Getting into a Pickle—on Purpose!

Pickling fruits and vegetables is a great way to preserve and enjoy these foods. Today, the process is no longer essential for preserving food for our kitchens, as we can “harvest” fruits and vegetables all year round, from supermarkets and other food purveyors.


But pickling is still a fantastic way to enjoy these foods. Indeed, in an age where “fresh” is available on demand, pickling seems like a delicacy.


Pickling vs. Fermentation

One thing to keep in mind is that pickling and fermentation are closely related ways of preserving food, but different. What is that difference?

Pickling is an immersion process, submerging food in an acidic solution, much like vinegar, which alters food’s taste and texture. Just think of pickles which start as cucumbers. Pickling also uses heat, which eliminates the development of micro-organisms on food.

The most basic pickling process brings a combination of water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and herbs and/or spices to a boil, then to pour this hot mixture over the foods to be pickled. Seal them and let them to soak.

Fermentation is a more natural process, and one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. You can do it with as little as a container and salt. Fermentation usually takes longer than pickling, and typically alters food’s color, flavor, and texture. Just think of sauerkraut which starts as cabbage.

The natural bacteria in fruits, vegetables, dairy, and other foods converts into an acid when deprived of air. This process of lacto-fermentation first kills harmful bacteria. Next, the surviving lactobacillus (good bacteria) converts the lactose and other sugars into lactic acid, creating a safe environment for preserving foods and giving them their classic tangy, sour taste. This process also creates probiotics, which aid digestion. Just think of yogurt and beer.

Pickling at Home

Most of us love pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, beets, carrots, and cabbage. They are a great treat, and easily accommodate a range of herbs and spices for different flavors. While not easy to manage the full pickling process in your kitchen, there is a method for simple pickling.

Without too much difficulty, you can pickle foods in your own refrigerator, not for long-term preservation but for more immediate consumption.

How easy is it? First, if you are pickling a vegetable that you prefer not to eat raw, steam or roast it briefly, but make sure that it stays crunchy. Next, pack the vegetable (or vegetables) into a heat-proof, sealable container (or containers), ready for sealing. Make a basic pickling brine (recipes available online), bring to a boil, and pour over the vegetables. Seal and let cool before refrigerating. Give the vegetables at least 24 hours to marinate before consuming, so the flavor has time to come out.

If you planning a birthday, graduation, or any other kind of party in the Philadelphia, keep Jerry’s Kitchen in mind to help you out with your “food pickle.”


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