Pick a Pack of Pickles

International Pickle Week officially kicks off today, May 16. Read on for some facts that will pickle…er, tickle you.

  • Americans eat an average of nine pounds of pickles every year.
  • America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a pickle merchant.
  • Christopher Columbus reportedly packed his ships (the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria) with vitamin-C rich pickles to keep his crew from getting scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin-C deficiency that often ravaged ship crews on long voyages.
  • 40 percent of U.S.-produced pickles were claimed by the U.S. Army for soldier rations during WWII.
  • Technically, pickles may be considered both a fruit and a vegetable. While they are made from cucumbers, which are a vegetable, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them a ‘fruit of the vine’ because of their seeds.
  • Elvis was a fan of fried pickles.
  • International Pickle Week was started in 1948 by the Pickle Packers International, Inc. trade association, to honor the ancient, world-renowned food during the heart of cucumber planting season.
  • The celebration actually lasts for 11 days, through May 26.
  • A new website has been created by the M.A. Gedney Company (producers of Cains, Gedney and Del Monte Pickles); each day during International Pickle Week, the website will reveal a new pickle project – trivia, activities, a daily recipe and more.

In summary, ‘Pickles have played an important role in our culture for more than 4,000 years,’ said Joe Pinto, vice president of marketing and sales for pickle producer M.A. Gedney Company. ‘What other food was considered a beauty treatment by Cleopatra, a performance enhancer by Napoleon and Julius Caesar, a medicinal necessity by explorers, and a comforting treat by Thomas Jefferson… and is still relevant and delicious today?’

Ice cream, anyone?

Source: Pickle Packers International

For a sneak preview of some of the website features, click here.

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Bite into a crunchy pickle (because the best pickles are always crunchy) and the last thing you’ll think of is “sweet,” but your dill obsession is ALL LIES. That’s because cucumbers are — news flash — technically fruits.

Just like tomatoes, pumpkins, and avocados, cukes count as vegetables in terms of supermarket organization, but not in the world of science. Botanically speaking, they’re more akin to watermelon and squash than carrots or lettuce. The truth is in the seeds.

All About Cukes

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fruit is “the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant enclosing the seed or seeds.” Likewise, Merriam-Webster defines it as “the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant.”

In the botany world, cucumbers further get classified as pepos, a type of berry with a hard outer rind and no internal divisions. Pumpkins, zucchini, and watermelons also go in this category. In fact, they all belong to the same gourd family, Cucurbitaceae.

While growers and chefs may still treat cucumbers as vegetables, they’re a solid food choice however you slice it.

“Cucumbers are an easy, nutritionally dense veggie filled with water and fiber,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. The negligible amount of calories in each cuke (just 16 in an entire cup!) means it’s the perfect vehicle for spreads and dips — like London’s favorites, hummus, goat cheese, and feta.

What about your beloved brine-soaked sours? “Pickles are a great choice too,” she says. “They help satisfy a ‘crunchy snack’ hankering, have all of the salty glory of some less-nutritious items like fried chips, and provide the benefit of still being a vegetable.”

Or a fruit — but you don’t have to think about that the next time you twist open a jar.

Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.

Is a Cucumber a Fruit or a Vegetable?

The cucumber is a favorite vegetable of many…but wait…is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?

First, what is a cucumber? A popular garden vegetable; popular for eating fresh, preserving in pickles, and adding to salads. The cucumber is the fruit of the Cucumis sativus plant which is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family.

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There are 2 general types of cucumbers:

  • slicing; which are used for fresh eating mostly
  • pickling; smaller, usually used for pickling

Growing up kids always flaunted the knowledge that a tomato is a fruit NOT a vegetable. And, while yes, that is true, have you ever stopped to think about what makes a vegetable versus what makes a fruit?

Plan your best garden ever with my Yearly Garden Planner. It has planning pages, records sheets and more to help you start seeds, keep track of pests and disease, and keep track of everything garden related.

Well, that depends based on who you are asking and what their criteria is for deciding.

So first let’s look at the technical definition of a fruit, according to Merriam Webster: “the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant”

So, let’s take a look at what this means for cucumbers.

According to Science: the cucumber is a fruit

As seen above, scientifically speaking, a fruit is the part of a plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds of the plant. According to botanical definitions, the fruit of a plant is what allows the plant to reproduce. It develops from the ovary of the flower and contains the seeds the plant needs to reproduce into future generation.

By this definition, a cucumber is a fruit. It develops from the flower of the cucumber plant and contains the seeds.

This also means that lots of other “vegetables” are also fruits: beans, peppers, pumpkins, okra, and of course, tomatoes.

All other parts of the plant- roots, leaves, stalks, etc- would be the vegetables.

So in the garden- the cucumber is the fruit of the plant. But bring it inside to the kitchen, and you may get a different answer!

Related Reading: Can Dogs Eat Cucumbers?

According to Cooks: the cucumber is a vegetable

In the kitchen and in the culinary world the cucumber would be described as a vegetable. Their less scientific criteria classifies fruits and vegetables based on sweetness and sugar content.

Fruits have a more delicate flavor. They have a softer texture and are sweet or tart in taste. Fruits are more likely to be featured in desserts, jams, smoothies, or other sweeter dishes. And I don’t know about you, but whether or not you can make a pie from it, can be a big deciding factor as well!

Vegetables are harder, with a somewhat bitter taste. They are used in savory dishes and soups.

So in the kitchen, cucumbers would be considered a vegetable as it is low in sugar and usually used in more savory dishes (though I’ve used them in a few sweeter dishes and they are delicious!)

Does It Really Matter?

NO! Cucumbers are delicious and have a lot of nutritional value- so no matter if you think a cucumber is a fruit or a vegetable keep on eating them and keep on growing them!

