It’s time to get pickling. While classic crunchy dill pickles probably come to mind, don’t stop there. Just about any fruit or vegetable can be preserved in a vinegar solution with added herbs and spices.
Pickled veggies can be enjoyed as an appetizer, light snack or topper to main entrees. What’s a burger without pickles and hot pepper rings?
To get you pickling safely this summer, here are some of my favourite recipes and pickling pointers.
- Choose quality vegetables — Use blemish-free, firm vegetables for best results. Avoid veggies with a wax coating.
- Pick and preserve right away — The longer vegetables are stored, the softer they become; process within 24 hours of picking.
- Use proper ratio of vinegar — Vinegar (minimum five per cent acetic acid) is critical to preventing the growth of harmful pathogens in pickled products. Do not alter the proportion of vinegar in recipes. To cut the acidity, you can safely add sugar to brine (15-30 ml sugar to 1 litre brine).
- Use non-iodized salt — Regular table salt contains anti-caking compounds that can turn brine cloudy and discolour vegetables. Use additive-free canning, kosher or pickling salt.
- Use soft water — The minerals in hard water may cause discolouration, off-flavours or cloudy brine. If you have hard water, boil the water you use in your brine for 15 minutes and let it stand overnight before using.
- Process jars in a hot water bath — Heat processing prevents spoilage, colour, flavour and texture loss due to yeast, mould or enzymes present in vegetables. Processing allows you to store pickled products on the shelf for a year or more. If you choose not to heat process your pickled vegetables, store them in the refrigerator.
- Allow to cure — Let pickled vegetables absorb flavours and mellow out for three to four weeks before eating.
- Use within one year — While properly heat-processed pickle jars are safe to eat for many years, the quality, texture and colour of pickled vegetables will deteriorate noticeably after one year.
- Use non-reactive cookware — Avoid utensils or cookware made of aluminum, copper or uncoated cast iron that will react with the acid in the vinegar and lead to discolouration and off-flavours.
- Cut blossom end of cucumbers — For crispier cucumber pickles, cut three millimetres off the blossom end of cucumbers, to remove the enzyme that can lead to softening.
What will you pickle this summer?
Classic Dill Pickles
A small batch of dill pickles that’s quick and easy to make in a large soup pot. Double or quadruple the recipe for larger batches.
- 3-4 lbs. small pickling cucumbers
- 2 c. vinegar
- 2 c. water
- 2 tbsp. pickling salt
- 8 heads dill
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
Wash and scrub cucumbers lightly with a soft brush. Cut a thin slice from blossom ends to help prevent softening. Cut wide cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and long cucumbers so they fit in jars. Place in ice water bath while preparing everything else, up to 8 hours for crispy pickles. Fill large pot or canner with water so that jars are covered by 1 inch of water. Check jars for cracks, wash with warm soapy water, rinse well and place in canner. Heat jars in canner (no need to sterilize). In medium-size pot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Remove hot jars from canner. Place 2 dill heads, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp. peppercorns and 1/8 tsp. hot pepper flakes into each jar. Tightly pack cucumbers into jars to within 3/4 inch of rim. Add hot vinegar brine to cover cucumbers. Use a plastic utensil to remove any air bubbles and add more brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rim with clean cloth, seal with hot sealing lid, tighten screw band on top finger tight and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes for pint jars (500 ml) or 15 minutes for quart (1-l) jars.
Makes 4 pint (500-ml) jars or 2 quart (1-l) jars.
Multi-Coloured Pickled Cauliflower
Pickled cauliflower stays firm and can be enjoyed in salads or stir-fries. If using multi-coloured cauliflower, can them in separate jars to prevent the colour from bleeding.
- 9 c. cauliflower
- 3 tsp. canning/kosher salt
- 4-1/2 c. vinegar
- 1-1/2 c. sugar
- 1 c. onion, sliced thin
- 3/4 c. red pepper
- 1-1/2 tbsp. pickling spice
- 2-1/2 tsp. celery seed
- 1 jalapeno (optional)
Prepare canner, lids and boil clean jars for at least 10 minutes. In large pot, add salt to 4 quarts water (or litres) and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, clean and chop the cauliflower. Simmer cauliflower in salt water for 3 minutes (blanch different colours separately). Drain and cool. Combine vinegar, sugar, onion, pepper and spices in large saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat and simmer for 5 minutes. As the brine begins to heat, fill hot jars with cauliflower pieces. Distribute brine and solids in the boiling liquid between the jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims clean, apply lids and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes 4 to 5 pint (500-ml) jars
Homemade Hot Pepper Rings
We love these spicy rings on burgers, pizzas and sandwiches. Did you know it’s the ribs or inner membrane of hot peppers rather than the seeds that contain most of the heat? You decide whether or not to remove them.
- 6 c. sliced hot peppers (any variety)
- 3-1/2 c. vinegar
- 2 c. water
- 2 tbsp. pickling salt
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, quartered
Wash and stem hot peppers. Remove seeds and inner membranes as desired. Slice peppers into even 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Wear gloves to keep your fingers from stinging.) Fill large pot or canner with water so that jars are covered by 1 inch of water. Check jars for cracks, wash with warm soapy water, rinse well and place in canner. Heat jars in canner (no need to sterilize). Mix vinegar, water, salt and sugar in non-reactive saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Place 1/4 clove of garlic in each jar and pack with pepper rings. Pour hot vinegar brine over peppers. Remove air bubbles and push peppers underneath pickling liquid as much as possible, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim with clean cloth, seal with hot sealing lid, tighten screw band on top finger tight and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes 8 half-pint (250-ml) jars