NOTE: There are serious potential health risks including death, which
can arise from improperly, processed and handled foods. Be sure you know
what you are doing and access the risk carefully for each food you wish to
attempt to process!
NOTE: There are serious potential health risks including death, which can arise from improperly, processed and handled foods. Be sure you know what you are doing and access the risk carefully for each food you wish to attempt to process!
Everybody loves pickled food products! There are shelves and shelves of pickled fruit, vegetables, meats and fish at your local grocery store. Check it out sometime! Pickling seems to be more ethnic than many other forms of food preservation and many times the only difference is the addition or deletion of common household spices and herbs like garlic, cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg.
Pickling in my humble opinion is the most exciting of all the food preservation processes because it opens up a whole new word of wonderfully tart, tangy, sweet, hot and spicy flavors to try. Mmmmmmmm – ya gotta love it!
I love to experiment with relishes. You can make a relish from any kind of fruit or vegetable. You can make ay size you have a mind to – but keep good notes! You never know when you’ll come up with a combination that will knock your socks off! Okay enough rambling … I do love the pickling process!
So what is pickling anyway?
We’ve all had a jar of pickles, maybe pickled eggs or pickled artichokes, but what makes a pickled product? Pickling is placing food in a brine, similar to a brine you would use before smoking poultry but with the addition of vinegar and maybe sugar and a few spices. It’s a pretty simple process really – so let’s get to it!
Pickling is actually brining or corning. It is a preservation process causing the food to ferment reducing the pH level to less than 4.6, which is sufficient to kill most necrobacteria. If done properly it safer than just canning and the flavors can be exciting! Let’s look at a few diferent types of pickles.
Pickles and relishes are high-acid products. This acid is from the large amount of vinegar
added or, in the brined or fermented pickles, the acid is produced naturally during the fermentation process by lactic acid bacteria. Because they are high acid foods, they are processed in a boiling water bath canner.
Brined Pickles or Fermented Pickles
These go through a curing process in a brine (salt and water) solution for one or more weeks. Curing changes the color, flavor and texture of the product. If the product is a fermented one, the lactic acid produced during fermentation helps preserve the product. In brined products that are cured but not fermented,
acid in the form of vinegar is added later to preserve the food.
Fresh Pack or Quick Process Pickles
These are covered with boiling hot vinegar, spices and seasonings. Sometimes, the product may be brined for several hours and then drained before being covered
with the pickling liquid. These pickles are easy to prepare and have a tart flavor. Fresh pack or quick pickles have a better flavor if allowed to stand for several weeks after they are sealed in jars.
These are prepared from whole or sliced fruits and simmered in a spicy, sweet-sour
syrup made with vinegar or lemon juice.
These are made from chopped fruits and vegetables cooked to desired consistency in a spicy vinegar solution. The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to its safety as it is to its taste and texture. Never alter the proportions of vinegar, food or water in a recipe. Use only tested recipes. By doing so, you can help prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produce
a highly toxic poison in low acid foods.
Fruits or Vegetables
For highest quality, plan to pickle the fruits or vegetables within 24 hours after they have been harvested. If the produce cannot be used immediately, refrigerate it, or spread it where it will be well-ventilated and cool. This is particularly important
for cucumbers because they deteriorate rapidly, especially at room temperature.
Pure granulated salt, such as “pickling” or “canning” salt should be used. It can be purchased
from grocery, hardware or farm supply stores. Other salts contain anti-caking materials that may
make the brine cloudy. Do not alter salt concentrations in fermented pickles or sauerkraut. Proper
fermentation depends on correct proportions of salt and other ingredients.
Use cider or white vinegar of 5-percent acidity (50 grain). This is the range of acidity for most commercially bottled vinegars. Cider vinegar has a good flavor and aroma, but may darken white or light-colored fruits and vegetables. White distilled vinegar is often used for onions, cauliflower and pears where clearness of color is desired. Do not use homemade vinegar or vinegar of unknown acidity in pickling. Do not dilute the vinegar unless the recipe specifies. If a less sour product is preferred, add sugar rather than dilute the vinegar.
