Making pickled vegetables is easy and lots of fun. This is a great time of year; the garden is looking healthy and there are lots of different vegetables to choose from with plenty of colours.
You can store the finished products in your fridge or cupboard for several months and the best thing of all – you are proud to admit that the product in the jar is made by you.
So, let’s start our pickling adventure:
SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES:
- The main principle of pickling is to add an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to reduce the pH to low acid foods. The pH range is usually below 4.6. Acid foods include such as tomatoes – green ones work better, all hard vegetables – such as zucchini, onions, cucumbers, cauliflowers, eggplant and so on.
- pH – is a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution – where pH of 7 is neutral. Lower values are more acidic and higher values are more alkaline. With pickling, we aim for lower values generally below 4.6.
- There are several pieces of equipment you will need for pickling vegetables, depending on which method you choose. The quicker and easier method lets you store the pickled vegetables for around 4 months refrigerated, the more complicated method using a pressure canner will allow longer storage without refrigeration.
- Both methods – you will need a large pan for boiling the brine – pickling solution.
- Heatproof jug for transferring brine into jars
- Sterilized jars with matching lids – suitable for low acid solutions. You can sterilise these in a dishwasher, in a medium oven for 20 minutes.
- If you do not want to refrigerate your pickled vegetables, you will need a more sterile method – which involves a pressure canner.
- Vegetables – need to be fresh, try and select the most uniform, unspoiled produce.
- Pickling salt/sea salt has no additives. Iodised salt makes the brine cloudy and may change the colour and texture of the vegetables as well as possibly leave sediment at the bottom of the jars.
- For the best results, use white distilled or cider vinegar with 5 percent acidity. Use white vinegar when light colour is desirable, as with fruits and cauliflower.
- For crisper pickles, put the vegetables (whole or sliced) into a wide bowl and spread a layer of pickling salt on top. Cover and let sit overnight in a cool place. Discard the liquid, then rinse and dry the vegetables before pickling or canning as usual. The salt helps to pull the moisture out of the vegetables and makes them crisper.
- Spices – really the possibilities are endless – try using spices like mustard seeds, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, red pepper flakes, or juniper berries.
- Pickling Brine: Prepare the pickling liquid in a pot, usually 2 cups white vinegar, 4 cups water, 1/3 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and the spices. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil, allow cooling down, before adding to already filled jars.
- Prepare the jar: Fill the already sliced produce and tightly fill the jars together with the spices.
- Pour the pickling brine into the jars, fill up to the rim, leaving some headspace, seal and wipe clean.
- Add to your canning pot which has hot water and cook covered for approx. 10-15 minutes.
- Remove carefully with tongs and allow to cool. Next day label.
- Waiting Game – Need to be patient – the veggies start to taste deliciously tart almost immediately after cooking, but it is better to wait at least 3-4 weeks so the flavours develop, and the vinegar profile mellows.
If you choose not to process jars in canning pot – you need to refrigerate, add some oil on the top as a way to seal the product.