About using pickling to save produce by salt curing

pickles and vinegar

In 2030 B.C. cucumbers native to India were brought to the Tigris Valley. There they were first preserved and eaten as pickles. Over the centuries they spread throughout Europe and by the 17th century made their way to America. In fact, America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, a ship’s chandler. He stocked ships with the vitamin C packed pickle which prevented scurvy among the crew members.

Today, pickles can be made three different ways: fresh-packed, refrigerated and cured or fermented. The curing process for making pickles involves placing cucumbers in a brine solution strong enough to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria but weak enough to encourage the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. They are further preserved by adding vinegar. Various herbs and spices are added to improve the flavor and allow for some creativity. Brining is a very old method of preserving fresh produce through fermentation. Pickling salt (pure sodium chloride) and water are mixed to create an anaerobic (without air) environment which encourages lactic acid fermentation while discouraging bacteria that cause spoilage. As a side benefit, the brine is perfect for infusing pickles with other flavors such as dill, spices and garlic.

There are no substitutes for pickling salt in brining and canning. All of our recipes are based on the use of pure flaked pickling salt. This is important for two reasons. The first is in measurements. For ease of use we have given recipe amounts in volume rather than weight. Since we use flaked salt which is very fine, a given volume of flaked salt can weigh as much as 30% more than table or other salts. Same volume, more salt. The second reason is the additional minerals, additives and treatments present in other salts can cause the brine to be hazy and contribute off flavors or inhibit fermentation.

Picking a Peck of Pickling Pickles:

There is a difference between cucumbers and pickles. While both are members of the cucumber family, the pickling variety are smaller, the skin is thinner and lighter in color and the ends are round and blunt rather than tapered. The best pickles will be very fresh, uniform in size and shape and have no yellow spots or bruises. Inspect fresh pickles for any signs of mold or soft spots. When possible purchase pickles which still have a small stem attached. This indicates that care was taken during harvesting to cut the pickle from the vine rather than pull them off, potentially damaging the vegetable. Pickles should be refrigerated until ready for brining.