The beauty of preparing pickles at home is that you can tailor them to suit your tastes, making them sweet or sour, and adding as much or as little flavoring as you wish. The trick with pickling is to create an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria while preserving the integrity of the vegetables. The 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water keeps vegetables crisp in the fridge, but is also acidic enough that they can be canned safely if you so choose. Follow the given steps and prepare your own healthy, delicious pickles at home.
Pick the vegetables you wish to pickle and briefly blanch (cook them in boiling water) if necessary. Not all vegetables can be pickled in the same way so you have to know which ones can be blanched.
To blanch, bring 16 cups of water per pound of prepped vegetables to boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, cover, return to a boil and cook for two minutes (in case of beetroot, cook for five minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water to cool andthen drain.
Divide your vegetables among two cup sized jars.
Preparation of brine:
When preparing brine (liquid solution consisting of water, salt, sugar, and possibly herbs and spices in order to preserve, tenderize or flavor pickles), you can opt for sour or sweet pickle brine.
To prepare sweet pickle brine, in a large saucepan, combine three cups of distilled white vinegar, three cups water, 1 1/2 cups sugar and one tablespoon plus one teaspoon sea salt. Bring to boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Let it boil for two minutes before removing from the heat.Makes six cups.
To prepare sour pickle brine, in a large saucepan, combine three cups distilled white vinegar, three cups water, two tablespoons plus two teaspoons sea salt and two tablespoons sugar. Bring to boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Once done, let it boil for two minutes before removing from the heat. Makes six cups.
Filling jars with brine:
Carefully fill the jars with brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the rim, covering the vegetables completely. Discard any leftover brine and place the lids on the jars and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Pickles can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Tips for Successful Pickling:
Tip 1: Water:Most water is suitable for pickling, but hard water may interfere with the process and discolor vegetables over time. For this, it is best you use purified water.
Tip 2: Vinegar: You can experiment with different vinegars for pickles, but if you plan on canning them, use vinegars that are at least 5% acetic acid. The percentage is often listed on the label. As long as there is an equal amount of vinegar and water in the brine, you can add or subtract ingredients like salt or sugar to suit your tastes. Just be aware that if there is more water than vinegar in the brine, it may not be suitable for canning.
Tip 3: Salt: Use pure sea salt without any additives or salt labeled ‘canning’ or ‘pickling’ salt. Additives in table salt may cause the brine to appear cloudy.
Homemade refrigerator pickle (Makes 64 servings)
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring one cup distilled white vinegar, one tablespoon salt and two cups white sugar to a boil until the sugar has dissolved, that is about ten minutes.
Place six cups sliced cucumbers, one cup sliced onions and one cup sliced green bell peppers in a large bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Transfer to sterile containers and store in the refrigerator.