Pickling vegetables is one of the oldest forms of food preservation, and although initially used only for that purpose, its popularity grew over time, as cuisines all over the world started recognizing its health benefits and exquisite taste.
If you're looking to learn how to pickle your own vegetables and discover the best practices to ensure the optimal results, we've created this simple guide you can follow, and enjoy the fruits (or better vegetables) of your own labor in no time.
Necessary Equipment And Ingredients
First things first, you'll need:
- Airtight mason jars - the jars will secure your veggies while at the same time prevent the fermentation smell from overpowering the fridge.
- Vinegar - the most commonly used include white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, distilled white vinegar, and rice wine vinegar. They all do the trick but taste completely different, so experiment with each and every one of them before deciding on your favorite. Everyone's taste buds are different and while some might prefer white wine vinegar with their cucumbers, others might enjoy a more Asian-inspired, rice wine vinegar flavor.
- Salt - one of the key ingredients in pickling, salt needs to be of the right quality in order to dissolve nicely and enrich your fermentation. Avoid all salts with additives and anti-caking agents which can not only influence your liquid quality and color, but also turn into clumps of salt, negatively impacting your flavor. Although your best bet would be a special kind of salt created specifically for pickling, natural sea salt will do just fine. Just make sure it's not too coarse as it will take longer to dissolve.
- Sugar - depending on your preferences, you can use white cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, or even coconut nectar. Keep in mind that every type of sugar has a different flavor, so experiment with different options and see what pairs well with your veggies of choice. You can also omit the sugar altogether as it's mostly there just for flavor, masking the tartness and sourness.
- Water - aim for purified water, filtered out from all the possible compounds like fluoride and chlorine that might negatively impact the pickling process.
- Spices and herbs - some classic pickling recipes include specific spices and herbs, depending on the culture and tradition they stem from, but there is literally no reason why you wouldn't change them or create your own versions.
Which Vegetables Are Good For Pickling?
The majority of people are familiar with pickled cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, cabbage (also known as sauerkraut), and red beets, but did you know you can actually pickle everything from carrots, tomatoes, and cauliflower to mushrooms, squash, and even avocados?The possibilities are endless and it all depends on what you have in the kitchen and want to turn into a pickled delicacy.
Let's Start Pickling!
Now that you know what you need to prepare in advance, take out your desired veggies and cut them up in strips, thin disks, coins, or small cubes. Some vegetables like beets need to be cooked beforehand, others like green beans and asparagus need to be blanched, but the majority can be left raw.Place them in your prepared jars, add any spices and herbs you'd like, and make sure you don't overstuff them as you'll need space for the brine. You can also mix and match your veggies and place onions and carrots together, or cucumbers and cabbage, and get the benefits of both while creating the perfect flavor combination.
Make The Brine
A basic brine recipe follows a very simple formula: equal parts vinegar and water, although the ratio can be changed depending on your preferences. Some people really love their pickles acidic, so they ramp up the vinegar, while others prefer the taste to be more subtle.
Place your vinegar and water mixture in a pot (the amount will depend on how many jars you're planning to fill), add in salt, sugar, and other spices, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the salt and sugar.
After two to three minutes, remove it from the heat and pour it over the vegetables, filling each mason jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. Take the jars and gently tap them against your kitchen counter a few times so all the air bubbles disappear, place the lids on and screw really tight.
Before placing them in the refrigerator, leave to cool on the counter for at least 15 min. Once your pickles are stored, leave them in the fridge without opening them for at least 48 hours. Since they're not canned, these types of pickled veggies need to be kept in a fridge and can stay good for up to two months. Keep that in mind before pickling everything you have in your house as you might need a new refrigerator to store them in.
If you're just starting out, there are plenty of cookbooks and online recipes that can help guide you before you get comfortable creating your own concoctions. Start with the most familiar ones like pickled onions and cucumbers, and slowly advance to spiced carrots with garlic or combinations like cauliflowers and red peppers.Don't be afraid to try switching up some ingredients or spices in order to taste the difference. All the great recipes came out of experiments!
Pickling your own vegetables is fun and easy, and as you become more relaxed with it, you'll be able to play with a variety of different flavors and food combinations. Elevate your favorite dishes with pickles and send your taste buds on a spin.
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