So, you might still have some extra time on your hands to try some of those things you have always wanted to do right– and who doesn’t want to try pickling. All those beautiful jars of colour all lined up impressively in your kitchen.
What is pickling?
Pickling is the process of preparing food by soaking and storing it in a brine containing salt and/or vinegar – usually both. It is a process that can preserve otherwise perishable food for months.
What do you need?
- First, you will need two large cooking pots. One for preparing the pickled vegetables and another for the canning process. You'll want to use your largest pot for boiling and sealing the canning jars.
- Then you need to decide which vegetables you want to pickle. Typically, veggies with a tougher skin like cucumbers and peppers do best in the pickling process, but root vegetables like carrots and radishes also work well. A good rule of thumb is the sturdier the vegetable, the better.
- Don’t forget the vinegar- the most important part of the whole process. Probably best to use cider vinegar or distilled vinegar.
- Check the pantry for salt, sugar, and dry spices or if you want to enhance the flavour try and use fresh herbs rather than dried.
How do you actually do it?
Check out this recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly for pickling cucumbers.
- 2-kilogram green cucumbers
- coarse cooking salt
- 1.5 litre (6 cups) white vinegar
- 1 cup of sugar
- 3 small fresh red chillies
- 2 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoon black mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon dill seeds
- 6 whole cloves
- Cut cucumbers in half lengthways then into 6cm strips. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, stand overnight.
- Next day, rinse cucumbers under cold water, drain. Combine vinegar, sugar, chillies, mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill seeds and cloves in a large saucepan, bring to the boil, reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
- Add cucumbers, bring to boil, remove from heat immediately. Using tongs, pack cucumbers into hot sterilised jars, fill with vinegar mixture; seal when cold.
This recipe is for Lebanese cucumber, however, pickling cucumbers would also be ideal.
Top pickling tips
- Don't take shortcuts. The jar and lid sterilization process, boiling water timing, and amount of vinegar used are all critical components to crafting perfect pickles.
- Use canning or pickling salt (not iodised table salt. Pickling salt has no additives. If you use iodised salt it makes the brine cloudy and may change the colour and texture of the vegetables as well as possibly leaving sediment at the bottom of the jar.
- For the best results, use white distilled or cider vinegar with 5% acidity. Use white vinegar when light colour is desirable, as with fruits and cauliflower.
- Do consider both sweet and salty when making recipes. If you add more vinegar to the pickling liquid mixture, increase the sugar proportionally to keep the flavour balanced. Remember that you can always add more vinegar or sugar, but you can't remove any.
- Don't obsess when measuring fresh veggies. You can vary from the recipe's specified amount by a full cup without affecting the outcome. Just try to cut all vegetables to the same relative size and cover them evenly with the pickling liquid.
- 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.
- Have fun and get creative. Pickling provides a great opportunity to play with a variety of herb, spice, and flavour combinations. Blend together a few favourites to create your own pickling recipe and own it!. Always taste your spice mixture and pickling liquid before canning, and remember that flavours continue to age and marinate after the jars are sealed, so hold back a little on the stronger flavours.
- Use new jar lids for a tight seal. To avoid rust, screw bands should be removed from processed jars that are stored. They can be easily removed after the jars have cooled and sealed, and then reused.
- Always wipe the rim of the jar clean for a good seal after filling and just before putting the lid on.
- Label and date your jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place such as a pantry, cabinet, or basement. Don’t store in a warm spot!
- To allow pickles to mellow, wait at least 3 weeks before using.
Happy pickling everyone. Please send us some photos of your finished product- we would love to see the fruits of your labour (and the vegetables!)