Scum on fermented pickles

nwhorthappy(z8 WA)October 27, 2009

I have a crock of nicely fermented cucumber pickles and intended to refrigerate or can them 3 days ago.....but I got distracted. I had already removed the ziplok bags of water on top, and now there's a pretty thick layer of white scum.

Do I dare scrape off the scum and eat the pickles below (I would boil the brine before pouring back over the pickles....either for refrigerator or hot water bath storage.) Or is there a risk that I have contaminated the whole batch with that layer of aerobic scum on top?

Thanks for your help. I adore this Harvest forum!

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readinglady(z8 OR)

If that scum is white and a bit "fluffy" then it's likely to be yeast. You can tell the difference between yeast and mold. Mold would be the usual blue furry spots floating in the mixture. That would be something to worry about.

A brine bag is not only to hold the cucumbers down below the brine, it's also to keep out the air. When you removed it, you exposed the brine to lots of air, which encouraged the formation of yeast.

Take out a pickle. Is it firm? Cut it lengthwise. Is it a translucent olive green? Smell it. It should smell good. If it passes all those tests, then taste. If the cucumbers are firm, smell nice and taste good, you're fine and so are they.

If you want to use the brine, you need to strain and boil it. I prefer to rinse the pickles and use a fresh finishing brine because the original brine is "funky" to me, but assuming the brine is uncontaminated, you can re-use it.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 12:45PM
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nwhorthappy(z8 WA)

Thank you, Carol / Readinglady. I found the scum to be fluffy, the pickles firm, good-smelling and (best of all) I boiled the brine well before packing the cukes into hot jars and gave it the boiling water bath treatment.

Next time, I won't remove the ziplok bags that keep out air from the crock until I'm ready to process the pickles!

I never had done fermented pickles before this year (and this is my third batch since mid-August)....I and my family are already addicted to their great much better than the quick dills with vinegar I made before. (By the way, I just followed the Ball book recipe.)


    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 2:26PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I'm glad I could help and even more glad you have a good batch of pickles.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 3:42PM
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I am hoping that maybe you could help me. I was searching on the internet and this was the closest to what I was looking for.

Lately, we have had a few jars of store bought pickles develope a white scum. Usually on the ends of the pickles above the brine(?) and sometimes also floating on it. The pickles appear fine, but they don't taste very good so we have been throwing them out.

We have never had any problems with pickles before and it just seems to be with dill pickles (different kinds and brands). We don't know if its just the pickles or if something could be wrong with our refrigerator.

If there is any help, advice, etc. that you could give us it would really be appreciated.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:04AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Allen - how old were the pickles? How long in the fridge after opening?

Of course a good disinfecting of the fridge now and then sure can't hurt anything - some bacteria can thrive even in a fridge. Can't hurt to use a thermometer to check what the temp is in there too as it is often much warmer than we realize.

But even commercial pickles have a fridge storage limit once opened and what you describe - mold and bacterial scum forming - sounds like what can happen with ones past their expiration date. The brine, over time, is diluted by the water in the pickles. It becomes too weak to kill the bacteria - especially the listeria bacteria. It is a good thing to pitch them.

Otherwise, if they are newish jars, were they left sitting out on the counter for any length of time?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Store-bought pickles are packed in vinegar, which is acidic enough that it keeps mold from growing. The parts of the pickles that aren't submerged in vinegar will be exposed to air, where mold CAN form. You need to keep the pickles submerged. You could add some vinegar to the jar (which I wouldn't recommend, because it would change their flavor), or you could try cutting the pickles in half, then repacking them, so that they all stay underneath.

I don't think it's a problem with your fridge. I think it's that your pickles are too tall.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I would put a refrigerator thermometer in the fridge and check. The temp. needs to be below 40 degrees. Otherwise all your foods in there are subject to giving you food borne illness.
I have never had store bought or any other pickles mold.
You may be putting bacteria into the jars when you use them with the utensils. Are you somehow getting mayo or other things in the jars as you use them?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 2:23PM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

Yep, the cliche " Life begins at 40" wasn't coined for a mid life crises.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 8:08AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

That is funny!

I would discard commercial pickles with that kind of scum. Regardless of how contamination entered the jars, I would consider them high-risk. I hope with trouble-shooting you can identify the source of the problem so that it doesn't happen again.

Are the pickles the same brand? Were they purchased at the same time? It may be there was a problem during processing.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:20PM
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