Use white sugar unless the recipe calls for brown. White sugar gives a product a lighter color,
but brown sugar may be preferred for flavor. If you plan to use a sugar substitute, follow recipes developed for these products. Sugar substitutes are not usually recommended in pickling, as heat and/or storage may alter their flavor. Also, sugar helps to plump the pickles and keep them firm.
Use fresh whole spices for the best quality and flavor in pickles. Powdered spices may cause
the product to darken and become cloudy. Pickles will darken less if you tie whole spices loosely in a clean white cloth or cheesecloth bag and then remove the bag from the product before packing the jars. Spices deteriorate and quickly lose their pungency in heat and humidity. Therefore, store any unused spices in an airtight container in a cool place.
When brining pickles, hard water may interfere with the formation of acid and prevent pickles from curing properly. To soften hard water, simply boil it 15 minutes and let set for 24 hours,
covered. Remove any scum that appears. Slowly pour water from the containers so the sediment will not be disturbed. Discard the sediment. The water is now ready for use. Distilled water can also be used in pickle making, but is more expensive.
NOTE: If good-quality ingredients are used and up-to-date methods are followed, chemical firming agents are not needed for crisp pickles! Soaking cucumbers or peppers in ice water for four to five hours prior to pickling is a natural and safer method for making crisp pickles than using chemical firming agents.
Chemical firming agents will not work with quick process pickles. Pickling lime and Alum can be used for firming pickles however if used improperly they can actually increase the risk of the risk of botulism. If you choose to use these you will have to go elsewhere for instructions on use. I will not use them!
Do not use aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron containers or utensils while pickling. Be sure that enameled canning pots are not chipped exposing the metal pot to the pickle solution!
These metals can react with acids or salts and cause undesirable color changes or off flavors in the pickles.
For Pickle/Sauerkraut Fermenting
Pickles and sauerkraut can be fermented in large stoneware crocks, large glass jars or food-grade
plastic containers. To determine if a plastic container is food-grade, check the label or contact its
manufacturer. Or, line the questionable container with several thicknesses of food-grade plastic bags.
Do not use aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron containers for fermenting pickles or sauerkraut. The container needs to be large enough to allow several inches of space between the top of the food and the top of the container. Usually a 1-gallon container is needed for each 5 pounds of fresh vegetables.
After the vegetables are placed in the container and covered with brine, they must be completely submerged in the brine. A heavy plate or glass lid that fits down inside the container can be used. If extra weight is needed, a glass jar(s) filled with water and sealed can be set on top of the plate or lid. The vegetables should be covered by 1 to 2 inches of brine.
Another option for submerging the vegetables in brine is to use Vacuum Sealers. I use the Food Saver Vacuum SealerÒ for this and it works great! Always double seal the ends to ensure they don’t leak.
For Fresh Pack Pickles
Pickling liquids should be heated in a stainless steel, aluminum, glass or unchipped enamelware saucepan. For short-term brining or soaking, use crocks, saucepans or bowls made from stoneware, glass, stainless steel, aluminum or unchipped enamelware.
Household scales will be needed if the recipes specify ingredients by weight. They are necessary in making sauerkraut to ensure correct proportions of salt and shredded cabbage.
The same equipment is needed for processing in a water bath canner. For details on equipment go to the Canning page.
Getting Ready To Process
All canning jars should be washed in soapy water, rinsed well and then kept hot. Jars that will be processed for less than 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner do need to be sterilized by boiling them for 10 minutes before filling. Jars processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more will be sterilized during processing. Use new two-piece lids and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for treating them.
Carefully place the filled jars onto a rack in the canner containing hot water. The water should be
deep enough to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner and bring water to a boil. Start counting processing time as soon as the water begins to boil. Process for the length of time specified in the recipe. Keep the water boiling. If no time is given, process the pickled product for at least 10 minutes. For more information on Water Bath Canning go to the Canning page.
Now that you know what you need and have a basic idea of how to proceed let’s go to the download section to see what we can do with all this new information!
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