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Pickle-making basics

by: Val Hillers, Ph.D. , Extension Food Specialist


Quick Or Fresh-Pack Pickles: Quick-process pickles are easy to prepare.  They are either cured in a salt solution for several hours or directly combined with boiling hot vinegar, spices, and seasonings.  The acid in the vinegar increases the acidity of the vegetables and acts as a preservative.  The acidity of vinegar must be five percent to ensure making a safe and standardized pickled food.  Do not vary the amount of vinegar called for in the recipe.

Fermented Pickles And Sauerkraut: Cucumbers and cabbage may be fermented to preserve them.  The vegetable is put into a two to three percent salt solution and left for two to six weeks.  During that time, a type of bacteria that is common ferments the sugars in cucumbers and cabbage to product lactic acid.  The fermentation process changes the colors, flavors, and textures of these foods.  

Making high-quality fermented pickles and sauerkraut requires fresh vegetables and close control of the fermentation process.  An environment that is favorable to the rapid growth of lactic acid bacteria and prevents the growth of undesirable yeasts and molds is needed to produce high quality fermented foods.

Low-Salt Pickles

Pickles and pickled products often contain large amounts of sodium. Salt can be removed from fresh-pack pickles, but cannot be removed from fermented (brined) pickles or sauerkraut.

Salt inhibits the growth of some microorganisms.  In order to assure a safe product, no-salt pickles should contain at least a 1:1 vinegar/water ratio.

Salt-free pickles need extra seasoning to give a good flavor and compensate for the missing salt.  Peppery-hot, sweet, and sweet-sour pickles are more acceptable as low-salt pickles than plain salt-free pickles.



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