Who doesn’t love pickles? Pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, pickled eggs. There is virtually no fresh food that wouldn’t taste great pickled. From vegetables and fruits to meat and dairy pickling is one of the best food preservers available. The preservation method dates back to 2030 BC when cucumbers from India were pickled in Tigris Valley, a major river system that begins in Eastern Anatolia and flows off into the Persian Gulf. The name is derived from the word ‘pekel’ which translates to brine in Dutch.
But what is pickling? and what are the best ratios to get the job done? and exactly what is the difference between that and fermenting? Allow me to enlighten you:
Pickling is a method of food preservation that works by immersing foods in an acidic solution, like vinegar, that changes both the taste and texture of the food. It also involves the use of heat, which serves to destroy and inhibit the growth of any microorganisms. In order for the process to begin the pH level must be under 4.6, which is enough to kill the majority of bacteria.
Now you may ask yourself, what’s the difference between fermenting and pickling? Well, the answer is quite simple, it involves immersing foods in an acidic liquid to achieve a sour flavor; when foods are fermented, the sour flavor is a result of a chemical reaction between a food’s sugars and naturally present bacteria — no added acid required.
Spices are often added to the brine such as peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill seeds, allspice berries, bay leaves and so many more. So, Let’s get into how to make some of these bad boys;
For the liquid
There’s a broad spectrum of dark and light vinegar that is used for pickles, malt vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, you can even buy a bottle of 15-minute pickler at the supermarket. I used 1 cup of distilled vinegar with half a cup of water. A good general rule to follow is ⅔ vinegar to ⅓ water, but if you’re following a recipe of your choosing, follow the direction exactly to avoid spoilage. Keep in mind I only made a small jar which only held around 350ml, tweak the quantities based on how much you’re making.
Herbs & Spices
The only important spice you should definitely use is pickling salt. Its pretty much table salt without any added iodine or anti-caking agents, It keeps the water from getting cloudy. Use 2 tablespoons of salt for every quart of water you use.
My favorite types of pickles are dill pickles for which I used, fresh dill. I also used a combination of mustard seed, peppercorns, garlic, sugar, salt, and coriander seeds. It’s very hard to go wrong using spices. Create your own combination with the following ingredients and more:
- Fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, coriander, etc.
- Seeds such as mustard seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, etc.
- Spices like peppercorns, whole cloves, star anise, chili flakes, whole allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon… you get the picture.
- Adding some fresh aromatics such as chili, garlic, and ginger can really boost the flavor of the pickle.
Produce to pickle
Again, same with the spices; when it comes to pickling things, the sky’s the limit. By no means are you restricted to vegetables either? From sweet fruits to meat, dairy, and other animal produce, here’s a list of some popular fresh foods to pickle.
- Cucumber, beets, onions, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, turnips, okra, etc, etc.
- Cheese and cream
- Pears, apples, peaches, pineapple, blueberries, figs, even watermelon rinds
- Meat; also referred to as corned beef, pork, pickled chicken, including the feet, and so and so on.
1 cup of white distilled vinegar
1/2 a cup of water
1 tbsp pickling salt
1/2 a small cucumber
2 small cloves of garlic
3-4 fresh sprigs of dill
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
- First make sure all your jars and utensils are washed with soapy, warm water and dried nicely.
- Wash and dry all you're vegetables. Now there's no rule to how big a pickle has to be, however the larger the vegetable the longer the pickling process takes. So we recommend cutting your veggies into chunks. Be sure to cut the ends off all your veggies as these release enzymes that'll make your pickles go soggy.
- Pack all your vegetables into the jar leaving an inch of space from the top.
- To make the brine combine vinegar, water, salt, dry herbs & spices, and bring up to around just before a boil. You want to be able to just be able to keep your finger in the water. Make sure you do not overcook the mixture this will also make the pickles soggy.
- Pour the mixture into the jar, tap it lightly on the counter, to release air bubbles, then seal the jar and store preferably in the fridge.
Tip: Try to wait at least 48 hours before digging into your delicious homemade pickles.