Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D.
National Center for Home Food Preservation
Relishes and pickles are a great way to enjoy summer's bountiful array of fruits and vegetables long after the season is over.
Pickling should not just be limited to cucumbers. Peaches, green tomatoes, okra, squash, and beans can also be pickled for a delightful addition to any meal. Spiced apples, muscadines, and crabapples and corn, pepper and pears can be used to make relishes. Quick-process pickled fruits and vegetables are easy to make and the many flavor combinations can add a lot of variety to meals.
Talent in the kitchen is not a requirement for pickling. Just follow several simple rules for delicious pickled products.
Ingredients are very important to the process of pickling. First, make sure to use only good quality, fresh fruits and vegetables. This is especially important because if you do not start with good ingredients, your product will not be as successful. Fresh whole spices are also important in some recipes to give good flavor and prevent darkening of the pickled product./
Salt is an integral part of many pickling processes and flavor twists. Canning or pickling salt that does not contain iodine or non-caking material is ideal.
Use apple cider or white distilled vinegar, but the pickles may taste best with the recommended type in the recipe. Apple cider vinegar is milder and offers a different flavor note than white distilled vinegar. Any vinegar should be at least five percent acetic acid.
Read every recipe carefully. There is a reason for each step, and cutting corners may compromise the quality of the product or make it unsafe to eat. Make sure that each recipe used is modern, up-to-date, and kitchen-tested and that all pickled products to be stored out of the refrigerator are processed in a boiling water canner for the recommended length of time.
Stainless steel, glass, or unchipped metal pans should be used when heating pickling liquids. Aluminum can be used if the brine will only be in it a short time. Some metals such as copper and brass can react with acids or salts to create discoloration or undesirable compounds.
Finally, make sure to store finished, canned pickles in a cool, dark place, because heat and light may reduce color and quality. Following these simple guidelines will ensure a higher chance that pickling will be successful.
Many tested, safe pickle recipes can be found in So Easy to Preserve, a book available from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Other recipes tested at the University of Georgia can be found on the Internet at www.homefoodpreservation.com.
Elizabeth L. Andress is an Extension Food Safety Specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Foods and Nutrition, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, The University of Georgia, Athens.