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A real pickle               

                                     December 2010  

A real pickle

PicklesPickles, in all their various shapes and forms, have been with us for centuries. Pickling really came into being as a way to keep food edible and was especially useful to preserve food for winter months and for long journeys especially by sea. The objective of course is to keep the food with texture and flavour while not letting any bacteria form to ruin the food. Salt is an excellent preserver because basically it removes any moisture. Bacteria needs a level of moisture to survive, and that was why items like salt pork and salt beef were common with sailors in the past because the salt kept the food edible.

Pickling is based on a different principal of preservation and is based on the fact that bacteria doesn’t thrive in acidic conditions. Vinegar (acetic acid) is very acid which is why it features highly in pickling processes.

While pickling started simply to preserve foods, today pickles are made because of their unique flavours. In some cases, pickling can also improve the goodness of the foods by increasing the level of B vitamins.

It can all become quite scientific, for instance a characteristic of good pickling is ensuring there is a pH of less than 4.6 which is sufficient to kill most bacteria. Antimicrobial herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, garlic and mustard seeds can also be added.

Really pickling today is so commonplace and so popular that rather than understand the entire process, it can be easier just to follow some well established recipes! Pickling foods at home is surprisingly easy. All you need is some glass jars, a large saucepan, white vinegar, pickling salt and distilled water (minerals in hard water for instance can discolour certain foods). All this is available from most good supermarkets.

Sterilization of the jars and lids is very important and this can be done by simply boiling them for three minutes or more in a saucepan.

For an idea of a very basic recipe, boil 6 cups of the water with 3 cups of white vinegar and ½ cup pickling salt to make a pickling brine. Cut the food you want to pickle into small chunks or pieces, depending on the size you want, and place them in the jars. Fill each jar with the pickling brine and then seal the lid. You need to leave each jar for a minimum of two weeks to ensure the pickling process is completed.

While this gives a good idea of how easy it is to pickle, it is very basic and different foods require different “brines”. There are so many recipes today giving unique flavours and colours. It is recommended that you choose a recipe you like the look of and follow it carefully. Weigh and measure amounts precisely; proportions not only affect the flavour but also the safety of the food

Most food can be pickled – vegetables, meat, fish, eggs – even fruit.

Obviously things can go wrong and pickle products can be spoiled from microorganisms, particularly yeasts and moulds. But along with numerous proven recipes, you can find all sorts of tips to prevent problems on the internet.

Don’t let the idea of failure put you off – pickling is very easy, it is fun and can make terrific gifts.


Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.




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