Where have all
the home picklers gone? To the supermarket, to specialty food stores,
the farmers markets, and to wait on long lines outside traditional
New York pickle haunts, like Guss's, in the Lower East Side. Americans
eat 20 billion pickles annually, that's about ten pounds of pickles,
per person, per year. Why don't we take time out to make pickles ourselves
since we have such a proven taste for them? Our response is often:
Why bother, with all these great pickles available?
The answer: Why not bother? The variety possible in home pickling
is impossible for commercial manufacturers. Making your own, you can
change the flavor to meet your individual tastes, recycle brine by
putting fresh vegetables in your favorite storeboughts, use organic
produce, control ingredients, experiment with spices, add color and
give them away. People pickle in New York for a multitude of reasons:
because it's easy and inexpensive, because it's a fun activity with
friends, because their parents used to pickle, because their home-country
pickles aren't widely available here, because they want to preserve
the fruits of their garden, and on, and on, and on.
If you're interested in home pickling, visit the NY Food Museum table
to sign up for a pickling bee, or read up. Here are some books we
recommend on the subject:
The Joy of Pickling
Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or
Harvard Common Press, 1999.
Green Thumb Preserving Guide
Books: New York. 1984.
Pickles and Relishes
Recipes from Apples to Zucchinis"
Story Books, 1991.
Cooked in an uncovered pot and poured into jars while it's still boiling.
The jars are immediately sealed.
Cold or Raw Packed: Sterilized jars are filled with raw fruit or vegetables,
and covered completely with liquid water, brine, sauce, or syrup.
The jars are immediately sealed.
Hot Packed: Vegetables are cooked for a short time,
and then poured into jars with the hot cooking liquid. This method
is used for all vegetables (except tomatoes).
Water Bath Processing: Filled jars are "processed"
at 212º F in a boiling water bath to kill any bacteria that could
prove harmful. The jars are lowered into the kettle when the water
is hot, but not yet boiling - otherwise, they may break - and Covered
with one or two inches of water. The water is brought to a boil, and
when time is up, the jars are removed to cool on a wire rack. As the
jars cool, the vacuum seal activates, the center of each lid sounds
a pop, and shows an impression. The jar is not properly sealed if
the lid is not dented in. (See pickle timeline for its invention.)
Low-temperature Pasteurization: This method is popular
with both fermented and fresh cucumber pickles that would commonly
turn soft after exposure to high temperatures. The same procedure
for water bath processing is followed, however, the temperature in
not allowed to rise above 185º F.
Steam-Pressure Processing: This method cooks the food at a very high
temperature for a very short time. Higher temperatures kill bacteria
that can withstand a boiling water bath.
1. Equipment: You can
make pickles with a jar, some salt and vegetables, especially if you
refrigerate them. If you want to "can" for extended storage,
you'll need some extra tools. All your equipment should be non-reactive;
Stainless steel, aluminum, glass and enamelware will not react with
acids or salts, but copper, galvanized steel, and iron will.
MASON JARS: Named after John Landis Mason, who developed and
patented the shoulder-seal jar and screw cap in 1858, nowadays, these
jars often bear the name of the two largest companies, Ball and Kerr.
Both companies, along with the Canadian jar maker, Bernardin, joined
forces in 1993 under the name Alltrista. You can buy jars at local
hardware stores, or at Alltrista's website, www.alltrista.com. A mason
jar comes with a two-piece cap. The flat lid is made to be used one
time only for long term food storage, while the rim, so long as it's
not rusty, is re-useable.
or Water BathProcessor:
large pot will work fine, however, aluminum kettles with wire
racks for raising and lowering the jars, are made for this purpose.
tongs for lifting jars
pouring in the brine.
popping any air bubbles in the jar.
cooling the jars.
testing water temperature.
2. Storage: Make sure you have adequate space in a cool, dark,
and dry place to house your pickles. Light can discolor your pickles,
and warmth will affect the flavor.
3. Selecting Fruit and Ingredients: Look for firm, young fruit,
and tender vegetables. Wash in cold water, making sure to clean off
any dirt, which may be harboring bacteria.
Use coarse salt. Iodized salt will darken vegetables and fruit, and
anti-caking salt will cloud the brine.
4. Sterilizing Jars and Equipment: If you're making pickles
that will not be processed in a water bath or a steam-pressure processor,
you must first sterilize your jars by filling a large kettle two-thirds
full of water, placing jars filled with water, and bringing to a boil
for twenty minutes. If you don't have a rack with handles, you must
at least have a rack on the bottom, preventing the jars from touching
the base of the pot.
All equipment should be sterilized this way. Your lids only have to
boil for five minutes but keep them in the water until they are needed.
5. Filling the Jars: Fill up to 1/8 of an inch from the top
of the jar. Make sure all air bubbles are out of the jar by using
a plastic knife.
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NYFM 2003, Dana Terebelski and Nancy Ralph.