Cucumbers have a ton of uses from hydrating cucumber infused water to cucumber face masks. With their high water content and low calories, cucumbers make the perfect summertime snack.

Learn More About Cucumbers:

Check out these articles below to learn more about cucumbers, the benefits of cucumbers, how to store them, and more!

10 Ways to Preserve Cucumbers

14 Cucumber Water Recipes and Combinations

12 Benefits of Cucumber Water for Your Health

30+ Ways to Use Fresh Cucumbers

Best Cucumber Companion Plants

7 Tips for Growing Amazing Cucumbers

Michael Graydon

Preserving vegetables is a wonderful way to lock in summer flavours to be enjoyed during the colder months. It has also become a bit of a novelty, with pickles of all shapes and colours adorning plates across the nation. I once believed that a salty, tangy, garlicky dill pickle was the ultimate, but lately I have come across some other delicious pickled bites. Here are some things you should know about pickling:

Pickling tips

1. Preserved pickling refers to the process of soaking a fruit or vegetable in a solution of vinegar or brine, additional salt and possibly spices. Successful preserving requires a specific sterilization process to ensure that pickled products are safe to store. These guidelines are available at Health Canada. If pickled properly, your food items can be stored for months.

2. Recently, the method of quick pickling has become very popular. Quick pickling uses similar ingredients to preserved pickling, but items must be stored in the refrigerator and have a much shorter life span. The advantage of quick pickling is that you can experiment with new flavours, without the risk of wasting ingredients.

3. Regardless of which method you choose, always use Kosher salt. The use of any other salt will result in your pickles being too salty.

4. Try using flavoured vinegar which can add new twists to your favourite pickle recipes. Similarly, using brown sugar, honey or molasses instead of white sugar will impact the flavour of your pickles.

Six fruits and vegetables to preserve this season

Green cherry tomatoes: At the end of the season, or before your cherry tomatoes turn red, pick them for pickling. These tomatoes are best suited to preserved pickling because the crunchy texture holds up well and maintains its bite for months in storage. Opt for white vinegar and minimal sugar, and add hot peppers for a spicy infusion.
Tip: They make an excellent garnish for Caesars or martinis.

Radishes: Perfect for quick pickling, radish pickles can be ready in under an hour! Try this quick pickle recipe for radishes — the rice vinegar and sugar balance out the sharpness of the radish perfectly.
Tip: They make a great topping for burgers.

Corn: The sweetness of corn pairs nicely with the tangy zing of pickling. Pre-cook your corn and remove kernels from the cob before pickling. You can either use the preserved pickling or quick pickling method — both work well with corn.
Tip: Adding chilies to the pickling solution will balance the corn’s sweetness perfectly.

Beans: Beans are an excellent option for canning. They taste great treated with a garlic-dill solution, traditionally used for cucumber pickles.

Red onions: Red wine vinegar and red onions are a perfect match. Apply a quick pickle to your red onions and don’t forget a little sugar to sweeten the pot. Store onions in the fridge. One large red onion will need about 1 cup of pickling liquid.

Cucumbers: Opt for an Asian-inspired quick pickle instead of traditional dill pickling. Asian quick pickles are a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, sometimes fish sauce and soy sauce and almost always involve an awesome kick of spice. Other vegetables that are ideal for this pickle are carrots, daikon and cabbage.

Originally published September 1st, 2015.

Related:
Preserving 101: Recipes, tips and ingredients to get you started
How to make pickled apples

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by Heidi Strawn July 25, 2013


Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Only the freshest fruits and vegetables should be used in pickling to ensure a quality product. To see if your produce is ready to be pickled, follow the guidelines below.

Beans
Choose crisp, fresh beans, wash them well and trim the ends—no breaking or stringing necessary. Add chilies, dill and garlic for spicy beans or use a sweet brine for a different take.

Beets
Choose fresh, firm, unblemished beets. Remove any soft spots, and blanch to remove skins. Try golden or orange beets for color variety. Some recipes add sweet onions for additional flavor.

Cabbage
Cabbage can be a versatile vegetable to pickle, from fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and kimchi (a fiery hot pickled cabbage) to a sweet pickled cabbage slaw. You can use both red or green cabbage, but discard damaged and coarse outer leaves and rinse in cold water before pickling or fermenting. Measure salt carefully for sauerkraut—it’s important to have the correct amount for fermentation and preservation.

Carrots
As with other pickle candidates, carrots should be crisp, unblemished and fresh. Make use of different carrot varieties (purple, white, yellow and orange) to add color to your condiment plate and pantry shelf, but keep in mind that with some varieties, the color will bleed into the brine solution. Often, the brine is sweetened with sugar and studded with spices, but you can add onions, red peppers and cauliflower, too.

Cucumbers
Pickled cucumbers range from salty dills to sweet gherkins. For the crispiest, crunchiest results, cucumbers should be pickled soon after harvest. Choose small cucumbers to minimize the seedy center, which can be less crunchy. Slice off the blossom end (about 1/16 inch) and discard to help ensure crispness. Bread-and-butter pickles are often made with sliced onions and bell peppers, but again, you can add a little fire by using hot peppers instead.

Lemons
You can pickle and preserve citrus and rinds for various uses and recipes. Lemons pickled in water, salt and lemon juice are frequently used in Moroccan and Indian foods. Once they’ve fermented at room temperature, preserved lemons have a very strong lemon flavor but are less tart than a fresh lemon.

Peaches
Sweet, southern pickled peaches are wonderful in the depth of winter. Choose fresh peaches that are unblemished and not overripe. Blanch and cool to remove skins, and halve to pit. The pickling syrup is usually a mixture of vinegar, sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon.

