The joys of pickling, canning easy accessible

While time consuming, the art of pickling is not as complicated or challenging as it may seem. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

When my 3-year-old daughter took a liking to pickled cucumbers, I went from dabbling in pickling to becoming a full-fledged enthusiast. Today, there is plenty of literature on the craft of pickling and my daughter, to whom I regularly give pickled cucumbers, is nearly 22.

My interest in pickling predates its mention in the 2013 National Restaurant Association food trend forecast by a few decades. When I was visiting my daughter in Boston this summer, I noticed numerous pickled items on menus and used as garnishes. I suspect pickling has become popular along with the organic, local food trend. And, of course, there’s nothing more local than your own backyard.

I have noticed in the greenhouse the past few years that the poor economy may have also encouraged more home-growing. For those who want to give pickling a try, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a very specific, 35-page online guide called, “Preparing and Canning Fermented Foods and Vegetables.” The National Center for Home Food Preservation also has in-depth pickling information and recipes.

To pickle is just to preserve food with acid, and there are various ways to get that
acid. The two most common ways in the north country are through fermentation and vinegar, also a type of fermentation. Putting vegetables in vinegar is called a quick pickle.

To ferment, take raw vegetables and wash them lightly to preserve their acid-producing bacteria. Then put those vegetables in water with some salt to help control the fermentation. Within either a few days or a couple of months, you have a pickle that’s fermented to your taste. To know how long the process should take, I advise looking at a recipe.

A lot of people are afraid of canning, for good reason. Beginners can make pickles without canning with a boiling water bath. Put the seasoning in the vinegar and heat the vinegar in the water. As they will be refrigerated, use two-parts water to one-part vinegar. Heat the spices with the vinegar and pour it over the vegetables. It’s hard to go wrong with these quick refrigerator pickles and it’s a great way to use cucumbers as they first start to ripen in your garden.

As a teenager, my mother taught me our family recipe for dill pickles, which follows. It’s a step-by-step guide to hot water bath pickling. Once you get this down, you can adapt the general process to pickling other vegetables, making jelly and more.

[For the recipe and instructions for making Brian Hallett’s pickles, please subscribe or purchase a copy of NNY Living at your local supermarket, at the Watertown Daily Times, Carthage Tribune or Lowville Journal offices and the Samaritan Medical Center Gift Shop.]

Brian Hallett is an art teacher at South Jefferson Central School in Adams. His family owns Halletts’ Florist and Greenhouse in Adams, which celebrates 30 years in business this year.