Week 4 of Master Food Preserver class was all about pickling!
What is pickling anyway? Well Janice, our awesome instructor, had a funny quote up on the board: “A pickle is a cucumber soured by a jarring experience.” HA! Well, I was entertained at least. But this is not entirely true; A pickle doesn’t need to be a cucumber, and it doesn’t always need to be jarred either! In fact, there wasn’t one cucumber in class, we did all sorts of other types of pickles instead. Pickling is basically the process of adding a high concentration of acid to a food to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
There are 4 basic types of pickles – you can pickle a lot more things than just cucumbers!
– Fresh pack or quick pickles
– Brined of fermented pickles
– Fruit pickles
– Relishes and Chutneys
Quick pickles are made when you combine the ingredients and immediately process, versus a fermented pickle that sits for a few weeks and ferments, producing its own acids. Fermentation in vegetables and fruits is the anaerobic breakdown of sugars into acid. In veggies, naturally present bacteria breaks down the sugars, and in fruits, it is yeast that converts the sugar first to alcohol, then to acid. The acid formed is lactic acid, as opposed to the acetic acid from vinegar which we use in quick pickles.
Relishes are seasoned sauces made from chopped fruits or veggies, and chutneys are fruit relishes with fruits and/or veggies and nuts. They are a sweet and sour blend of vinegar and spices.
The first thing we did in class was asparagus pickles. This is a fresh pack or quick pickle, because what we did was combine the asparagus with spices, water, vinegar and salt, put it into jars, and immediately process it in a boiling water bath canner.
Asparagus ready to be pickled.
Mmmm. Now we wait a few weeks for them to absorb that vinegary deliciousness.
We then split into four groups and each made a different pickled product. One group was in charge of this mango chutney.
Chutneys are a little weird to me. I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I will let you know if I find an amazing use for my jar of this.
All prepared and in the jars.
Another group made this corn relish.
I was on team beet pickle. If you know me you know I love me some beets.
It looks like a bit of a murder scene when you cut up beets. Especially precooked ones.
I would definitely recommend gloves, unless you love having red hands. It doesn’t really bother me, but it does stain quite nicely. Helps you understand the term “beet red” 😉
I would not recommend doing this in half pints. This was simply so that the whole class got a jar to take home. Go pints or even quarts for sure. If you are looking for a recipe, I actually posted one a little while ago here.
And finally, we pickled some onions.
They made for a pretty attractive pickle.
Pretty good haul! I never really used to be a big fan of pickles, but they sure are growing on me.
OK now that you’ve enjoyed the picture show, we’ll finish with some pickling rules:
– Always use at least a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar making quick pickles. It’s not safe to use less vinegar or more water. If it’s too tart for your taste, add a teeny bit of sugar
– Use vinegar with 5% acidity, there are some tricky brands out there that are only 4%
– When making fermented pickles, don’t reduce the salt. And if you want to can it, don’t do so until they have a sour flavour.
– Always use pickling/canning salt rather than regular table salt
– You can swap the type of vinegar, as long as it is 5% acidity. Some people prefer the milder flavour of cider vinegar, go for it!
– The spices can be changed to taste. Adding more garlic or dill to your pickles is a-ok. This is one thing that is not a safety issue.
The last thing we did on pickling day was make flavoured vinegar. And this is a nice way to end, because as Janice said – there are no rules. When you make flavoured vinegar, it’s basically safe to chuck in whatever you like. Buy some cheap white wine vinegar in bulk and flavour it yourself by filling a jar with whatever spices you like and cover with vinegar. We tried some delicious berry ones as well, and I am super excited to make some this summer for some delicious vinaigrette. These are fine stored at room temperature. Once they have steeped to your satisfaction, they can also be processed in a boiling water bath canner if you really want to.
My white wine vinegar, full of herbs, and a chive flower.