In a pickle

The best way to produce a pickled product is to follow a standardized recipe.

Looking to add some zip and zest to a meal, but are in a pickle as to what to do? Why not try adding a pickled product? The picking process is one way to preserve fruits and vegetables for future use. A pickled product is a combination of fruits and/or vegetable, salt, spices, vinegar and sugar. Depending upon the combination, the pickled product can have a sweet flavor or distinctly sour taste.

There are four general types of pickled products.

  1. Brined or fermented pickles go through a brining process, generally a salt and water solution, which can take one or several weeks to complete. The brining process changes the color, flavor and texture.
  2. A second type is a fresh pack pickle. This type involves covering the produce with a boiling hot vinegar and seasoning mixture. Some recipes recommend the product be brined for several hours, rinsed and drained before adding the pickling solution. Fresh pack pickles are quick and easy to do. Some recipes will suggest allowing the pickles to rest for several weeks to develop a better flavor.
  3. The third type of pickle is the fruit pickle. The fruit pickle involves sliced or whole fruit simmered in sweet, spicy syrup to give that distinctive sour flavor. The syrup will have either added vinegar or lemon juice.
  4. The last but not least type of pickled product is a relish. Chopped fruits and vegetables are simmered in a vinegar solution.

Following a standardized recipe is the key to making a safe pickled product! There is more to the process of making pickles than slicing of cucumbers and fruit and adding vinegar and spices. Making a fresh pack pickle product requires some knowledge of chemistry. A standardized recipe from the Michigan State University Extension, United States Department of Agriculture or the National Center for Food Preservation is a requirement. A standardized recipe will help make sure that you have the right amount of acid to vegetable ratio so that the product can be canned in a boiling water bath technique.

If a standardized recipe is not used there is the potential for Clostridium Botulinum to sprout and grow in the pickled vegetable product. The proportions of vegetables to acid content should never be altered.

For the ingredients select tender, young vegetables. Use only “pickling” cucumbers for best results. “Slicing” cucumbers will not give the results that are desired. For the best results pickle the produce within 24 hours of picking.

Other ingredients include: Salt, vinegar, sugar, spices and water. Only pure granulated salt should be used. This salt is labeled “pickling” or “canning” salt. The vinegar can be cider or white vinegar, but the key is that it is “five percent acidity.” Unless the recipe calls for brown sugar, use only white granulated sugar. For the best quality flavor it is best to use whole spices. Powdered spices tend to darken, discolor and make a cloudy product.

If you follow a standardized recipe when making a pickled product you won’t be in a pickle. The pickling process is chemistry 101. Enjoy the season’s bounty as a pickle!

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