Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finally an update- Pickling 101

For several years I have been interested in the notion of pickling my own vegetables. I love going to a restaurant that offers varieties of quality pickled vegetables such as Kenny and Zukes. There are many books on the subject and the internet obviously has a wealth of information on pickling. I did some research on the internet and started to look at recipes. Well, a few weeks ago I took the plunge and entered the world of pickling my own vegetables. Lo and behold, it was quite easy and produces a delicious snack. They are great as an addition to a meal, for a bloody mary, or as an hours derves. I have received rave reviews from people that have tried them. Let me explain to you guys the method I have been using.

I had two pickling sessions. For the first session I pickled asparagus, green beans, mini onions, brussells sprouts. All turned out real delicious with the exception of the brussells which were awfully chewy. Being a total newb, I used the same brine for all of the vegetables, which worked out fine. I imagine pickle enthusiasts have different brines for each type of vegetable, but you have to crawl before you can walk. I kept my brine simple. It included an approximate mixture of :
55% water
45% white wine vinegar
¼ cup dill seeds
¼ cup salt
A few full pepper kernels
Some thyme and mustard seeds

When I say approximate, I truly mean it. I basically just put the vinegar and water in and then started pouring the spices in. Then I started heating it in a pot on the stove. While doing this, I put another large pot on the stove in order to sterilize my mason jars. It fit about 3 mason jars at a time. If you have factory fresh mason jars, you really don’t need to sterilize them before pickling, in my opinion. If they were dirty I would sterilize them in your boiling water bath after cleaning them. While all this is happening, you need to prep the vegetables. I put a few smashed cloves garlic in the bottom of each jar as well as a jalapeno pepper cut in half. This makes for additional flavor and also tastes good pickled.

You also need to prepare the vegetables. Prepare them how you like by cutting off nasty parts and ends. Next you want to blanch them-- that is boil them for about two minutes. This will help preserve crunchiness and flavor. Once you take them off the boil, immediately put them in the freezer to cool down for a few minutes. Your next step is to pack the jars. You want to pack these babies as full as possible. This will help distribute the heat and not overcook the vegetables once you poor the brine in, or something like that.(I’m not a scientist) Don’t forget to put your garlic, jalapeno, and a fresh thyme sprig in while packing each jar.

Next step is the fill your jar with the brine, which should be pretty hot at this point. Mix the brine up so you get an even distribution of all the spices in each jar. Grab a ladle and fill the mason jar above your vegetables. Now, grab a sterile paper towel and wipe the top of the jar to prevent anything from breaking the seal. This is one of the biggest problems with pickling-- people don’t seal the jar properly. I haven’t had any problems with this yet, so neither should you. Put on the top and screw it down tightly.

Now, here comes an important part. You need to put these in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to kill any diseases or bacteria that may have snuck into the jar. 10 minutes in boiling water and those suckers are dead and you can store your pickles on your shelves infinitely or until you feel the urge to host a BBQ with the ultimate Bloody Marys…We used this recipe and it resulted in some pretty good Bloodies. Once you are done boiling the pickles, take them out let them cool. Sticking them in the fridge will create a stronger seal during the cool down. If you don’t boil them for 10 minutes they will stay good for a few weeks or maybe longer if you keep them in the fridge. But to be safe, I would suggest boiling them.

Your done! Wasn’t that easy? Actually it’s kind of a pain in the ass. But, for a bored foody such as myself, it was a great project. I look forward to trying out new vegetables and getting deeper into the pickling puddin. My current plan is to try to buy vegetables in bulk from farmers at peak season and pickling 10-20 pounds at a time for winter use. I found some asparagus for 1.35/pound so I bought about 15 pounds of it and pickled it. Unfortunately, I was so excited about the price that I failed to closely examine the product. I had to cut down 50% plus of the asparagus because it just wasn’t that good. I guess you get what you pay for. I would love to hear people’s recipes and trials and tribulations with pickling. I suggest you give it a shot if you are bored and like pickled stuff. And if you see me on the street, holler at me and you can try my pickles. Until later… drop down and getcha pickle on.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on pickling. This information is strictly used as a report on my activities. This blog is not FDA approved. If you plan on pickling, please do some research as doing it improperly can give you some weird diseases. This is in no way a guide and use this information at your own risk.