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If you sterilize a glass container in boiling water, add cucumbers + spices with a 3.5% salinity brine and close the container without creating vacuum, can you let it pickle for a few days and then keep it refrigerated for consumption over the medium-term? Many of the recipes seem to either speak of preserving the vegetables or using vinegar, which gives a different flavor.

So what process would be safe using a regular container without special vacuum and for how long may the pickles be consumed?

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  • 2
    search for "quick pickle" and you'll find tons of no-process eat-quickly options. Aug 19 at 15:15
  • @Kate Gregory It seems all of these recipes call of vinegar usage, which as I said gives a different result. Also it seems people aren't sure about how long they last. I saw one recipe saying to let it sit in room temperature first for 24 hours and then keep in refrigerator up to 4 weeks, another says put it into the refrigerator after 1 hour and keep for 2 weeks.
    – TLSO
    Aug 19 at 15:54
  • So you're talking fermented pickles. I'm not clear on why your question then -- how is what you're asking different from regular fermented pickles, which can be kept at room temp for weeks?
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 19 at 16:37
  • Normal, lacto fermented cucumber pickles can be stored in the refrigerator in a regular container (without a vacuum seal) for up to six months. Are you looking for a traditional pickle recipe (i.e. not a quick pickle, which is made with vinegar)? Or are you just wondering how long you can store homemade pickles in a jar?
    – Juhasz
    Aug 19 at 19:50
  • @Juhasz Well, both. But how come you say they can last for up to six months in a fridge and when I put leftover commercial canned pickles in a regular container in the fridge they become cloudy and develop a white coating sometimes after two weeks?
    – TLSO
    Aug 19 at 21:02
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A vacuum is not necessary for either quick pickles or lacto-fermented pickles. Pickles made with vinegar are usually in the "quick" or "refrigerator" pickle category. The brine flavors the vegetable. This type of pickle should be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within about a month, especially if you keep your fingers out of the jar (which, introduces a mold risk). Though, the vegetables often get mushy over time, and you may not enjoy that. Because these are "quick", I often only make what I will consume in about a week.

Lacto-fermented pickles are usually prepared at cool room temperature (or cellar temperature, as a wine analogy). Vegetables are placed in a brine (or in the case of cabbage, simply salted and allowed to create its own brine from the leached water). A vacuum is not necessary, but the fermentation takes place in the absence of oxygen, so the product should be submerged. This type of pickle has a longer shelf life given the salt and acidity produced in the fermentation process. They can remain at cellar temperature, though the fermentation will continue. Refrigeration can be used to slow the process and preserve the "sourness" that you like.

Almost any container can be used for either process, though glass is useful because it doesn't retain flavors/odors.

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  • So if the container containing the quick pickles is kept relatively sanitary (only picking up content with a fresh utensil and not touching anything on the inside) it shouldn't pose any risk even after a month? What about botulism — even if spores are accidentally introduced, should a 1:1 vinegar:water solution (plus salt at perhaps up to 3 percent) inhibit its growth? And if one makes lacto-fermented pickles, basically all you need is a sterilized container and a ~3.5% salt brine?
    – TLSO
    Aug 19 at 21:14
  • And just to add another note, I read one recipe that said NOT to seal the container so the gasses will be able to escape. Commercial canned pickles are obviously supposed to not inflate with gasses, which is a sign of going bad. Is that because they sterilize the solution, killing whatever's inside, before canning? That again brings me back to how can one know the ongoing fermentation process is going bad and the product is no longer safe to consume?
    – TLSO
    Aug 19 at 21:18
  • 2
    @dandavis you CANNOT rely on smell to determine food safety. Please, never rely on smell to determine whether or not your food is unsafe to eat. Toxins develop, in many cases, long before smells.
    – moscafj
    Aug 19 at 23:07
  • 1
    @TLSO...also, you can use the search bar, we have Q&A on these topics on site. New questions, which are unanswered, should be posted as a new question.
    – moscafj
    Aug 19 at 23:10
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    @dandavis See my answer here. Basically, you don't test, you ensure.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 20 at 16:00

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