Peppers
Pickled peppers vary widely depending on the type of pepper used, the preparation method and the brine. They can be added to other pickles for color and heat or pickled by themselves. Choose peppers that are fresh, brightly colored and thickly fleshed. Hungarian, Cubanelle, yellow wax, sweet bell, sweet banana and sweet cherry peppers all work well. If you’re pickling whole peppers, make two or three slits in each pepper to allow the pickling solution to penetrate the pepper.

Tomatoes
Do you have the happy dilemma of too many tomatoes? Pickle them. You can pickle green, unripe tomatoes, as well as ripe tomatoes, with a variety of sweet and salty solutions. Again, don’t choose overripe fruit. Cherry tomatoes make great, bite-sized pickles, as well.

Watermelon Rind
Coming from the era of waste not, want not, watermelon-rind pickles use part of the fruit that often ends up discarded, creating a sweet treat with a pear-like texture. Allow some time for preparing them—you’ll need to soak the rinds overnight.

Ready for More?
The foods that can be pickled are only limited by your pantry space. Check out these other sweet, spicy, sour and salty options. For recipes, contact your local cooperative extension office.

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Apples
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Blueberries
  • Capers
  • Cherries
  • Citrus (lemons, oranges, limes)
  • Corn (relish)
  • Eggplant
  • Fiddlehead ferns
  • Figs
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Kiwi
  • Nasturtiums
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peppers (sweet and hot)
  • Pineapples
  • Radishes
  • Ramps
  • Shrimp
  • Star fruit

Proteins

  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Tofu

Pickle Basics

Pickled products truly add spice to meals and snacks. The skillful blending of spices, sugar and vinegar with fruits and vegetables creates a crisp, firm texture and a pungent, sweet-sour flavor.

Although food markets today offer a wide variety of pickles and relishes, many homemakers like to make their own pickled products when garden vegetables and fresh fruits are in abundant supply.

Types of Pickled Products

Various types of pickled products can be made depending on the ingredients used and the methods of preparation. There are four general classes:

Brined Pickles or Fermented Pickles: These go through a curing process in a brine (salt and water) solution for one or more weeks. Curing changes the color, flavor and texture of the product. If the product is a fermented one, the lactic acid produced during fermentation helps preserve the product. In brined products that are cured but not fermented, acid in the form of vinegar is added later to preserve the food.

Fresh Pack or Quick Process Pickles: These are covered with boiling hot vinegar, spices and seasonings. Sometimes, the product may be brined for several hours and then drained before being covered with the pickling liquid. These pickles are easy to prepare and have a tart flavor. Fresh pack or quick pickles have a better flavor if allowed to stand for several weeks after they are sealed in jars.

Fruit Pickles: These are prepared from whole or sliced fruits and simmered in a spicy, sweet-sour syrup made with vinegar or lemon juice.

Relishes: These are made from chopped fruits and vegetables cooked to desired consistency in a spicy vinegar solution.

The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to safety as it is to taste and texture. Never alter the proportions of vinegar, food or water in a recipe. Use only tested recipes. By doing so, you can help prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces a highly toxic poison in low acid foods.

Ingredients

Produce: Select tender vegetables and firm fruit. Pears and peaches may be slightly underripe for pickling.

Always use a pickling variety of cucumbers. Do not expect good quality pickles if you use “table” or “slicing” cucumbers. Seed catalogs are a good source of information about cucumber varieties suitable for pickling. If you buy cucumbers, select unwaxed ones for pickling whole, because the brine solutions cannot penetrate the wax. Use 1½-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 highest quality, plan to pickle the fruits or vegetables within 24 hours after they have been harvested. If the produce cannot be used immediately, refrigerate it, or spread it where it will be well-ventilated and cool. This is particularly important for cucumbers because they deteriorate rapidly, especially at room temperature.

Just before pickling, sort the fruits and vegetables and select the size best suited for the specific recipe. Wash well, especially around the stems. Soil trapped here can be a source of bacteria responsible for the softening of pickles. Be sure to remove a 1/16-inch slice from the blossom end of the vegetables. The blossoms contain enzymes that also can cause softening.

Do not use fruits and vegetables that show even slight evidence of mold. Proper processing kills potential spoilage organisms but does not destroy the off-flavor that may have already been produced by mold growth on the fruit or vegetables.

Salt: Pure granulated salt, such as “pickling” or “canning” salt should be used. It can be purchased from grocery, hardware or farm supply stores. Other salts contain anti-caking materials that may make the brine cloudy. Do not alter salt concentrations in fermented pickles or sauerkraut. Proper fermentation depends on correct proportions of salt and other ingredients.

Vinegar: Use cider or white vinegar of 5-percent acidity (50 grain), the acidity for most commercially bottled vinegars. Cider vinegar has good flavor and aroma, but may darken white or light-colored fruits and vegetables. White distilled vinegar is often used for onions, cauliflower and pears where clear color is desired. Do not use homemade vinegar or vinegar of unknown acidity in pickling. Do not dilute vinegar unless the recipe specifies. If a less sour product is preferred, add sugar rather than dilute the vinegar.

Sugar: Use white sugar unless the recipe calls for brown. White sugar gives a product a lighter color, but brown sugar may be preferred for flavor. If you plan to use a sugar substitute, follow recipes developed for these products. Sugar substitutes are not usually recommended, as heat and/or storage may alter their flavor. Also, sugar helps to plump the pickles and keep them firm.

Spices: Use fresh whole spices for the best quality and flavor in pickles. Powdered spices may cause the product to darken and become cloudy. Pickles will darken less if you tie whole spices loosely in a clean white cloth or cheesecloth bag and then remove the bag from the product before packing the jars. Spices deteriorate and quickly lose their pungency in heat and humidity. Therefore, store any unused spices in an airtight container in a cool place.

