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Keywords:

  • Cucumis sativus;
  • lactic acid fermentation;
  • Lactobacillus plantarum;
  • pickles

ABSTRACT:  Waste water containing high levels of NaCl from cucumber fermentation tank yards is a continuing problem for the pickled vegetable industry. A major reduction in waste salt could be achieved if NaCl were eliminated from the cucumber fermentation process. The objectives of this project were to ferment cucumbers in brine containing CaCl2 as the only salt, to determine the course of fermentation metabolism in the absence of NaCl, and to compare firmness retention of cucumbers fermented in CaCl2 brine during subsequent storage compared to cucumbers fermented in brines containing both NaCl and CaCl2 at concentrations typically used in commercial fermentations. The major metabolite changes during fermentation without NaCl were conversion of sugars in the fresh cucumbers primarily to lactic acid which caused pH to decrease to less than 3.5. This is the same pattern that occurs when cucumbers are fermented with NaCl as the major brining salt. Lactic acid concentration and pH were stable during storage and there was no detectable production of propionic acid or butyric acid that would indicate growth of spoilage bacteria. Firmness retention in cucumbers fermented with 100 to 300 mM CaCl2 during storage at a high temperature (45 °C) was not significantly different from that obtained in fermented cucumbers with 1.03 M NaCl and 40 mM CaCl2. In closed jars, cucumber fermentations with and without NaCl in the fermentation brine were similar both in the chemical changes caused by the fermentative microorganisms and in the retention of firmness in the fermented cucumbers.