6 quarts of
    solution |  reading   |finished brine
   _Per cent_| _Degrees_  |  _Ounces_
      1.06   |      4     |      2
      2.12   |      8     |      4¼
      3.18   |     12     |      6½
      4.24   |     16     |      8½
      5.3    |     20     |     11
      7.42   |     28     |     14½
      8.48   |     32     |     18
      9.54   |     36     |     20
     10.6    |     40     |     22½
     15.9    |     60     |     35
     21.2    |     80     |     48
     26.5    |    100     |     64

The figures given in the first two columns of Table 1 are correct. Those
in the last column are correct within the possibilities of ordinary
household methods. To make up a brine from this table, the required
quantity of salt is dissolved in a smaller volume of water and water is
added to make up as nearly as possible to the required 6 quarts.

One pound of salt dissolved in 9 pints of water makes a solution with a
salinometer reading of 40°, or approximately a 10 per cent brine. In a
brine of this strength, fermentation proceeds somewhat slowly. Pickles
kept in a brine maintained at this strength will not spoil. One-half
pound of salt dissolved in 9 pints of water makes approximately a 5 per
cent brine, with a salinometer reading of 20°. A brine of this strength
permits a rapid fermentation, but vegetables kept in such a brine will
spoil within a few weeks if air is not excluded.

A brine in which a fresh egg just floats is approximately a 10 per cent

Fermentation takes place fairly well in brines of 40° strength, and will,
to some extent at least, up to 60°. At 80° all fermentation stops.

The volume of brine necessary to cover vegetables is about half the
volume of the material to be fermented. For example, if a 5-gallon keg is
to be packed, 2½ gallons of brine is required.

Table 2.--_Freezing point of brine at different salt concentrations_

       Salt   | Salinometer |   Freezing
              |   reading   |  temperature
    _Per cent_|   _Degrees_ |   °_F_
           5  |      20     |    25.2
          10  |      40     |    18.7
          15  |      60     |    12.2
          20  |      80     |     6.1
          25  |     100     |     0.5

Table 3.--_Density of sugar sirup_

           | Quantity of
           |  sugar for
  Density  | each gallon
           |  of water[4]
  _Degrees |
  Brix or  |
  Balling_ |  _Lbs._ _Ozs._
       5   |           7
      10   |          14.8
      15   |     1     7.5
      20   |     1    14.75
      25   |     2    12.5
      30   |     3     9
      40   |     5     8.75
      45   |     6    13
      50   |     8     5.25
      55   |    10     4
      60   |    12     8

[4] When vinegar is used, the equivalent sugar hydrometer reading would
be about 2 degrees higher than that indicated in the table.

Table 4.--_Number of cucumbers of various sizes required to make a gallon
of pickles_

                     |                | Number to
       Size          |  Variety       |  a gallon
  1 to 2 inches long | Gherkins[5]    | 250 to 650
  2 to 3 inches long | Small pickles  | 130 to 250
  3 to 4 inches long | Medium pickles |  40 to 130
  4 inches and longer| Large pickles  |  12 to  40

[5] Small pickles are usually designated as gherkins. Those of very small
size are sometimes called midgets.

The maximum acidity formed by a lactic fermentation of vegetables in
brine varies from 0.25 to 2 per cent. The maximum is reached at or
soon after the close of the active stage of fermentation. After this
the acidity usually decreases slowly. The stage of active fermentation
continues for from one to three weeks, depending upon the temperature,
strength of brine, etc. During this period gas is formed and froth
appears on the surface, owing to the rising of gas bubbles. At the close
of this period the brine becomes "still."

The quantity of acid formed depends primarily upon the sugar content of
the vegetables fermented, but it may be influenced by other factors.

Dipping a piece of blue litmus paper (obtainable at drug stores) in the
brine will show whether the brine is acid. If the paper turns pinkish or
red, the brine is acid, but the litmus paper does not give a definite
indication of the degree of acidity.

For those who want to know accurately what the degree of acidity is the
following method is outlined:

With a pipette transfer exactly 5 cubic centimeters of the brine
to a small evaporating dish. To this add 45 cubic centimeters of
distilled water and 1 cubic centimeter of a 0.5 per cent solution
of phenolphthalein in 50 per cent alcohol. Then run in slowly a
one-twentieth normal sodium hydrate solution. This is best done by using
a 25 cubic centimeter burette, graduated in tenths. As the sodium hydrate
is being added stir constantly, and note carefully when the entire liquid
shows a faint pink tint. This indicates that the neutral point has been
reached. Read off carefully the exact quantity of sodium hydrate required
to neutralize the mixture in the dish. This number multiplied by 0.09
gives the number of grams of acid per 100 cubic centimeters, calculated
as lactic, present in the brine.

This method can be used to determine the acid strength of vinegars.
Multiply by 0.06 to ascertain the number of grams of acetic acid per 100
cubic centimeters present in the vinegar.

The apparatus and chemicals needed for this test can be obtained from any
firm dealing in chemical apparatus and supplies.

                           ORGANIZATION OF THE

  _Secretary of Agriculture_                Henry C. Wallace.
  _Assistant Secretary_                     Howard M. Gore.
  _Director of Scientific_                  Work E. D. Ball.
  _Director of Regulatory Work_             Walter G. Campbell.
  _Director of Extension Work_              C. W. Warburton.
  _Solicitor_                               R. W. Williams.
  _Weather Bureau_                          Charles F. Marvin, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Agricultural Economics_        Henry C. Taylor, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Animal Industry_               John R. Mohler, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Plant Industry_                William A. Taylor, _Chief_.
  _Forest Service_                          W. B. Greeley. _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Chemistry_                     C. A. Browne, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Soils_                         Milton Whitney. _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Entomology_                    L. O. Howard, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Biological Surrey_             E. W. Nelson, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Public Roads_                  Thomas H. MacDonald, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Home Economics_                Louise Stanley. _Chief_,
  _Bureau of Dairying_                      C. W. Larson, _Chief_.
  _Office of Experiment Stations_           E. W. Allen. _Chief_.
  _Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory_      F. G. Cottrell, _Director_.
  _Publications_                            L. J. Haynes, _In Charge_.
  _Library_                                 Claribel R. Barnett.
  _Federal Horticultural Board_             C. L. Marlatt, _Chairman_.
  _Insecticide and Fungicide Board_         J. K. Haywood. _Chairman_.
  _Packers and Stockyards Administration_ } Chester Morrill,
  _Grain Futures Administration_          }   _Assistant to the Secretary_.


                  This bulletin is a contribution from

  _Bureau of Chemistry_ C. A. Browne, _Chief_.
      _Microbiological Laboratory_ Charles Thou, _Mycologist in Charge_.

                            ADDITIONAL COPIES
                       GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
                            WASHINGTON, D. C.

                            5 CENTS PER COPY

                    *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

Figure 1 was moved so that it would not split a paragraph.

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