Water: When brining pickles, hard water may interfere with the formation of acid and prevent pickles from curing properly. To soften hard water, simply boil it 15 minutes and let set for 24 hours, covered. Remove any scum that appears. Slowly pour water from the containers so the sediment will not be disturbed. Discard the sediment. The water is now ready for use. Distilled water can also be used in pickle making, but is more expensive.

Firming Agents: If good-quality ingredients are used and up-to-date methods are followed, lime and alum are not needed for crisp pickles. Soaking cucumbers in ice water for four to five hours prior to pickling is a safer method for making crisp pickles. Another safe option for firming pickles is Pickle Crisp®),a product containing calcium chloride; use according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alum is no longer recommended and inadequate removal of lime may increase risk of botulism.

The calcium in lime does improve pickle firmness. If you choose to use lime, purchase food-grade pickling lime from your grocer’s shelves. Do not use agricultural or burnt lime. 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 ABSORBED BY THE CUCUMBERS MUST BE REMOVED TO MAKE SAFE PICKLES. To remove excess lime, drain the lime-water solution, rinse and then re-soak the cucumbers in fresh water for one hour. REPEAT THE RINSING AND SOAKING STEPS TWICE MORE.

Equipment

The right equipment prevents pickle failure and saves time and energy. Read each recipe completely to make sure you have the right equipment before you start to make pickled products.

Containers & Weights for Fermentation: Pickles and sauerkraut can be fermented in large stoneware crocks, large glass jars or food-grade plastic containers. To determine if a plastic container is food-grade, check the label or contact its manufacturer. Or, line the questionable container with several thicknesses of food-grade plastic bags. Do not use aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron containers for fermenting pickles or sauerkraut. The container needs to be large enough to allow several inches of space between the top of the food and the top of the container. Usually a 1-gallon container is needed for each 5 pounds of fresh vegetables.

After the vegetables are placed in the container and covered with brine, they must be completely submerged in the brine. A heavy plate or glass lid that fits down inside the container can be used. If extra weight is needed, a glass jar(s) filled with water and sealed can be set on top of the plate or lid. The vegetables should be covered by 1 to 2 inches of brine. Another option for submerging the vegetables in brine is to place one food-grade plastic bag inside another and fill the inside bag with some of the pickling brine, in case the bags are accidentally punctured. Freezer bags sold for packaging turkeys are the right size for 5-gallon containers. Close the end securely. Then use this filled bag as the weight on top of the vegetables. Filling the bag with brine is a precaution, in case the bags are accidentally punctured.

Equipment for Fresh Pack Pickles: Pickling liquids should be heated in a stainless steel, aluminum, glass or unchipped enamelware saucepan. Do not use copper, brass, galvanized or iron utensils. These metals can react with acids or salts and cause undesirable color changes in the pickles.

For short-term brining or soaking, use crocks, saucepans or bowls made from stoneware, glass, stainless steel, aluminum or unchipped enamelware. Except for the aluminum, the same containers can be used for soaking vegetables in lime. Lime pits aluminum containers and can cause an increased level of aluminum in the pickles.

Household Scales: Household scales will be needed if the recipes specify ingredients by weight. They are necessary in making sauerkraut to ensure correct proportions of salt and shredded cabbage.

Processing Equipment: A boiling water bath canner is needed for processing pickles that will be stored at room temperature.

Processing

Processing is necessary for all pickles and relishes to destroy the yeasts, molds and bacteria that may cause the product to spoil and also to inactivate enzymes that could affect color, flavor and texture of pickled products. A seal is necessary to prevent other microorganisms from entering the jars.

Pickles and relishes are high-acid products. This acid may come from the large amount of added vinegar. In brined or fermented pickles, acid is produced naturally during the fermentation process by lactic acid bacteria. Like other high acid foods, they are processed in a boiling water bath canner.

All canning jars should be washed in soapy water, rinsed well and then kept hot. Jars that will be processed for less than 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner do need to be sterilized by boiling them for 10 minutes before filling. Jars processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more will be sterilized during processing. Use new two-piece lids and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for treating them.

Carefully place filled jars onto a rack in the canner containing hot water. The water should be deep enough to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner and bring water to a boil. Start counting processing time as soon as the water begins to boil. Process for the length of time specified in the recipe, keeping the water boiling. If no time is given, process the pickled product for at least 10 minutes.

For more information on using a water bath canner, request HGIC 3040, Canning Foods at Home, and HGIC 3020, Home Canning Equipment.

On Guard Against Spoilage

Always be on the alert for signs of spoilage. Before opening a jar examine it closely. A bulging lid or leakage may mean the contents are spoiled. When a jar is opened, look for other signs of spoilage such as spurting liquid, disagreeable odor, change in color or unusual softness, and mushiness or slipperiness of product. If there is even the slightest indication of spoilage, do not taste the contents. Dispose of the food so that it cannot be eaten by humans or animals.

Common Pickle Problems

Can I use flaked salt for pickling? Most recipes call for granulated pickling or canning salt. Flake salt varies in density and is not recommended.

When making quick process pickles, can I store any leftover pickling solution for future use? If the pickling solution is fresh and has not been used to make pickles, cover it and store in the refrigerator for later use. If the pickling solution has been used, store in the refrigerator and reuse in a day or two for barbecue sauce, coleslaw dressing or a marinade. If mold growth occurs, throw it out.

Why did the liquid in my dill pickles turn pink? Using over-mature dill may cause this. If so, the product is still safe. However, yeast growth could also cause this. If yeast growth is evident, discard the pickles.

