I may not be Peter Piper, but I certainly have more than one peck of pickled peppers in my pantry. Well, pickled peppers, garlic scapes, asparagus, cucumbers, beans, carrots, beets and mixed garden vegetables. Let’s just say I love pickles! While summer’s bounty continues, it’s the perfect time to pickle.
The easy place to start is by making quick refrigerator pickles. Any vegetable will do or a mix of colourful vegetables from the garden. Add garlic, jalapeno, dill, thyme, coriander seeds or any combination of flavours you like. Place in a sterilized jar and cover with a brine as per recipe instructions. Refrigerate for at least 4 days and then taste. They will keep for 3 months. Easy and delicious.
Dip your toe into the world of fermentation by making half sour fermented dill pickles. Let the lactobacillis bacteria do the preservation work for you. You don’t need special equipment to make a 1 litre of fermented dills. It is only a matter of preparing the pickling cucumbers, placing in the mason jar, adding herbs and spices and then pouring in a brine and ensuring the cucumbers stay below the brine. The fermenting period can be between 4 to 7 days. Refrigerate to halt the fermentation process and enjoy for months ahead. An authentic deli-style pickle.
Pickling vegetables (even fruits) for long-term storage requires that they be water-bath processed. Always use a modern, tested recipe and never adjust the vinegar to water ratio. Any vinegar (white, apple cider, balsamic, sherry) can be used as long as it is at least 5% acid. Pickling salt should be used or pure sea salt but avoid all salts with chemicals (table salt) or anti-caking agents. Even some Kosher salts have anti-caking agents. If you are using a commercial pickling spice, hands down, the best is from the Bulk Barn. There spice blend is richly complex and aromatic unlike the usual brands available in grocery stores.
There has long been debate about how best to make pickles crispier. In days gone by, grape leaves were added to each jar. Alum was also a commonly used addition. The commercial brand “Pickle Crisp” is also an option. The truth is there are three ways to make pickled cucumbers crispier. First, use the freshest pickling cucumbers available. Second, trim the blossom ends off by 1/16 inch to remove the enzyme that causes cucumbers to soften. And, third, brine the cucumbers in salted cold water for at least 4 hours. Home processed pickles will be softer by nature but that’s okay with me!
Whether you’re doing a quick refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle or a water-bath pickle, you’ll be making the most of fresh summer produce. Add the pickles to a charcuterie board, sandwich, burger and as a snack or condiment tray. Pickles are wonderful in every season.
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