The method of pickling has been around for thousands of years and is currently undergoing a big resurgence. We can think of three main reasons why: it's a great way to reduce your food waste, there's a myriad of health benefits, and they taste delicious! If you've never tried pickling at home you can sign up for one of our hands on cooking classes in Sydney where you'll learn all about the processes involved and leave with your own jar of handmade pickles. If you're new to the pickling technique, here's a simple breakdown.
What is pickling?
Pickling is natural process that has been used for thousands of years to preserve food for long periods of time. The process involves soaking produce in brine or an acid solution which draws out the water and prevents bad bacteria from growing. This process changes the taste and texture of the produce and leaves it with a somewhat tangy flavour. Dependent on the type of food you’re wanting to preserve, there’s a few different pickling techniques. These include:
The fastest way to pickle something is to cook the item and drain it of colour. Once completed the product is placed in jars containing a liquid substance made up of vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices. This method is used for produce like cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, chilli, different beans, and crab apples.
Salt (Brine or Dry)
Any product that can have the liquid pulled from it is ideal for this method of pickling. This method involves rinsing the vegetable, cutting and trimming it, before tossing salt onto it and placing it in salt brine and leaving it to pickle for up to a day. This method is ideal for eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, and cabbage.
Vinegar brining is exactly the same as salt brining and draws out the water from an item. However, there are several stages to this method. The produce is placed is placed in vinegar and left to soak for a number of days. The method is used on mostly fruit like watermelon rinds and cucumbers.
What Can Be Pickled?
Now, you’re probably wondering what foods can be pickled. Well, you’d be surprised at the amount of foods that can go through the pickling process successfully. Most fruit and vegetables can be pickled, and you can even pickle animal parts like pigs feet! Common food groups that can be pickled include:
Fruits: Lemons, grapes, watermelon rind, pears, red tomatoes
Meat: Corned beef, pork
Vegetables: Pumpkin, beans, eggplant, carrots
Seafood: Prawns, herring
How make your own pickles
When you're thinking about which items in your pantry you should pickle, you only really need to keep two key things in mind:
Choose your produce but think small
When you begin to consider what you want to pickle, you need to think about if it will be crunchy enough and how small it needs to be. Choose vegetables or fruits that are firm like apples or carrots. If you choose small products, they’ll be easier to cut and will pickle faster. Just be sure to cut off stems and leaves.
Jars and brine
It’s important to have something to store your pickling produce in. You’ll need a jar to store to them in, and the best type of container to use is a mason jar. A basic pickling liquid could include:
- 3 cups white or apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups water
- ¼ cup sea salt
- ¼ cup sugar (for sweet pickles)
- 2-4 dried hot chilies (for spicy pickles)
- Dried herbs and spices (mustard seed, celery seed, bay leaf, peppercorn)
Put the items in the jar pour in the brine, close the lid and wait! Your pickled produce should be ready in about a day to a week depending on how much produce there is.
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5 fun facts about pickles:
Cleopatra is believed to have praised pickles for being on her top beauty secrets.
Pickles are credited for the sailors on Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage not getting scurvy.
Sweet pickles are made by dunking dill pickles in strong kool-aid
Napoleon loved pickles. He issued a $250k reward for anyone who could invent the best technique for preserving and pickling food that were to be given to army of troops.
Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest is credited for introducing the phrase "in a pickle".