Can I use burpless cucumbers for pickling? Burpless cucumbers are not recommended for use in fermented pickles. This is because at their normal mature size, they produce an enzyme that causes the pickles to soften during fermentation. However, if smaller burpless cucumbers (those with small seed) are used, they may be suitable for making fresh pack pickles.

I have an old recipe that calls for adding a grape leaf to each jar of pickles. Why? Grape leaves contain a substance that inhibits enzymes that make pickles soft. However, if you remove the blossom end of the cucumbers (the source of undesirable enzymes) you don’t need to add grape leaves.

Why did the garlic cloves in my pickles turn green or bluish green? This reaction may be due to iron, tin or aluminum in your cooking pot, water or water pipes reacting with pigments in garlic. Or, the garlic may naturally have more bluish pigment, and it is more evident after pickling. Immature bulbs should be cured two to four weeks at 70 °F. The pickles are safe to eat.

Why are my pickles turning cloudy? While fermenting pickles, the brine might become cloudy due to lactic acid bacteria growth during the fermentation. If a noncloudy appearance is desired, a fresh brine can be used to pack the pickles when they are ready for processing.

In nonfermented pickles (fresh pack), cloudiness might indicate spoilage. Check the pickles for signs of off-odors and mushiness. If these signs are absent, the pickles are safe to eat.

Fillers (anticaking agents) in regular table salt may cause slight cloudiness, so always use pickling salt.

Hard water might also cause cloudiness. If soft water is not available, boil the hard water and let it sit undisturbed overnight. Pour off the top portion and use it in the pickling solution.

My favorite pickle recipe is from my grand-mother and does not call for a boiling water bath process. Do I really need to process pickles? Processing is necessary for all pickles and relishes to destroy the yeasts, molds and bacteria that may cause the product to spoil and also to inactivate enzymes that could affect color, flavor and texture of the pickled product. Process pickled products for the length of time specified in the recipe. If no time is given, process the product for at least 10 minutes.

My neighbor gave me some pickles he made by just pouring vinegar over fresh cucumbers. Are they safe? Cucumbers, hot peppers, hard-cooked eggs and horseradish can be put in sterilized jars, covered with hot vinegar, and stored in the refrigerator. To ensure safety, jars and lids must be sterilized, only pure 5-percent acidity vinegar must be used, and the product must be stored in the refrigerator. Herbs, like dill, can be added.

I have been making some wonderful flavored vinegars. Can these homemade vinegars be used to make pickles? Save the homemade or flavored vinegars for things like salads. When making pickles, use only commercially produced 5-percent acidity cider or white vinegar. The acidity level of homemade vinegars is unknown and may make the pickles unsafe.

For more information on pickling foods, request HGIC 3420, Pickled Cucumbers; HGIC 3400, Pickled Foods; HGIC 3440, Pickled Peppers; and HGIC 3380, Dill Pickles & Sauerkraut.

This one has troubled us for some time.

Yes, there are matters of greater consequence. But consider that the age-old conundrum “war—what is it good for?” was solved by Edwin Starr, a mere one-hit wonder. Meanwhile the status of the pickle continues to baffle great minds.

For example, U.S. Supreme Court justices were so confounded by the question they settled on a vague “fruit of the vine” ruling (see Nix v Hedden, where the court also muddled the tomato’s status). Granted, some of that group may not qualify for the great minds category. Yet when the Burning Question crew approached faculty at CSU Monterey Bay, shopping the question to several experts, the profs were equally daunted. In fact, none expressed confidence in an answer. The stumbling block? Whether there is significant nutritional transformation between a cucumber and pickle.

Probably should be the topic of a seminar.

Even those who work with pickles on a regular basis struggle. “It’s definitely up for interpretation,” says Jordan Champagne of Happy Girl Kitchen Co. in Pacific Grove, who pickles cucumbers, beets, string beans and just about anything else she gets her hands on. “What about the half sour? Vegetable on the inside, pickle on the outside.”

Kera Abraham

Gabriel Arquelles, veteran chef at Tarpy’s Roadhouse was stymied, as well. “We consider it a vegetable,” he points out with some confidence, before hedging. “Well, actually, it’s kind of weird.”

Like the Supreme Court, Arquelles backtracked, questioning whether the pickle even starts out as a vegetable.

“When you eat a raw cucumber, is it a fruit?” he asks. “It’s complicated.”

Like Justice Clarence Thomas, Jose Miguel, manager at American Burger in Monterey, had never really pondered the pickle pickle (see, the word is even synonymous with “problem”). When we posed it, however, he also balked.

“It’s not a cucumber,” he says. And this from a man who puts pickles on almost every dish he serves at the restaurant.

My research—some bars have Wi-Fi, so we were able to do some serious digging—could not even settle whether pickles are healthy or harmful.

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Fermenting foods helps break down cellulose, making digestion easier. They are full of antioxidants and probiotics, which is good. They are packed with vitamin K, which must be good (we didn’t pursue our research that far; happy hour interfered). On the other hand, the USDA claims that one pickle accounts for about half of the daily recommended allotment of sodium. Probably not so good.

Karen Loutzenheiser

Still, Americans consume a lot of pickles—9 pounds per person each year, according to some measures. At American Burger, Miguel goes through at least two gallons of pre-sliced pickles each week.

Our taste for pickled cucumbers and other vegetables (or fruit—now we’re unclear even on that) is likely due to the long history of food preservation. Before the era of refrigeration, people were forced to cure meats, turn fruits into jam and pickle the other stuff to ensure food throughout the year. The process ensured items would not go to waste.

“It would just be tilled back into the field,” Champagne explains. “Pickling is about preserving something.”

So vegetable or condiment? It’s complicated. We only found one person willing to take a stand.

