The perfect pickle

If you’ve only pickled traditional cucumbers, you’re missing out on a world of taste. Garlic, garnishes, eggs, melons, citrus and other fruits make amazing pickles!

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A pickle spear puts the finishing touch on a picnic plate, and who doesn’t love sweet pickle relish on their ballpark dog?

Pickling is a yummy way to preserve summer’s bounty. It can add a spicy, sour or sweet tang to your favorite fruits and vegetables.

What is pickling?

Pickling preserves food in an acidic brine. Most brines have a vinegar base. Sugar, salt, herbs and spices may be added to enhance flavor. Pickling extends the life of low-acid foods like cucumbers and melons by altering the pH, boosting good bacteria growth, and deterring bad bacteria growth.

What foods can I pickle?

If you’ve only pickled traditional cucumbers, you’re missing out on a world of taste. Garlic, garnishes, eggs, melons, citrus and other fruits make amazing pickles!

Pickling is part of every culinary tradition. Growing up, pickled herring on saltine crackers was my Scandinavian family’s favorite snack. My other grandmother was of German descent. She made the best pickled beets and canned sauerkraut in Minnesota.

My friend shared fond memories of her Korean mother’s pickled Kimchi and pickled Asian pears.

When I moved south as an adult, I discovered southern pickled melon rinds and pickled okra.

2 ways to pickle

Pickled food can be canned, or stored immediately in the refrigerator.

The National Center for Food Preservation provides guidelines for safe canning http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html.

Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy. I like to pickle a small batch (1 or 2 quarts) of refrigerator pickles without having to drag out canning equipment and heat up the kitchen.

Pickling salt vs. standard salt

Standard table salt contains iodine and anti-caking agents. Canning or pickling salt is pure salt that dissolves easily, does not discolor food, or turn the pickling liquid foggy. Leftover pickling salt can be used for cooking, baking and marinating.

10 tips to keep pickles crisp

Soggy pickles got you in a pickle? Try these 10 tips to keep pickles crisp in storage.

  1. Pickle only fresh, firm, blemish-free fruits and vegetables.
  2. Refrigerator pickles stay crispier than pickles stored at room temp.
  3. Pickles stored at room temperature keep best in cool, dark cellar conditions. Use within 1 year.
  4. Alum is a firming agent added to the pickle jar before processing. Use up to ¼ tsp alum per pickled pint. Find it in the spice aisle.
  5. Soak fresh food in a lime-water solution for up to 24 hours before pickling. Combine 1 cup lime, ½ cup pickling salt, and 1 gallon water. Food-grade lime is available in the canning section of the store.
  6. Ball Pickle Crisp Granules is a calcium chloride product that keeps pickles crunchy. Add 1/8 tsp to each pickled pint. Find it in the canning section.
  7. Add a grape leaf to the pickle jar before processing. I thought this was an old wives tale, but grape leaves contain enzyme inhibitors that keep pickles firm.
  8. Cut ¼ inch off the end of the cucumber before pickling. Ripening enzymes are concentrated at the blossom end.
  9. Place fresh food in an ice-bath 4 hours before pickling.
  10. Low-temperature pasteurization at 180-185 F for 30 minutes keeps pickles firmer than hot, fast processing.

Pickling recipes

Dilly Pickled Asparagus: http://www.farmanddairy.com/recipes/dilly-pickled-asparagus

Pottsfield Relish: http://www.farmanddairy.com/recipes/pottsfield-relish

Pickled Eggs: http://www.farmanddairy.com/recipes/pickled-eggs

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