The process of learning how to pickle has the exciting distinction of being both a food preparation method and a scientific experiment. Though we often immediately think of the traditional dill pickle, cucumbers aren’t the only food that can be prepared this way. Humans have been preserving their foods with pickling for thousands of years.
By definition, pickles are foods that have been soaked in a solution that prevents spoilage. The National Center For Home Food Preservation says that pickled snacks range anywhere from pickled radish and pickled cabbage to pickled eggs and even meat. Different methods and recipes for pickling can be found throughout cultures across the world. These pickled foods have contributed to the character of a society’s food, such as the eastern European fondness for acidic tastes and the sour, spicy flavor found in Southeast Asia.
Pickles Made By Fermentation
Fermentation is the chemical process in which bacteria or other microorganisms convert carbohydrates into acid or alcohol. It can be used for a variety of processes besides pickling, like the production of beer, wine, yogurt, and cheese. When used for pickling, these “good” bacteria create lactic acid, which gives pickles their distinctive sour flavor. The familiar cucumber dill pickles are typically made by fermentation.
Pickles Made With Vinegar
Making pickles using vinegar is often easier and less time-intensive. The food is placed into cans with vinegar-based brine that contains spices, salt, and sugar then boiled. Because these solutions are very acidic, few bacteria survive. Most kosher dill pickles are created using this method. You can also make quick pickles by boiling vinegar with sugar and pickle seasonings then pouring it over sliced salted cucumbers and allowing it to cool or refrigerating overnight.
Making pickles is a fun and time-honored way to experiment in the kitchen. The results are the tasty, healthy products of thousands of years of smart methods and applied food science.
- “Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled Foods”, National Center for Home Food Preservation
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