It’s Pickling Time



It’s pickling time of year! I just want to remind you of a few things to get the best pickle. 

One, is the type of cucumber you are using to make pickles. You need a pickling cucumber. The best ones are from the black spine type, with small black prickles, such as the Chicago Pickling Cucumber and National Pickle.

Wash all ingredients carefully to remove bacteria, which might spoil your product. In washing cucumbers, DON’T scrub so that you remove the black prickles. A good way to get off the dirt and bacteria is to soak them for a few minutes in a glass or plastic container with a tablespoon of pickling salt and one tablespoon of vinegar. Rinse well in running water as you gently rub them.                                The pot you will be using to make the brine should never be brass, copper, iron or aluminum. Any of these will produce a strange taste and undesirable color changes because the metals will react with the vinegar and salt solutions. Use enameled ware, glass, or stainless steel. Stir with wood spoon and or stainless steel ladle.  

Whenever possible, use water without chlorine. Here is how you can use your water to eliminate chlorine and other minerals. Plan in advance and boil the water for 15 minutes. Let stand for 24 hours. When all the sediment has settled to the bottom, ladle the water from the top. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with 5 % acidity to each gallon of water before using. Or buy bottled distilled water and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to each gallon. You will never regret all this effort. 

Do not use table salt in pickling or canning. Table salt has iodine and anti-caking agent. That will turn pickles an undesirable color and soften the pickle. Use Pickling salt for best results. 

Vinegar should be 5 % acidity. Check the label for percentage of acid and also check the expiration date. If it is past the expiration date, use it to make salad dressing not pickles. Vinegars of unknown strength should not be used. Either cider or white vinegars may be used. When pickling light-colored foods such as onions, white vinegars is preferable for it will not darken the ingredients. When making a simple solution of vinegar, pickling salt, and water, do not boil more than 5 to 6 minutes unless otherwise directed in the recipes. Long boiling weakens vinegar. Follow the timings suggested in the recipes: if a recipe says bring just to boil, do that. 

Always use fresh spices and herbs. Old ones will discolor the product and produce musty, strange flavors. If a recipe calls for you to put spices in a spice bag ( cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine) make sure it is not too tight so the brine can flow through during the cooking time. Remove bag before canning. If you have access to fresh grape leaves, wash them and place on top of produce in the jar. This will keep the produce under the brine and help with keeping the produce crisp. Any recipe can be changed to fit individual taste in SPICES Only. Do not change the amount of vinegar, water or salt. Blended pickling spices are available commercially, I like to blend my own. Here are a list of spices I like using: Allspice, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper Corns, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chili, Cinnamon Stick, Coriander Seeds, Clove, Dill Seeds, Ginger, Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg ( grated), Hot Red Pepper flakes, Turmeric, and Celery Seeds. 

Garlic is a wonderful addition to pickles. But one warning; If you wish to add garlic to a jar of dill pickles or any pickles, you will need to peel the cloves then plunge them into boiling water first for 1 minute. This blanching process kills the bacteria on garlic, which can cause spoilage. Or you can place the cloves in vinegar for about 1 to 2 minutes before filling the jars. 

I hope this helps you get the best pickle for you and your family. 

See you in class


Summer and Pickling


Summer time is here and so is the produce. Lets talk about pickling again. I wrote a blog about pickling in Sept. 2013, letting you know a few things about pickling. I wanted to remind you of a few things. Pickling is easy and fast. What is the hard is waiting for it to pickle. Please use water without chlorine. Chlorine will make the produce soft and I know you would prefer a crunchy pickle. Please use the salt that the recipe is asking for. Never use table salt when canning, it has anti caking agent and iodine that will give the pickles a bad taste and turn them a dark color.If you read the blog in 2013 you will remember that I like  setting up little bowls to place the spices in for each jar. This makes it go fast, efficient and makes sure that the spices are evenly distributed. Lets talk about spices. Buy spices from a supplier with a rapid turnover. Spices lose their flavor with age and stale spices can spoil the taste of any dish or pickles.Ground spices lose their flavor within just a few months: therefore, it is usually better to buy whole spices and grind them as you need them. You can use so many spices when pickling. If you like heat, use red pepper flakes, black or brown mustard seeds, pepper corns, cayenne powder, chili powder, hot Indian curry powder, or red dried chiles. Here are a few more spices you may want to use: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fenugreek.Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Powder, Celery  Seeds, Bay Leaves, Fennel Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Nigella, Nutmeg, Saffron, Dill seeds, Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger, and Star Anise.

Star Anise comes by its name honestly, with it star shape and a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. Star Anise is a dried fruit seed pod of an evergreen tree ( Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Like regular  anise, star anise gets it distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol. However the two are not related botanically – Star Anise is a member of the Magnolia family. To know more about pickling, please go back to the blog from Sept. 2013 . Happy Canning and Pickling.


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Canning With Salt



One question I get a lot is, “which salt to use when canning?” I have done some research on salt. Here is what I have found:
Pickling salt is a specially formulated salt. It looks like table salt, with significant 
differences. It has a finer grain. This is important; the finer grains dissolve evenly 
and easily in the water and measure better than course salt. The brine thus has the 
proper salinity required for safely preserving food. It has no additives, so it is also ideal 
for fermentation.Pickling salt has no iodine, anti-caking agents or other additives because additives discolor the pickle and make the liquid cloudy. Having no 
anti-caking agents can cause the salt to clump; to prevent that add a few grains of rice
 to the salt container, if you are going to use it at the table. You can also spread it 
on a baking sheet and heat it in the oven to get rid of the lumps. If pickling salt is not 
easily available, then use kosher salt. This salt is also additive free. Remember though, that this salt will take longer to dissolve. When using kosher salt it is best to weigh it out because it is so coarse it is hard to tell if you have the right amount. One 
tablespoon of pickling salt weighs precisely 3/4 of an ounce. One tablespoon of kosher
salt weights 5/8 an ounce, which is close to the pickling salt, but not the same amount.
Do not to use reduced sodium salt as a substitute.Food spoils because of the bacteria and microorganisms it contains. These can be harmful in themselves, because they 
multiply within the host. In addition, they release harmful toxins. In the process of 
osmosis, salt draws water from the food —thus drawing out and Killer the bacteria. This reduced water level in the food creates a hostile environment in which the
organisms cannot survive. In fermentation, salt helps the “good” bacteria—for 
example the natural bacteria in cabbage in sauerkraut–while inhibiting the other 
microorganisms. Sea salt can be used in canning as long as it is fairly refined. One
tablespoon weighs 1/2 an ounce. You can use table salt when canning but the pickles will turn a dark color, and are perfectly safe to eat.Canning salts are available in most 
supermarkets, where other canning supplies are sold. What it all boils down to is Pickling salt is the standard and one tablespoon weighs precisely 3/4 of an ounce. So if you have a recipe asking for one tablespoon salt it needs to weigh 3/4oz . So if you do not want to spend the money on a scale to measure your salt use pickling salt!
Some of this information was found on Marisa McClellan Food In Jars Blog.
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