Pickling food is one method to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season, so they can be enjoyed later in the year. It usually means soaking small pieces of food in salt water or vinegar and allowing them to ferment. Sometimes different herbs or spices are added to enhance the flavor. Over the centuries different cultures have their favorites including cabbage in China, Mangoes in India and cucumbers in Europe and North America. Pickled foods add zest to a meal or sandwich and some people eat them alone for a snack.
There are two different ways to make regular pickled fruits and vegetables. One is to cook the ingredients and seal it in sterile jars and the other is to pickle raw veggies. The uncooked pickles need to be kept refrigerated, but they are so tasty they will be eaten fast.
Cooked pickles can be enjoyed many months later. They bring the freshness of summer to winter meals. Begin by making the basic pickling brine. Boil 1 part sugar, 2 parts white vinegar and 3 parts distilled water until the sugar is melted. For salty pickles, use ½ part pickling salt instead of sugar.
Cut the fruit or vegetables so that all the pieces are basically the same size. This will ensure that each pickle tastes the same because they will absorb the flavor equally. Prepare the glass jars by boiling them in a large pan so they are sterile. Heat the lids with hot water but do not boil them. Put the food in the hot jar and pour in the brine. Don’t fill the jar to the brim, leave about ½ inch of space from the top.
Wipe the top of the jar and the lid to make sure they have no food particles on them and put them on. Put the jar in a large pan and cover it with water. Boil the jar for 15 to 20 minutes. The pickles are ready to store. If the tops of any of the jars expand, keep that jar in the fridge and use it first. Newly made jars of pickles should be left for 2 or 3 weeks for the completion of the fermentation process
Uncooked pickles are even easier to make. For one jar of pickles gather your veggies or fruit and cut it into pieces of the same size. If you like the taste, for some vegetables you can add one large, sliced white onion. Add one cup white vinegar, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon of pickling salt and one teaspoon of celery seed.
Mix everything together in a glass bowl and let it stand for some time. This is to make sure all the ingredients melt together. Put it in a closed container and it will stay fresh for a long time in the refrigerator. These are so easy to make and so good to eat that different spices and herbs can be used to get many different flavors for different foods.
All vegetables can be pickled. Some favorites are okra, red onions, green tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, beets, carrots, cauliflower, radishes and green pepper. You can also pickle eggs and meats. Corned beef is another word for pickled beef. Pork and ham are also often pickled.
It is possible to buy ready made pickle makers. They are packages of instant brine and come with their own jars. You can add any extra ingredients like hot peppers or garlic. Some pickle makers come with an airlock for exact timing.
All over Asia pickles are made in different ways. Some recipes don’t call for any water, just soak the vegetables in salt and the natural water is drawn out. Some use vegetable oil along with the vinegar, salt and spices. There are so many varieties of pickled foods that there is sure to be one for each taste. If you spend several days pickling lots food, more that you and your family can eat, it will not be wasted. Homemade pickles make a great gift.