Pickling is a great way to preserve local food for year-round consumption. We’re in the midst of a series about food preservation here on the blog. We’ve taken an overview of freezing, dehydrating, hot water bath canning and pressure canning.
The basic concept of pickling is that the preservation is done via salt. Salt replaces water in the cells of food immersed in it, which prevents bacteria from entering and spoiling the food. In some cases you ingest the salt, but ofttimes you can rinse the food before consuming it and get rid of the excess salt. Still, pickled foods are forbidden on a salt-reduced diet. This does not mean there isn’t a place for it, though.
We most often think of pickles as having to do with cucumbers, and this is probably the most common. Small cucumbers can be packed into canning jars, covered with brine, and canned via the hot water method for a few minutes. You can also slice larger cucumbers and can them in a sweeter brine as bread-and-butter pickles.
Here’s my daughter’s post with a recipe for Spicy Asparagus Pickles, which we love in this family. (That’s what the photo is of, also.)
In reality, nearly any vegetable can be pickled, and you can bet our foremothers did a large variety of them, from carrots to cauliflower to beets to peppers and more besides. Nowadays we usually can the pickled foods as an added level of security, but before the invention of canning, pickled vegetables and meats were kept in large crocks with tight-fitting lids, and a person just removed food as needed.
A wonderful and simple do-it-yourself pickling/fermenting idea is to make your own sauerkraut, which is far superior to anything bought in the store. I haven’t made my own for a few years, but I’m hankering to do it again this fall. You can google ‘how to make sauerkraut’ and find zillions of hits. Here’s one that breaks down the steps nicely, with photos.
There’s plenty of evidence that traditionally lacto-fermented foods (such as homemade sauerkraut) are good for us–possibly even vital to our health–so don’t automatically dismiss the idea as “too salty.” In our household, we eat almost no processed food, so I’m not too worried about the salt we do eat. However, if your doctor has ordered a low- or no-salt diet for you, you’ll have to weigh the decision for yourself.
Do you pickle foods? What’s your favorite?