Everything You Want To Know About Pickling Vinegar
When using pickling vinegar, it is important to follow recipes exactly because if you alter the quantity at all, especially concerning the vinegar, salt or vegetables, spoilage-causing bacteria can quickly spread. It is also important to scrupulously scrub cleaning utensils with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
What Is Pickling?
Pickling began many years ago as an effort to preserve food either for long journeys for sailors or to keep food that was going to be out of season for an extended period of time. Originally, salt beef and salt pork were popular staples for sailors and they were what was commonly pickled.
Pickling preserves food by an anaerobic fermentation in a solution of water and salt to marinate and store in some type of acetic acid, typically pickling vinegar. This procedure makes the food sour or salty. Using pickling vinegar can also alter the pH of the food to kill bacteria and preserve food for months that would otherwise be perishable. The salinity or acidity of the solution, the exclusion of oxygen and the temperature of fermentation all determine the end flavor.
It is important to only use soft water that has very low levels of chlorine and minerals because water that has a high mineral content can affect the safety of the food by lowering brine acidity.
If you have hard water, you can easily soften it be boiling it for 15 minutes and then letting it stand for 24 hours. Always make sure to cover the pot tightly so that it does not get contaminated and before using, remove surface scum that has formed. Using a ladle, carefully scoop the water out without stirring up the bottom sediment.
When possible, use pickling vinegar which is seven percent acidity as it will make the outcome more sour. If you do not have any pickling vinegar available, you can also use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar and white cider as long as they contain five percent acidity.
Never use table salt because it contains iodine, which is a darkening chemical that can alter the color of pickles. Also, table salt contains anti-caking agents which causes cloudiness in your water and salt solution. Only pickling salt should be used for the pickling process.
Always use fresh pickling cucumbers, salad or wax cucumbers should never be used because the wax actually stops the pickling liquid from sinking into the cucumber. Also, you never want to use damaged or bruised cucumbers and keep in mind that they go bad extremely fast when left out at room temperature.
You should remove the stem and the blossom and cut off ¼ inch from the end with the blossom. This will release enzymes that will help to soften the cucumber. Be sure to thoroughly wash the cucumbers in cool water and scrub them with a vegetable brush to make sure that they are free of sand granules or dirt, if necessary.
Never use spices that have been sitting in your pantry for any length of time, only fresh, whole, ground or crushed spices should be used. If you are premixing spices that are available at the store, you may want to experiment with different flavor combinations.
Recommended pickling spices include bay leaves, black peppercorns, chili peppers, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, yellow mustard seeds, cloves, fenugreek, coriander, turmeric, dill seeds, dill leaves, celery seeds, ginger, garlic, hot peppers and horseradish.
Always use glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowls and only pots and pans that are heatproof glass, hard-anodized aluminum or stainless steel. Utensils and containers made from copper, zinc, brass or iron must be avoided because they react with salt and acid.