Let's pickle

Making your own pickles allows you to make the best, freshest product possible while controlling what’s in your food. Pickles can be made from green beans and okra using research-based, tested recipes.

If you love pickles as much as I do, then maybe home canning your own pickled foods is the thing for you. I am not going to say you will save money, but you might if you grow your own products. I will say that making your own pickles allows you to make the best, freshest product possible while controlling what’s in your food. However, you should always follow research based recipes.

Pickles are considered a high-acid food. The acid may be added, most often as vinegar, or in the case of fermented products the acid forms naturally during the fermentation process. The acid is as important for food safety as it is for taste and texture. Acid prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum and allows these products to be safely processed in a boiling water canner.

Pickled and fermented foods fall into several categories, but for this article we are going to focus on quick process or pickled vegetables. In this method the vegetables are usually covered with boiling pickling liquid, usually made of vinegar, spices, and seasonings. Sometimes the vegetables are brined for several hours before packing in jars to remove some of the excess liquid.

As with any other food preservation, it is best to start with fresh, firm vegetables with no sign of spoilage. Wash them well, especially around the stem. A pickling variety of cucumbers will make for better quality pickles than table or slicing varieties. Remove and discard a 1/16th-inch slice from the blossom end of vegetables. The blossoms contain enzymes that can cause product softening.

Use only commercial vinegar that is at least 5% acidity in home canning. White distilled vinegar or cider vinegar may be used, depending upon the flavor desired. Do not use homemade vinegar because you do not know the acidity level. Do not dilute the vinegar unless a recipe specifies it.

Use canning or pickling salt. Table salt contains non-caking agents that may make the brine cloudy. Do not change the salt concentrations in fermented pickles or sauerkraut. Proper fermentation depends on correct proportions. In these products salt Is necessary for safety. In quick-process pickles made with vinegar, the salt can be safely reduced, but expect the flavor and texture to be different. Salt substitutes contain potassium chloride and may develop a bitter tasting product.

Use fresh whole spices for best quality and flavor. Ground spices may cause the pickles to darken and become cloudy. Pickles will darken less if the whole spices are tied in a spice bag and removed from the brine before packing the jars.

If good quality ingredients and up-to-date recipes are used, firming agents are not needed for crisp pickles. The use of alum is no longer recommended. Food grade pickling lime improves pickle firmness and can be used to soak cucumbers before pickling. However, the excess lime must be removed by repeated soaking and rinsing with fresh water. Failure to reduce the lime may increase the risk for botulism because of the change in acidity. For quick-process pickles, calcium chloride products such as Pickle Crisp® may be added to the filled jars before applying the lids, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Equipment should include stainless steel, non-reactive metal bowls and saucepans. This prevents the acidic ingredients from causing leaching of metals into the food and pitting of the pans, which might occur with aluminum or cast iron.

When home canning pickles, use only research-based, tested recipes. Do not change the proportions of vinegar, water, vegetables or fruit in a given recipe. All pickles must be processed to destroy yeasts, molds and spoilage bacteria. Processing also inactivates enzymes that could affect the color, flavor and texture of the final product. I hope these tips help you master home pickling. It’s easy if you follow a few simple rules.

Information and recipes for this article was obtained from the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Kentucky’s publication “Home Canning Pickled and Fermented Foods” reviewed and updated by Sandra Bastin, Ph.D, R.D., Extension specialist in food and nutrition, and Annhall Norris, University of Kentucky Extension Associate.

OKRA DILL PICKLES

7 pounds small okra pods, trimmed

8 or 9 garlic cloves

2/3 cup canning or pickling salt

4 teaspoons dill seed

6 small hot peppers, whole

6 cups water

6 cups vinegar

Fill hot pint jars firmly with whole okra, leaving ½-inch headspace. Place 1 garlic clove in each jar. Combine salt, dill seed, hot peppers, water, and vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot liquid over okra, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece caps. Process pint jars 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Yield: 8 or 9 pint jars

Nutritional Analysis (½ cup): 40 Calories, 0 g fat, 8 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein

DILLY BEANS

2 pounds green beans, washed, ends trimmed

¼ cup canning or pickling salt

2 ½ cups vinegar

2 ½ cups water

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided

4 cloves garlic

4 heads fresh dill or ¼ cup dill seed

Ball Pickle Crisp (optional)

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

Pack green beans lengthwise into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic, and 1 head dill or 2 teaspoons dill seed to each pint jar. Add ⅛ teaspoon Pickle Crisp to each pint jar if desired. Ladle hot liquid over green beans, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal lids. Process pint or quart jars 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Yield: about 4 pint or 2 quart jars

Nutritional Analysis: (1/2 cup): 40 calories, 0.5 g fat, 9g carbohydrate, 2g protein

Editor’s Note: Information and recipes for this article was obtained from the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Kentucky’s publication “Home Canning Pickled and Fermented Foods” reviewed and updated by Sandra Bastin, Ph.D, R.D., Extension specialist in food and nutrition, and Annhall Norris, University of Kentucky Extension associate.

Reach Cecelia Hostilo, Trigg County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, at P. O. Box 271 (2657 Old Hopkinsville Road), Cadiz, KY 42211, by phone at 270-522-3269, fax at 270-522-9192 or email cecelia.hostilo@uky.edu.

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