Weekly contributor and columnist Mary Duan intervened with an adamant message. “A pickle is a vegetable,” she says. “So it is written, so it is done.”

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PICKLES & PICKLE TRIVIA

According to the USDA, 97.500 acres of Cucumbers were harvested for Pickles in the U.S. in 2009.
During WWII, the U.S. Government tagged 40 percent of all pickle production for the ration kits of the armed forces.
Berrien Springs, Michigan, is known as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World.
Pickles: Fruit or Vegetable? Actually, they are both! According to the U.S. Supreme Court, because they have seeds, pickles are technically a “fruit of the vine”. However, because they are made from cucumbers, they are generally known as a vegetable.
A German custom that originated in the ornament making district of Lauscha, good luck or an extra present goes to the first one to find a glass pickle ornament hidden on the Christmas tree. The custom has spread to the United States.
26 billion pickles are packed each year in the U.S. That’s about nine pounds of pickles per person.
According to pickle industry research, the average American prefers 7 ‘warts’ per square inch, Europeans prefer pickles with no ‘warts.’ A pickles crunch should be audible from 10 paces away.
More than half the cucumbers grown in the U.S. are made into pickles.
Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named, was a pickle merchant before becoming an explorer.
Pickling has been used to preserve food for almost 5,000 years.
Heinz was a marketing and advertising pioneer. His company had the largest commercial exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and in 1900 erected the first electric sign in New York, a 40 foot pickle!
Supposedly originating in the Mississippi Delta, the popularity of Kool-Aid Pickles is spreading. You can find them in red, yellow, orange…. all the colors of Kool-Aid, and kids love them. Just make double strength Kool-Aid, add sugar and pickles (cut lengthwise) and let it sit for a week in the fridge. (2007)

Pickles and Pickling. Any food can be pickled, but a “PICKLE” used as a NOUN refers to a pickled CUCUMBER. There are pickled vegetables of all types, as well as various pickled fish, etc.
Pickling is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. Pickling is the preserving of food in an acid (usually vinegar), and it is this acid environment that prevents undesirable bacteria growth. However, how and what kind of acid gets into the liquid is what can cause some confusion about the use of salt.
Most pickled foods are salted or soaked in brine first to draw out moisture that would dilute the acid that is added to ‘pickle’ the food.
1) Vinegar can be added directly to the liquid that the food is placed in.
2) The food can be place in brine (salt and water) – this is what causes confusion. Even though it may seem that pickling can be done with either an acid (vinegar, etc.) or salt, that is not strictly true. That is because the amount of salt in the solution is carefully measured to allow natural fermentation which produces lactic acid. So pickled foods that are made with brine (salt and water) are really made with an acid- – but instead of directly adding acid, conditions are created so that the fermentation creates its own acid! This is a tricky process because just enough salt needs to be added to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, and the correct temperature maintained, to still allow the growth of several specific bacteria that produce lactic acid.
3) Some cucumber pickles are made with a combination of both methods. They are soaked in a strong brine with vinegar added in specific proportions so that they still ferment and produce additional acid (lactic acid).
I hope this explains pickles and pickling without being too confusing.
Chef James

If you find yourself with lots of extra vegetables, never fear. We have a pickle recipe for that! It really is true that you can pickle almost anything, from the classic dill pickle recipe to any number of weirder pickles with apples and watermelon rinds.

The great thing about pickles is how easy they are to make. First you decide if it’s shelf stable or a quick pickle. Any pickle that you’re looking to put on the shelf needs to processed in a boiling water bath in a large saucepan. The hot water protects the contents from bacteria growth. If you’re more interested in refrigerator pickles, the rules are much more loosey goosey.

Then you get to choose your vinegar – I like using white vinegar or cider vinegar, but really you can use any vinegar with an acidity above 5 percent. Next comes kosher salt and sugar to preserve the vegetable itself. Finally, throw in some flavorings. Anything from fresh dill, dill seed, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns will work to spice it up and flavor your pickles.

If you’re looking for specific inspiration, read on for a pickle recipe to fit every mood. We included our favorite recipes to make popular (and some more uncommon) pickles.

1. Eggs

Food and Wine

If you’re my age, you might remember those jars of pickled eggs in bars. You wouldn’t touch those things with a ten-foot pole! These days, beet pickled eggs are all the rage. They look beautiful and add a light tang to your favorite hard-boiled egg.

Get the recipe here.

2. Cucumbers

Epicurious

Cucumbers are the most classic pickle for a reason. You can slice them or quarter them, but I love pickling them whole. The best type of cucumbers to use for a whole, quick pickled cucumber is small pickling cucumbers or Kirby cucumbers. Do make sure to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber or your pickles will be too soft. These pickles are best when crunchy in texture!

Get the recipe here.

3. Beets

Taste of Home

I like to call pickled beets the winter tomatoes. Roast them, slice ’em, and toss them in a brine. When you pull them out, you’ll be surprised at how much they taste like tomatoes! They have a delicately earthy flavor coupled with tangy notes and a sweet aftertaste. These are my favorite pickles to use on falafel sandwiches.

Get the recipe here.

4. Jalapeño

Gimme Delicious

If you don’t like your food super spicy, pickle up some jalapenos to tame their heat a little bit. They also soften the flesh of the peppers and add a nice, acidic flavor. Use a combination of red Fresno and green jalapeños to give these pickles a pleasing appearance. This recipe is perfect to use as a topper on nachos or on banh mi sandwiches.

Get the recipe here.

5. Okra

Southern Living

Okra might be most popular for thickening up gumbo soups, but any true Southerner will tell you that pickled okra is the way to go. Preserve your summer okra crop with this tasty pickle recipe. The dill seeds and the garlic give it a boost of flavor, and canning it in a boiling water bath will preserve the okra for the rest of the year.

