Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Problems in vegetable fermentations are generally caused by inadequate or excessive salt concentrations or temperatures, or exposure to the air, all conditions that favor the growth of undesirable microbes. In particular, if the vegetables are not weighted down to keep them below the brine surface, or if the brine surface is itself not tightly covered, a film of yeasts, molds, and air-requiring bacteria will form, lower the brine acidity by consuming its lactic acid, and encourage the growth of spoilage microbes. The results may include discoloration, softening, and rotten smells from the breakdown of fats and proteins. Even the helpful Lactobacillus plantarum can generate an undesirably harsh acidity if the fermentation is too vigorous or prolonged.