Intro to Pickling
Pickling is a great way to preserve your harvest and to make better use of the seasonal veggies at the grocery store. Pickling is a form of preservation where food is stored in an acidic environment. You can go about this in two ways: Vinegar Pickles and Fermented Pickles.
Vinegar pickles generally take longer than fermented pickles but can be just as delicious.
In order to make vinegar pickles the jars you are using must be sterilized in a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes. This will help eliminate any unwanted bacteria or mold that might grow in the airtight environment of the jar. Wash your vegetable(s) of choice to remove all dirt. Pack your jars with spices and then veggies, this will prevent the spices from floating to the top once you pour your brine in.
To create the brine, a mixture of vinegar (white or apple cider usually), salt and sugar is made. It is important to follow the recipe here as you need a certain acidity and salinity in order to preserve and keep bad bacteria away. Heat the brine on the stove until a light boil and then pour directly over your vegetables until there is a ½ inch headspace from the top of the jar.
Now you can throw them in the fridge and start waiting or can them in a boiling waterbath/ pressure canner. This all depends on how long you want to keep them and if you have room in your fridge.
Normally vinegar pickles take anywhere from 3-6 weeks depending on the recipe and the type of vegetable.
Fermented pickles rely on the Lactic Acid Bacteria present on the skins of vegetables in order to create an acidic brine. Lactic Acid Bacteria can produce both lactic acid and acetic acid, also known as vinegar, to preserve food and keep away bad bacteria.
To start wash your jar well with hot water and soap, it is not necessary to sterilize your jars. Also wash your veggies to remove dirt, you won’t wash off the good bacteria, so don’t worry about that!
Just like vinegar pickles, pack the jars with spices THEN prepared vegetables. But this time instead of making a vinegar brine, a salt water brine is made: 1-3 tbsp of salt per quart of water. Fermentation is effected by both temperature and salinity. In the Summer, the fermentation can be too fast and your pickles may become mushy. To stop this from happening add more salt in Summer and less in Winter.
Once all the salt is dissolved in the water, pour into the already-packed jar leaving ½ inch of headspace.
Keep the open jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 1-2 weeks with a clean paper towel or dish towel secured over the opening. This gives time for the good bacteria to create an acidic environment to preserve your pickles. Taste a slice of pickle to decide if it is “pickled” enough for you. If it is, place the jar in the fridge to slow the fermentation to almost a stop.
After the waiting period if you smell any bad smells or see any visible mold, or other “blooms’ in your jars it is best to just throw them out. Since the jars were sealed (either by hand or canned) the entire jar is likely to be effected.
Try again and make sure your work space, the jars and the vegetables are clean. Ensure you wash your hands before starting and avoid touching your face or skin during prep. It’s always good to be careful during the preparation steps. Check the recipe and make sure you added enough salt and vinegar.
This is a common problem for fermenters everywhere. At the air interface of your pickles you may notice some ‘scum’ or small blooms of white mold. This is normal and can be scrapped off with a paper towel and the veggies underneath will be fine.
If you ever see lots of white mold, any black mold and any green mold, THROW IT OUT. It is not worth getting sick over. Just wash everything and try again!
If any bad smells arise (not just acidic or fermented smells) throw it out. A bad smell could indicate that bad bacteria have taken over your ferment. If you’re unsure, throw it out.
Below are two pickle recipes, one for Vinegar Garlic Scape Pickles and the other for Fermented Cucumber Pickles. Enjoy!
Garlic Scape Refrigerator Pickles
What you need:
- 2-3 pounds garlic scapes
- Two 2-cup Mason Jar
- 5 cups apple cider vinegar
- 5 cups of water
- 2 tbsp pickling salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Optional (per 2-cup Jar):
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- ½ tsp whole mustard seeds
- ½ tsp whole dill seeds
- ¼ tsp whole coriander seeds
- Start with sterilized, dry jars and lids.
- Clean the scapes thoroughly and start to place them in the jars by curling them around the shape of the jar. Once ¼ inch away from the top start filling in the center with shorter lengths of scapes. Fill both jars this way
- Combine water, apple cider vinegar, pickling salt and sugar to a large pot. Bring the pot to a boil until all the salt and sugar are dissolved. While still hot, fill the jars to within a ½ inch of the top.
- Using a wooden utensil gently push on the garlic scapes to release and trapped air bubbles. Once all the air is released, wipe the rim of the jar and tighten the lid.
- Allow the jar to come to room temperature then place in the fridge. After 5-6 weeks the pickles are ready to enjoy.
Adapted from “Foodie with Family” website. http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/pickled-garlic-scapes-make-ahead-monday/