Preserving foods has been going on for thousands of years in different forms to keep our food from spoiling. One of the main ways is to pickle your food, which not only preserves the food for later use, but can change the taste and texture of it. Pickling is usually done one of two ways, either by using a salt brine or by using vinegar. The salt brine version is usually used on things such as the Korean Kimchi and the vinegar version is used for kosher cucumber pickles.
Almost anything can be pickled such as cucumbers (pickles), tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, lemons, olives, fish (pickled herring), eggs, watermelon, nuts, beef (corned beef) and chili peppers just to name a few!
When using a recipe for pickling don’t alter the food, water or vinegar. They are those amounts for a reason, so that acidity in the pickling will be to the right amount to keep the minimum level high enough throughout so to keep bad bacteria from growing.
Some basics to live by when pickling is to use a canning or pickling salt to keep your brine from becoming cloudy and your pickles turning dark, but if that doesn‘t matter to you table salt will work if you cannot get pickling salt. An alternative to pickling salt would be kosher salt, but instead of measuring volume (cups or milliliters) measure in weight (grams or ounces). It’s also suggested not to use corn syrup or honey unless a recipe calls for it when pickling. Instead use white or brown sugar. White distilled is usually the type of vinegar you want to use while pickling. This helps keep the veggies and fruits from turning a dark color.
Now on to the fun stuff!
Choose your food and get your ingredients for your recipe. You also will need canning jars with the lids and bands (the part that screws the lids down onto the jar) and a large pot that is deep enough that you can place the jars in and cover them with an inch of water.
Make sure to have either a rack that can be placed in the bottom of the pot for the jars to sit on or a thick towel that can keep your jars from touching the bottom of the pot. This keeps the jars from possibly cracking from too much heat. There are also commercial canning supplies that can be used, but not everyone can afford all the extras.
Make sure everything is washed in hot soapy water and rinsed thoroughly. Keep the jars in hot water until ready to use. The lids should be simmered in hot water until ready to be used. The bands should be dried and put to the side on a clean towel.
Fill the jars (hot) with the pickling food and leave about ½ inch from the top. Make sure there is no air bubbles in the food by using a flat utensil and running it around the jar sides. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to remove any excess food from the edge and place the lid on the jar with the sealing compound and screw the band on top but not too tightly.
Place each of the jars into the pot of boiling water one at a time (this is where the processing begins). Be careful not to overcrowd the pot, as the boiling water can cause the jars to clank together and crack or break. Make sure that there is about 1 inch of water above the jars, don’t use cold water when adding extra water, use boiling water. Bring the water up to a boil and then reduce it to a light rolling boil and place a lid on top and allow it to boil for the processing time.
When the canning portion is done gently remove the jars from the pot and let sit for 8 – 10 hours. The lid should be concave (dip in the middle). You can push down on the middle and if it makes a noise or moves down, it’s not sealed properly and should be refrigerated and used in a couple of weeks tops.
This video shows a water bath canning method, which is what was described above.