Get the recipe here.

6. Onion

The View from Great Island

Tame the flavor of raw onions with a little pickling solution. Sweet onions make the best-pickled onions, especially the short-seasoned Vidalia onions. They make an excellent onion slaw, or you can use them as-is on a burger to add some sweetness to the sandwich.

Get the recipe here.

7. Red Onion

Serious Eats

Red onion pickles have the most beautiful color. They stand bright magenta in the jar and they’ll add a burst of color to any dish! Pickled red onions are my favorite taco topping because they’re quick and easy. They come together while you make the rest of the taco toppings.

Get the recipe here.

8. Bell Peppers

Smitten Kitchen

This recipe for garlicky red peppers is a mixture of preserve roasted peppers and pickled bell peppers. They have a beautifully soft texture and pack all the flavor you’ve come to know and love about bell peppers. If you want to eat peppers in the winter, this recipe is the way to go.

Get the recipe here.

9. Carrots

Eating Well

Mexican pickled carrots (also known as escabeche) packs a ton of crunch alongside a burst of flavor. They make an amazing addition to bloody Mary cocktails but they’re also tasty eaten on their own as a palate cleanser. Just be careful – these pickles are seriously spicy!

Get the recipe here.

10. Radish

Cookie and Kate

Are you ready for your new favorite pickle recipe? Thinly sliced radishes not only look beautiful on top of a fresh summer salad, but they also lighten up a rich piece of roasted meat. There’s no way to better preserve a spring crop of red radish, French breakfast, or the multi-colored varieties.

Get the recipe here.

11. Banana Pepper

The Country Cook

There’s something completely iconic about a sweet and tangy banana pepper ring. They brighten up regular-old sandwiches and make a colorful addition to antipasto platters. There’s almost nothing you can’t do with banana peppers, so don’t be afraid to experiment

Get the recipe here.

12. Ginger

Just One Cookbook

Sweet pickled ginger is the classic side to sushi dishes, but don’t think it’s so specialized that you can’t make it at home. All you need for this simple pickled ginger recipe is vinegar, salt, and sugar! If you can find young ginger at the farmers market with its thin, delicate skin, this recipe will turn out even better.

Get the recipe here.

13. Asparagus

The Elliott Homestead

This spring vegetable quickly vaulted to the top of my seasonal list after living in the Pacific Northwest. I realized it was so much more versatile than the simple steamed asparagus of my childhood. Saute it, grill it, or (best yet) pickle it and serve it with bloody Mary’s!

Get the recipe here.

14. Green Tomatoes

Love and Olive Oil

While you’re waiting for your tomatoes to ripen, you may as well snag a few of the unripened variety. Instead of being soft and sweet, these unripened tomatoes are super firm and tart. They’re perfect for pan frying in a little cornmeal, or you can pickle them and eat them for months. These make exceptional green BLT sandwiches and they’re amazing with breakfast egg dishes, too.

Get the recipe here.

15. Fish

In-Fisherman

Before you discount this recipe, give it a try! The fish is pickled in wine, which adds a delicate flavor while maintaining the fish’s texture. To be safe, since you’re not cooking the fish, make sure you freeze it for 48 hours first. This will kill any parasites that might be living in the flesh.

Get the recipe here.

16. Watermelon Rind

Alton Brown

This Southern treat was a favorite in my college dorm room. My roommate’s mother would send her a few jars every month and they would be gone before you know it! They’re delicious and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.

Get the recipe here.

17. Cabbage

Edible Perspective

We’ve all heard of fermented cabbage (like kimchi and sauerkraut), but have you ever pickled cabbage? It’s a great way to keep the crispy, crunchy texture of the cabbage while mellowing out the brassica’s flavor. Use this gem of a pickle recipe in any instance where you would use raw (or fermented) cabbage.

Get the recipe here.

18. Cauliflower

Recipe Girl

Giardiniera is one of my favorite off-style pickles because they’re first brined then packed in oil. You almost always use bell peppers and carrots in giardiniera, but the pickled cauliflower bites are absolutely my favorite. This recipe is great because you get spicy pickled cauliflower first, then you get seasoned oil to use afterward!

Get the recipe here.

19. Sausage

James and Everett

Did you even know that pickled sausage is a thing? Of course it is! This recipe for spicy, smoked sausage is a popular Czech appetizer. It’s the easiest way to make a sandwich – just grab a jar, a little bit of mustard, and your favorite rye bread. Voila – lunch is served!

Get the recipe here.

20. Mushrooms

Saveur

These soy sauce and sherry pickled shiitake mushrooms are simply bursting with flavor. They’re a sure fire way to add some umami notes to any dish! Talk about a great way to repurpose dried shiitake mushrooms, too. After you finish soaking them to make vegetable broth, turn them into pickles.

Get the recipe here.

21. Mango

Food Network

I love using mango in salsa, but recently this pickled mango is my go-to ingredient. The soft mango flesh really picks up on all of the spices – chile de arbol, black peppercorns, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, ginger, and lemon. It’s an absolute flavor bomb and I want to eat it on everything!

Get the recipe here.

22. Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash

BHG

Bread and butter pickled zucchini are one of my favorite additions to any sandwich. I love the idea that, back in lean times, you would make a pickle that would make a satisfying lunch with just bread and butter. It’s a great story and an even better pickle!

Get the recipe here.

Watch: Pickle Things Every Dill Lover Needs

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For several millennia, we’ve relied on pickling as a means of food preservation and storage. Since then, pickling has evolved into a culinary trend and art form that extends well beyond the standard cucumber. You can pickle almost any fruit or veggie to create briny snacks, colorful relishes, and tasty recipe garnishes. So round up those Ball jars, pick your produce, and start pickling.

