I grew up with a great-grandma, grandma and Mom that canned. Pickles was just one of the many things that were put in a jar to save from our gardens or the local produce stand. I lucked out and my mother-in-law also liked to make pickles. We’ve spent many a summer coming up with new twists on what we will pickle.
Pickles are very easy to make and with so much more variety than our grocery shelves can show. There was a time in history when pickling was one of the best ways to preserve food, but with better shipping available, it fell out of favor. Today, you will find most pickles in the form of cucumbers that have been made into bread and butter slices or mixed with dill.
There are many different kinds of pickles out there. Fresh-pack pickles only need to be cured for a few hours in a vinegar solution before they are ready to eat, and as you can see, they are quite simple to make. Fermented pickles are soaked in brine for a month and are quite a bit stronger. Fruit pickles use whole or sliced fruit that have been simmered in a syrup of some sort, while relishes are made from chopped vegetables that have been cooked in a vinegar solution.
To get started making pickles, take a look at a simple recipe. Wash some cucumbers and slice them down to about three to four inch chunks before soaking them in a brine solution that is roughly1 cup of salt to 2 gallons of water for about 12 hours. Then drain them and put the pickles into a jar, adding spices like mustard seed or dill before covering them with a boiling solution of one and a half quarts vinegar, half a cup of salt, one-fourth a cup of sugar, two quarts of water and two teaspoons of pickling spice.
With this basic recipe, you can get to pickling quick. But you’ll find it can get even simpler. In many Asian countries, the large white radish known as the daikon is often pickled. Unlike the European radish, the daikon is quite mild and even a little sweet. To pickle a daikon, simply sprinkle cut slices of daikon with salt for an hour before gently rinsing them clean. Then cover them with white vinegar or rice vinegar for a few hours and you’ll find that they are quite ready to eat. Depending on your taste, you can add a little bit of sugar or pepper to the mixture.
Pickling in general is a largely intuitive process, and you’ll find that with just a little bit of practice, you can make some excellent pickles that all of your friends and family can enjoy. Experiment to find out what crazy twists your family can come up with.