Monday, September 27, 2021

Prepper's Pantry: Pickling

I’ve mentioned pickling in earlier posts, such as the ones on vinegar and canning, so it seems appropriate to go into more detail about the supplies and techniques to create these tasty treats at home.

Pickled vegetables can be made in a variety of ways, but for this post I’m going to focus on only two of them, as they are faster and less labor intensive than other methods (one of these methods involves using a salt water brine and several weeks of soaking and monitoring; another involves packing the vegetables in salt and letting them sit for weeks or even months). 

When canning or pickling, always use the freshest produce

Pickling by Hot Water Canning
Refer to my posts about canning equipment and process for the basics, since canning pickled vegetables is handled similarly; this webpage can provide more details. Vegetables used in canning can be preserved whole or reduced in several ways; cucumbers, for example, can be cut into halves, disks, slices, or spears. 

Since one of the major elements used to preserve canned foods is proper acid balance, vinegar is the primary liquid. Cider vinegar is preferred due to its milder flavor, but white vinegar can be used interchangeably.

Prepare the jars as usual, then add spices to taste. I like garlic dill pickles, so I put in each jar:

  • A sprig or two fresh dill (1 to 1½ teaspoons dried)
  • A couple cloves fresh garlic, slivered (1 to 1½ tablespoons crushed)
  • 1 tsp mustard seed or mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Cucumbers

The jars are filled to no less than ½” of the top with heated vinegar, often cut with water and a pinch of sugar, then the lids and rings are added. Hot water process as normal.

Carefully examine produce for bruises or other damage

Refrigerator Pickling
When pickling vegetables in the refrigerator, the same initial process is followed:

  • Examine the produce
  • Trim, slice, or chop the vegetables
  • Add spices
  • Fill the jars with vinegar

There are, however, some differences:

  • The vinegar doesn’t need to be heated
  • Flavored vinegars can more easily be used
  • Headspace is less important
  • The containers used are more variable (Chinese soup containers are excellent for this purpose)

Once everything is prepared, let the containers sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for 14 to 21 days.

One of my favorite refrigerator pickled dishes is cucumber salad:

  • Cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise then into crescents
  • White onion, quartered then sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, and sugar (adjust for taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar, cut 1:1 with water

Once all the pickled cucumbers and onions are eaten, the liquid can be reused once or twice as-is, then refreshed with more balsamic vinegar. This makes an excellent side dish, especially in the summer.

The techniques described here can be applied to nearly any vegetable, preserving them and adding more delicious options to your prepper pantry. 

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