Kitchen Tips
from the Farm Kitchen

Making Homemade Pickles



Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Canning, Pickling, and Freezing with Irma Harding
Canning, Pickling, and Freezing with Irma Harding

Canning Jars
Canning Jars



excerpted from Canning Pickles and Sauerkraut (MSU Extension)

'Tis said that a meal should include all four flavors -- sweet, sour, pungent and astringent -- and homemade dill pickles or sauerkraut fill the bill for those with a "sour-tooth" to balance their "sweet-tooth."

Mouth puckering foods have been around since the first cider went sour, but processes have improved since the time when the sour taste happened  accidentally. 




A fact sheet on "Canning Pickles and Sauerkraut," prepared by the Montana State University Extension Service, describes the pickling process, the types of jars and the treatments to use to avoid spoilage. 

Stocked: Canning Jars by Kristine Kainer
From your classic dill to a reduced-sodium dill pickle, the guide explains how to adjust your process by altitude and how to ensure a good crock of kraut.

Cucumbers


Quantity: An average of 14 pounds is needed per canner load of seven quarts; an average of nine pounds is needed per canner load of nine pints. A bushel weighs 48 pounds and yields 16 to 24 quarts: an average of two pounds per quart.

Quality: Select firm cucumbers of the appropriate size: about 1 to 1-1/2 inches for gherkins and four inches for dills. Use odd-shaped and more mature cucumbers for relishes and bread-and-butter pickles.

Types: Use pickling cucumbers. Bumpless cucumbers do not make an acceptable product.

Jars, containers, covers and weights for fermenting and canning

Recommended jars for canning fermented and pickled vegetables are pints and quarts, Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids. Commercial mayonnaise-type jars result in more seal failures and jar breakage, and should never be used in a pressure canner.

A one-gallon container is needed for each five pounds of fresh vegetables. Therefore, a five-gallon stone crock is of ideal size for fermenting about 25 pounds of fresh cabbage or cucumbers. Food-grade plastic and glass containers are excellent substitutes for stone crocks. Other one- to three-gallon, non-food-grade plastic containers may be used if lined inside with a clean food-grade plastic bag.

Caution: Be certain that foods contact only food-grade plastics. Do not use garbage bags or trash liners.

Fermenting sauerkraut in quart and half-gallon Mason jars is an acceptable practice, but may result in more spoilage losses.

Cabbage and cucumbers must be kept one to two inches under brine while fermenting. After adding prepared vegetables and brine, insert a suitably sized dinner plate or glass pie plate inside the fermentation container. The plate must be slightly smaller than the container opening, yet large enough to cover most of the shredded cabbage or cucumbers.

To keep the plate under the brine, weight it down with two to three sealed quart jars filled with water. Cover the container opening with a clean, heavy bath towel to prevent contamination from insects and molds while the vegetables are fermenting. Fine quality fermented vegetables are also obtained when the plate is weighted down with a very large clean, plastic bag filled with three quarts of water containing 4-1/2 tablespoons of salt. Be sure to seal the plastic bag. Freezer bags sold for packaging turkeys are suitable for use with five-gallon containers.

The fermentation container, plate and jars must be washed in hot sudsy water and rinsed well with very hot water before use.

Salts used in pickling

Use of canning or pickling salt is recommended. Fermented and nonfermented pickles may be safely made using either iodized or noniodized table salt. However, noncaking materials or iodine may discolor the pickles and brine. Flake salt varies in density and is not recommended for use.




Reduced-sodium salts like "Lite Salt" may be used in quick pickle recipes, as indicated in this guide. The pickles may, however, have a slightly different taste than expected. Caution: Use of reduced-sodium salt in fermented pickle recipes is not recommended.

When brining pickles, hard water may interfere with the formation of acid and prevent pickles from curing properly. If soft water is unavailable, hard water can be softened. Simply boil at 15 minutes and let set for 24 hours, covered. Remove any scum that appears. Slowly pour the water from the container so the sediment will not be disturbed.

Vinegars used in pickling

Use commercial white or dark vinegar at the recommended 5% acidity. Avoid vinegars of unknown acidity or homemade vinegars.

Warning: Never reduce the amount of vinegar in the recipe. There should always be at least 1/4 cup of vinegar per pint jar and 1/2 cup per quart jar when the pickling solution is added to the jar.  
Low-temperature pasteurization treatment

The following treatment results in better texture but must be carefully managed to avoid spoilage.

Place jars in a canner filled halfway with warm (120 to 140 degrees F) water. Then, add hot water to a level one inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180 to 185 degrees F water temperature for 30 minutes. Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180 degrees F during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185 degrees F may cause unnecessary softening of pickles. Caution: Use low-temperature pasteurization treatment only when recipe indicates.

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