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Use acetic acid and sodium benzoate for salt-free preservation of non-fermented cucumbers.

Cucumbers are preserved by both fermentation and non-fermentation bulk storage. Currently, small cucumbers are grown primarily in India and preserved without fermentation by equilibrating the fresh cucumbers with 3.5% acetic acid from vinegar, 4% sodium chloride, 0.5% calcium chloride and 150 ppm sodium metabisulfite, calculated as [SO.sub.2].

The acid concentration in these bulk stored cucumbers is greater than that which is needed in products made from them. Therefore, some of the acid and salt must be washed out of the cucumbers. As the quantities of preserved cucumbers imported to the United States have increased, disposing both the brine solution in the barrels and the more dilute solution generated from washing acid and salt from the cucumbers has become a difficult and expensive problem for domestic processors.

So, USDA-ARS scientists attempted to define the conditions that would be required to microbiologically stabilize fresh cucumbers with either sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate as preservatives in combination with acetic acid as the primary acidulant. Microbial growth did not occur when cucumbers were preserved without a thermal process by storing them in solutions containing acetic acid and sodium benzoate, which prevented microbial growth, and calcium chloride, which maintained the firmness of the stored cucumbers.

The concentrations of acetic acid and sodium benzoate required to assure preservation were low enough so that the cucumbers could be converted into edible products without the need to wash out and discard excess acid or preservative. Since no thermal processing was required, this preservation technique would be applicable for storing cucumbers in bulk containers.

Acid-tolerant pathogens died off in less than 24 hours with the pH, acetic acid and sodium benzoate concentrations required to assure the microbial stability of cucumbers stored at 30 C. Potassium sorbate was not effective as a preservative in this application.

Further information. Roger F. McFeeters, USDA-ARS, South Atlantic Area Food Science Research Unit, 322 Schaub Hall, Box 7624, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695; phone: 919-515-2990; fax: 919-513-0180; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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