Monday, December 15, 2008

Pickles

Making pickles was both fun and scary (I was going to say exhilarating and terrifying, but maybe I should tone down the hyperbole a notch).  We made three kinds and it took 6-7 hours.  We made sweet pickles beets, garlic dills, and spicy pickle chips.
If any of you have experience pickling, I have questions.  Have you ever had the pickling go bad? How did you know?  Did anyone die?  What is the point of sterilizing the jars beforehand, because the jars obviously do not stay sterile as you pack them?  Also, we read different things about whether we should or should not sterilize the lids.  All the pickling literature you read will scare the hell out of you but it can't really be that hard to get it right, right?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

In my experience (which is all from when my nose was the same height as the counter) the lids were also sterilized.

gbomb

Anonymous said...

You'll know if it goes bad. Shit will leak, lids will not seal properly or jars will blow. I was taught to sterilize everything, then fill, then hot water or steam process. Sure the jars get pickle bacteria on them as you fill, but your pickling liquid is scalding hot, which should make sure harmful bacteria is dead and then you process the jars in your canning kettle. I like to sterilize everything cause it makes me feel like I'm doing it by the book, and won't kill anybody.

I am not a great pickler, because you have to make sure the vinegar is the proper strength in order to get the whole chemical reaction thing to PICKLE. This supposedly isn't hard but for me it is. So often homemade pickles are either too vinegary, too heavilly spiced or worst of all, not vinegary enough and therefore not pickled.

I will be sticking to jams, jellies, sauces and veggies.

-a lackluster pickler
Ella

beckler said...

we sterilized beforehand, tried to keep it as sterile as possible, used hot brine, and also boiled the pickles after. but yeah, the next step is how they taste. if it's not so great then i need to get a good book, because our recipes were just culled randomly from internet sources.

i would ultimately be interested in canning tomatoes when they are at peak season, for later sauce purposes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah my mom was a massive pickle maker during my childhood and we had explosions when it didn't go right. Main caveat - don't make more than you have storage space for b/c I still expect to find pickles and jam stored next to the TP in her bathroom cabinets.

Anonymous said...

i think the best pickles have no vinegar at all...

JD

Anonymous said...

I dunno about all that hassle - whenever I've made pickles I've done it the easy way (which might mean I'm not actually making pickles).

I buy the tiny cucumbers at the farmers market, slice them or leave them whole, blanch them for a few minutes, and put them in a big bowl of vinegar, water and spices. By the next morning, I've got great pickles which we end up eating so quickly they don't have time to spoil.

Dani

leslie said...

Pickling is fun when you do it with Joy (of Cooking, natch). I've pickled oodles of stuff using her tips and directions; eggs, beets, cukes, beans, etc. So, hope Rombauer can help!

Ol' Man Foster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liv Moe said...

hurray you're pickling!!! i've waited for this day.

as far as the lids go we always sterilized 'em. as for books the USDA guide to home canning which has been around since dirt is indispensable.

i wouldn't worry too much about spoiling with pickles. when i was at mulvaney's a wine maker friend of PM's told me that the toxic stew of vinegar and salt will alternately cure and kill anything you would have to worry about. in fact the same gent and i ate pickled beans that had been opened and left out for about a week with nary an ill effect. fruits and things that are low acid are another story although most of that can be remedied with a teaspoon of lemon juice per jar.

pickled jalapenos are really good and super easy to make too. ad some sliced potatoes, onions and carrots, mmmm.

when you're talking botulism the thing to look out for is discoloration - grey specifically - or a mushy texture. i've also heard that a good rule of thumb on home canned items is to keep them for about a year which reminds me that i have some stuff to pitch.

speaking of pickling i'm thinking this year i'll be making my great granny's sauerkraut recipe which i've been meaning to make for the past two years now.

captcha; "braten" as in that "braten" is gonna be hella good with my homemade sauerkraut!

Anonymous said...

JD, are you talking straight brine? I've never done it that way. Hmmm. Sounds promising.

EC

Anonymous said...

Yeah,
I'm talking natural fermentation baby. Souring through fermentation. With vinegar you miss out on all the great bacterial critters that come from fermentation and are good for your digestive system. I read somewhere (I can never remember where I read anything anymore) that vinegar is actually a fairly recent shortcut to pickling, recent meaning compared to all the pickling that's been done since the dawn of humanity, and is way less healthy. Don't know how accurate that is, though.

Not that I have the patience to do it myself. I usually just make fresh pickles by pouring a boiled vinegar solution on to fresh cut veggies. I'm a least effort cook these days.

JD

Anonymous said...

I know we killed the MSG thing a few posts back, but I just stumbled on this and thought it was a good thing to read on the subject:

http://www.vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/blog/2008/12/msg-fake-msg-umami.html

JD

Anonymous said...

lessons learned:

don't pickle garlic cloves unless you know some special trick. it turns aqua blue in vinegar and scares people from eating the pickles.

make sure all your veggies are covered in the brine. if any of it is above the liquid level, you get anaerobic activity (aka rotting) and eventually exploding jars.

josh chapstick

Anonymous said...

You can pickle garlic cloves. The trick is to sterilize your jars, lids, and rings with distilled water. Use distilled water in your pickling brine as well. Tap water contains trace amounts of copper, which reacts with the garlic and produces that blue color. Even if it is blue, it's still safe to eat.

-skpr

Liv Moe said...

fascinating! now i know.

beckler said...

shit, I think I have some pickles above brine level. Also, garlic, although it's not blue yet so far.

Liv Moe said...

in the instances where i have something that comes over the brine level i just keep it in the fridge and make sure i eat it sooner rather than later. that maybe bad advice though...

Anonymous said...

Refrigamator pickling rules! No cooking, and it lasts a couple months evahn. Exit. Stage right --->

Anonymous said...

yeah fridge pickles! we made japanese radishes that way, and it kept in the fridge for more than a year.

chapstick