The Science of Pickles

<a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/marik0/2793709363/sizes/z/in/photostream/">mariko</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Pickles are mysterious things. You take a regular old vegetable. Just your average cucumber, carrot, bell pepper. Add some brine, maybe a few spices, and then, a few days later, presto! A pickle. But what really causes this magical transformation? The latest episode of The Field Trip podcast sets out to find an answer:

On our tastiest field trip yet, we investigate the delicious world of fermentation and the bacteria that make it possible. We take a trip through Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, where owner Alex Hozven explains the art and science behind fermenting food and shows us how they make sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha and other mysterious surprises. At Cultured, they use traditional methods of fermentation — that means no heat, and no vinegar, but plenty of Lactobacilli and other friendly microbes. Come with us as we explore “the cave” and learn about its billions of tiny workers.

Then we check in with fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods and expert on all things pickle-y. We hear about some surprising and tasty treats that we had no idea are made through fermentation, and learn about some of the ancient roots of pickling, and why it was such an important method of food preservation in the era before refrigeration.

Have a listen:

Play

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.