Pickled fruits:

  • Pickle leftover watermelon rinds to create a sweet yet savory condiment that pairs well with pan-seared pork chops.
  • Try these tangy, pickled pears in an arugula salad or enjoy them as a stand-alone snack.
  • Pickled figs make for a delectable accompaniment to any grilled meat.
  • Take your Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine to the next level by pickling your own lemons.
  • Spice up dessert with pickled grapes infused with cinnamon and black pepper.
  • Add peeled ginger and smoky spices to pickled mango for a flavorful fruit relish.
  • Transform meaty red tomatoes into bright pickles that will give ketchup a run for its money.
  • For a pop of flavor, toss pickled pineapple in a Southeast Asian-inspired stir-fry dish.
  • Save that pumpkin shell after Halloween and pickle it for a zesty addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Pickled vegetables:

  • Venture away from thick-skinned and root vegetables by pickling green beans instead.
  • Cooked vegetables like roasted tri-colored peppers make delicious pickles and brighten up any appetizer plate.
  • Pickled beets are a traditional picnic food that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.
  • Punch up bland cauliflower by pickling it with carrots and red bell peppers.
  • Create sweet and sour ramps (wild leeks) when you preserve them with vinegar instead of butter.
  • Kick up any dish with pickled green chili peppers and enjoy the flavor when fresh ones are out of season.
  • Combine pickled eggplant chunks with olive oil and feta cheese for a savory appetizer best served alongside fresh bread.
  • There is no need for ranch dressing when you pickle your own celery sticks.
  • Celebrate the flavors of the south and enjoy pickled okra.
  • Swap the same ol’ dill pickle for halved Brussels sprouts.
  • Pair briny, pickled corn alongside your go-to grilled dishes all summer long.

by Heidi Strawn January 18, 2016

Excerpt from the Popular Kitchen Series magabook Canning & Preserving with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Canning & Preserving here.

There are four general methods for pickling: quick, salt-brined, vinegar-brined and fermented. Within those basic pickling techniques, there exist many variations to pickle different vegetables and fruits and to make relishes and chutneys. Each pickling method has its own benefits, and some produce lends itself better to one method or another.

Quick-pickle method: Items that are pickled using the quick-pickle technique sometimes are called “fresh pickles.” The vegetables and/or fruits to be pickled are trimmed and/or chopped, sliced or left whole. In some cases, the produce is blanched (asparagus, for example) or cooked until tender (beets) and cooled. Then the produce is packed into canning jars, and a heated pickling liquid is poured over the jars’ contents. The liquid generally consists of vinegar and water, and it can include spices, herbs, sugar and salt flavor. Sometimes, the vegetables and/or fruits are heated in the liquid before being packed into canning jars. Quick pickling works well with cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, hot or sweet peppers and green beans, among other vegetables. Fruits such as cherries and crab apples also are great for quick pickling.

Salt-brined method: Some vegetables, such as cucumbers and zucchini, benefit from having some of their natural water removed before the pickling liquid is added. By adding salt – either on its own or in a salt-water brine – the water is drawn out of the vegetables’ cells. This allows the pickling liquid to penetrate into the cells more thoroughly, giving the pickling items more flavor, better texture and a longer shelf life. Vegetables usually are doused with salt for at least a few hours and up to an entire day. The excess salt then is rinsed off and the vegetables drained well and packed into canning jars, either cold or heated. Finally, a vinegar-based pickling liquid is added to create the proper acidic conditions and to add flavor. Again, spices, sugar and herbs can be added to vary the flavor. Bread-and-butter pickles (also known as sweet-and-sour pickles) and kosher-style dill pickles are classic examples of the salt-brined pickling technique. This method also is used for cabbage, zucchini, eggplant and other juicy vegetables.

Vinegar-brined method: These pickled items are a little more complex to make than the previous two methods. The vinegar-brined technique basically follows the same process for salt-brined pickles – drawing the water out of the vegetables’ or fruits’ cells to make room for the pickling liquid. In this method, the water is gradually drawn out in stages by soaking, draining and soaking again, using a vinegar solution, sometimes in combination with a salt-water brine and often with plenty of sugar. The cells of the vegetables or fruits then can be completely saturated with pickling liquid, providing a savory flavor and texture. Traditional recipes, such as nine-day or 12-day pickles and sweet gherkins, are examples of vinegar-brined pickles. The vinegar-brined technique is also used for soft fruits and for watermelon rind, though usually with fewer steps than for vegetables.

Fermented method: This is a considerably different technique from the others, though it uses a salt-water brine. The vegetables are covered in a salt-water brine, weighed down to make sure the vegetables are immersed and left at a specific temperature – usually at room temperature – to ferment.

During fermentation, the salt draws the liquid out of the cells, and naturally occurring microbes digest the sugars from the liquid and form lactic acid (among other substances). The lactic acid reduces the pH to a level that preserves the vegetables. There’s no need to add vinegar, sugar or citrus juices to fully fermented pickled items. Through the fermentation process, the food develops aromas and flavors that give fermented pickles their unique character. Sauerkraut is the most famous example of a fermented pickle, and the pungent flavor of “crock-cured” or “barrel-fermented” deli-style dills comes from this natural fermentation method, too.

Relishes and chutneys essentially are pickled foods, just with more finely chopped pieces and often with combinations of vegetables and/or fruits rather than just one variety. Many relishes use the salt-brine method to remove some of the natural water content first, giving the relish more robust flavors. Chutney is a little different, in that it is simmered longer to create a thicker, jam-like consistency, but it consists of the same basic ingredients: vegetables and/or fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Pickle fruit or vegetable

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