Pickling times are here again

By ANGELA TREADAWAY / Guest Columnist

The pungent aroma of vinegar mixed with spices such as dill, cinnamon, cloves and mustard seed indicate that something is being pickled in the kitchen. Some of you may think that making pickles is too difficult or takes too long, but there are several different ways to make pickled foods including a process called “quick-pack” that anyone can get done in a few hours.

In fact, there are four basic types of pickles:  brined or fermented, fresh pack or quick process, fruit pickles and relishes.  Almost any food can be pickled if that’s your preferred method of preservation!

The brined or fermented pickles are those that take a longer time because the product is brined or cured over a three to six week period of time in a high-salt solution (brine).  These pickles are those where the cucumber has color that changes — the green goes to an olive or yellow-green and the inside changes from white to translucent.

Fresh-pack or quick process pickles are not fermented.  There are two ways to make this type of pickle:  one method requires soaking the vegetables in a low-salt solution for several hours or overnight to draw some of the salt from the cells; the vegetables are then drained and processed with vinegar, spices and seasonings.

The second type of fresh-pack pickle calls for cooking the vegetable with vinegar and spices, then packaging and processing the product immediately.  Beet pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickled asparagus or green beans use the fresh-pack method.

Fruit pickles are just what the name implies — fruits simmered in spicy syrup then packed and processed.  Watermelon rind pickles fall into this category.

Finally, relishes are mixtures of fruits and/or vegetables that are chopped, seasoned and cooked in a vinegar and spice solution then packed and processed. All types of pickles are better when allowed to stand for several weeks after processing.  This allows the flavors to develop to their fullest.

Dilly Beans

These are a great snacky pickle. If you crave a crisp pickle, this is the one for you!

Angela Treadaway is the Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety Preservation and Preparation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached at 410-3696.