It is the wonderful time of year for pickling. The gardens and markets are bursting with fresh vegetables and fruits. And pickling enables us to enjoy local, healthy produce all year round. There are several approaches to pickling such as refrigerator pickles for short-term use, fresh pack quick process pickles for long-term storage, and fermented or brined pickles. What these methods have in common is that they use a brine and pickling solution to control acidity which is necessary for safe preserving. Pickles, relishes, salsas, chutneys and even pickled fruit add tang to any meal.
Fresh Pack Quick Process Pickles
This method is easy to do and involves covering vegetables or fruit with a boiling solution of vinegar, spices, seasoning and sometimes sugar and water. This is called the pickling solution. Many recipes call for the vegetables to be brined in a salt and water bath for several hours before they are pickled. The purpose of the brining is to extract water from the vegetables so that they will later absorb the pickling solution more readily and it also creates a crisper product.
In this method, vegetables are submerged in a salt-water brine for one to several weeks. The brine controls bacteria, preventing the growth of spoilage bacteria while allowing the growth of lactobacillus bacteria which produces lactic acid. Weights are necessary to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine to prevent the growth of molds and yeast.
Pickling requires specific amount of salt and vinegar to create a safe canning environment. Don’t be tempted to cut back on salt. It is a functional element of pickling. The salt bonds with water reducing microbial growth. Only use pickling salt or salt that is free from added iodine or anti-caking products. Because pickling controls acidity, it is important to use vinegar that is at least 5% acetic acid. To maintain the proper level of acidity you can’t just add extra vegetables (which are alkaline) to a recipe as this creates a potentially unsafe canning environment. So, stick to a tested recipe that specifies the correct amount of salt and acid for vegetables or fruit.
I have been expanding my pickling this year. Salsa, relish, chili sauce, dill and bread & butter pickles, mustard pickles, pickled asparagus, carrots, beans, beets, and wonderful mixed pickle blends using cauliflower, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, carrots and spices to create a beautiful salad in a jar. Coming up? Spiced pickled crab apples!
I know many of you are keen picklers. If you haven’t done much in the way of pickling, give it a shot. There is nothing nicer than opening a jar of vegetable or fruit pickles to accompany lunch or super or just as a snack. Even for breakfast! Scrambled eggs and chili sauce!
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