Pickling

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Photo by Maya83Creative Commons License.

Pickling is the process of preserving or expanding the lifespan of food by either fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. The resulting food is called a pickle, or to prevent ambiguity, prefaced with the adjective pickled. The pickling procedure will typically affect the food’s texture and flavor (Wikipedia, nd).

pickle

Difficulty to learn: Medium/Hard

Ideas For Ingredients To Use:

Pickling is great for preserving foods that spoil easily, or for adding a kick of flavor. Most people think of pickling in the context of pickles. However, pickling can really be done to almost any food. People pickle anything from cherries to tomatoes to salmon. Regardless of what you want to pickle, the key is using fresh ingredients, and following all steps properly.

What You Will Need:

Pickling generally consists of two components; the item to be pickled and the brine it is getting pickled in. The items listed below are aimed toward pickling traditional vegetables such as cucumbers, so poke around online for recipes to suit whatever you are pickling. Think of this as a good baseline for what to expect.

For the item(s) to be pickled you need:

  • Enough of the food to be picked to fill the containers you have
  • A knife to cut the food if necessary
  • A cutting board

For the brine you need:

  • Vinegar
  • Water (preferably purified)
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Various spices and extra flavorings (suggestions are mustard seed, dill, garlic, or prepared pickling spices)
  • A large pan for boiling your brine
  • A spoon for stirring the brine

Additionally, you will need a way to package your food and brine. Most recipes suggest mason jars, but use whatever feels right to you. As long as the container is airtight, you’re golden.

 

Basic Steps:

As mentioned above, there are a number of ways to pickle foods, that vary dramatically in terms of seasonings and steps. A common theme between recipes are the inclusion of a brine, and an emphasis on using only fresh foods when pickling. This makes for the best preservation of your final product. The steps below are aimed toward pickling a fresh vegetable, but at the bottom of this page check for links that might help you more, such as pickling fish or fruits.

  1. Clean your area and prepare the food to be pickled. In the case of cucumbers, cut them length-wise into spears, fitting them into your jars. Cut off the very edge of your cucumbers and discard, as this end piece may impede your pickling process during fermentation. Additionally, add your spices/extra flavorings now, so they get mixed around when you add the brine.
  2. Time to prepare the brine! Stick to a basic ratio of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. Generally, 3 cups of each will suffice. Combine the water, vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of both salt and sugar to your large pan. Bring this to a boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Carefully pour your brine into your containers, leaving around a 1/3 of an inch from the top rim. Cover the cucumbers completely though, we want your cucumbers to achieve maximum pickle level.
  4. Place the lids on your containers, and you’re set! You can eat your pickled cucumbers whenever you want, but waiting a few days will make the flavor more powerful. Try to refrigerate your container around 12 hours before serving. Also, pickled cucumbers generally go bad after a month, so eat up before then!

Tips For You:

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! Different foods being pickled could mean new flavor combinations. Or, try adding some heat with some ghost pepper flakes (warning, it is really hot).
  • Your pickled foods won’t last forever, look online to see how long your food should last for.

Some Links To Help With Preparation: