What’s a hamburger without sliced pickles? Or a pastrami on rye without a garlic dill? Whether it is sweet or dill, garlic or sour, is there anyone who doesn’t like pickles?
Simply put, pickling applies to food preserved in a brine or vinegar. It involves taking a low-acid vegetable and making it high acid with vinegar or fermentation so that it can be safely canned in a boiling water bath canner. This includes vegetables, fruits, chutneys and relishes.
Brined or fermented products go through a curing process in a salt and water solution for one or more weeks. The lactic acid produced by fermentation preserves the product. Examples of fermented products are dill pickles and sauerkraut.
Fresh pack or quick process pickles are preserved in vinegar, spices and seasonings. These are easy to prepare and, if allowed to stand for several weeks after processing, will develop a tart flavor. Bread and butter pickles and sweet pickle relish are examples of quick process pickles.
Good pickles start with tender vegetables and firm fruit. Do not use produce that shows any evidence of mold because it may produce an “off” flavor.
If you are pickling cucumbers, your usual “slicing” cucumber won’t do. Always use pickling cucumbers. Check your seed catalogs for varieties suitable for pickling. If you buy cucumbers, select unwaxed ones so that the brine or pickling solutions can penetrate. Use 1 1/2-inch for gherkins and 4-inch for dills.
“Pickling” or “canning salt” is the salt of choice. Regular table salt contains anti-caking materials that can make your brine cloudy. Use cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar of 5 percent to 6 percent acidity. Cider vinegar, used in most recipes, has a good flavor and aroma, but may discolor light foods. Distilled (white) vinegar is often used for onions and cauliflower where clearness of color is desired.
Home canning questions
Q. Can dill seed be substituted for dill weed?
A. One tablespoon dill seed may be substituted for 3 heads fresh dill weed.
Q. Why has my garlic turned blue/green?
A. Garlic contains a pigment that can turn blue in an acid solution. Or, you may have iron, tin or aluminum in your cooking pot, water or water pipes that reacts with the garlic. The garlic is still safe to eat.
Q. My pickles seem soft, what did I do wrong?
A. You may have forgotten to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber. Cut off about 1/16-inch slice. The blossom contains enzymes that can cause softening.
Q. Where can I get pickling lime? My grandmother’s pickle recipe calls for it.
A. Pickling lime can be purchased from a store selling canning supplies. Be sure it is pickling lime and “food-grade.” Don’t use lime intended for your soil.
Q. I’ve heard that some types of pans should not be used for pickling. Which kinds?
A. Aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron containers should not be used for fermenting pickles and sauerkraut. Aluminum should not be used for fresh pack pickles when you use lime.
Q. My mother-in-law’s recipe for pickles soaked in brine does not call for any type of processing. Should they be processed?
A. YES. All pickled products should be processed in a water bath canner. Find recipe that tells you how long to process.
If you have food preservation questions you would like addressed in the “Home Canner’s Column,” call your local University of Tennessee Extension office at 728-7001. We look forward to your questions.
Note: The new UT Extension Canning Foods booklet is available for $5 at the local office, 95 Church St. S.E. The 48-page booklet contents consist of information on canning fruits and vegetables, pickles and relishes, jams, jellies and preserves with many recipes.