Pickling Supplies - Try our delicious Mrs. Wages Pickling mixes for mouth-watering pickles sure to please your family. Get a copy of one of our pickling books and learn some new techniques or try your hand at a few award-winning recipes. Our old world stoneware pickling crocks and german-made fermenting crocks are just the thing for homemade pickles and sauerkraut.
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|Schmitt German Fermenting Crock Pots||Harsch Fermenting Crock Pots|
|Mrs. Wages Pickling Mixes ||Mrs. Wages Refrigerator Pickle Mixes|
|Pickling Additives||Pickling Books|
|Other Fermentation Pots|
Making Fermented Pickles and Sauerkraut
The combination of acid, spices, and sugar with cucumbers creates the acidic food product known as pickles. A popular food, pickles are relatively easy to preserve. However, important steps must be followed to ensure safety and the desired quality of the final product. Before you begin the pickling process, you need to consider the type of pickles you will be making.
Kinds of Pickles
Pickle products are classified on the basis of ingredients used and the method of preparation. There are two general classes: Fermented or brined.
Fermented pickles or brined pickles undergo a curing process for several weeks in which fermentative bacteria produce acids necessary for the preservation process. These bacteria also generate flavor compounds which are associated with fermented pickles. Other vegetables may be fermented, such as using cabbage to produce sauerkraut.
Initial fermentation may be followed by the addition of acid to produce such products as half dills or sweet gherkins.
Fresh-pack or quick process
Fresh-pack or quick process pickles (i.e., whole cucumber dills, crosscut cucumber slices, bread-and-butter pickles) are made by the addition of an acid such as vinegar and not by the natural fermentation of the vegetable. The tart flavor of these easily prepared products is due to the acetic acid in vinegar.
Fruit pickles are also made using a fresh-pack or quick process. These are usually prepared from whole fruits or smaller pieces and simmered in a spicy, sweet-sour syrup. Fruits such as peaches, pears, and watermelon rind may be used.
Other examples of pickle products are relishes. These are prepared from fruits and vegetables which are chopped, acidified, seasoned, and then heated to desired consistency.
Pickling Safety Precautions
Control of acidity
Whether fresh-pack/quick process or fermented, both types of pickles require sufficient acidity to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum and possible toxin production. Refer to the food acidity and processing methods section of our canning basics series for a more detailed explanation.
The following safety tips are critical when preparing pickle products:
Salt is a critical ingredient for fermented products. It helps to prevent undesirable bacteria from growing instead of the naturally present, desirable bacteria that produces lactic acid.
Keeping the correct temperature during the fermentation is also important to be certain that the desired bacteria grow and produce the needed acid and flavor compounds.
Yeast and molds are common spoilage microorganisms of acid foods such as pickles. These and most acid-tolerant bacteria are destroyed by proper water bath processing. Remember that increasing altitude requires a longer processing time because the boiling temperature of water is lowered. Use only recommended methods with researched processing conditions to prevent spoilage.
Cucumbers. Select a variety of unwaxed cucumbers intended for pickling. Do not expect good quality pickles if you use immature table-type or "slicing" cucumbers. Use 1˝ inch cucumbers for gherkins; 4 inch for dills. Odd-shaped and more mature cucumbers should be used for relishes and bread-and-butter style pickles. For optimum quality, pickle the cucumbers within 24 hours after picking. If you can't do this, at least refrigerate or spread out the produce where it will be well ventilated and remain cool. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly, especially around the stem area to remove soil containing bacteria. Remove the blossom end to prevent softening by enzymes. Do not use produce that contains mold. Proper processing will destroy the organism but not the off-flavors which may have been produced. Other vegetables and fruits used in pickle products should be fresh and of a good quality. For optimum quality, pickle the cucumbers within 24 hours after picking.
Dill. Use clean, fresh, insect-free heads of dill. Avoid overmature, dry, brown dill. Frozen dill may be used if stored in airtight containers, but flavor loss or change may occur.
For those products requiring added vinegar, check the label to be sure the vinegar contains 5 percent acetic acid; 50 grain acetic acid on the label means the same thing. DO NOT USE homemade vinegar or barrel vinegar of unknown acidity. Cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar may be used in pickle methods. Cider vinegar has a more mellow taste, but may discolor certain vegetables. White distilled vinegar has a sharper taste. Use white vinegar where a light color is important. DO NOT dilute the vinegar unless the procedure specifies. DO NOT use less vinegar per quantity of cucumbers than is stated. Doing this will change the preservative effect.
Use special canning salt which does not contain any iodine and anti-caking agents that sometimes cause darkening and cloudiness in pickles. Again, this is a critical ingredient for fermented products because it inhibits the growth of undesirable bacteria. DO NOT USE LESS SALT OR MORE WATER THAN THE PROCEDURE REQUIRES.
Use soft water if possible. Extremely hard water can cause discoloration of pickles, particularly if it has a high iron content. Some types of hard water may be somewhat softened by the following method. Boil water for 15 minutes, skim off the scum, and let the water rest 24 hours. When the sediment has settled to the bottom, pour off the water from the top and use.
White or brown sugar may be used. Brown sugar may darken the liquid slightly. If you plan to use a non-nutritive, saccharin-type sweetener, follow the instructions that accompany these products.
Use fresh spices for the best flavor in pickle products. Store leftover spices in airtight containers and in a cool place.
Alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, it is unnecessary and is not included in this publication. The calcium in lime also improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. However, excess lime neutralizes or removes acidity and so must be washed out to make safe pickles. Drain the lime-water solution, rinse and then re-soak the cucumbers in fresh water for 1 hour. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times.
Pickling Equipment Needed