International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pickling: Method and Recipes

A wide variety of jarred, pickled vegetables

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Pickling was originally a way of preserving summer's extra garden bounty, often to sustain hungry mouths through a long winter or lean times. These days, pickles continue to be a popular item on tables around the world for the simple reason that they taste so good, a pleasant punch to perk up a meal, peak the appetite or cleanse the palate.

Vegetables are the food most commonly pickled. Almost any kind of vegetable can be used, but crispy cabbage, cucumbers, turnips and peppers are particularly popular. But fruits, meat, fish and eggs can all be pickled too.

Pickling does its preservation magic by lowering a food's pH and making it sour. The formation of this acidic environment not only prevents bad bugs from growing, but can also transforms the taste of the pickle itself, creating new flavor notes and softening harsh and bitter edges.

There are two main methods for pickling foods, a quick way and a long way. The quick way to pickle is to marinate to food in a seasoned vinegar solution. For those with more time to spare, the long method of fermenting in a salty brine yields results well worth the wait.

Vinegar, or quick, pickling

Vegetables pickled in vinegar are often called "quick pickles" or "refrigerator pickles." These pickles cut right to the chase, skipping the lengthy fermentation process that produces the acidic environment in salt-brined pickles. Refrigerator pickles are bold, fresh and bright. But keep in mind that they don't have the probiotic punch that a fermented pickle provides. Refrigerator pickles will keep fresh for up to three or four months in a refrigerator. They can also be processed in a boiling water bath and stored for up to a year at room temperature.

Fermented pickling

Pickling through fermentation is a more mystical, magical process. The food item is simply salted or bathed in a brine, covered and set aside to let microorganisms work their alchemy. The salty slurry prevents nasty bacteria from taking growing, yet it's the perfect environment for the "good" bacteria. Those little friends slurp up the sugars in the cabbage, cucumbers or other veggies and turn them into the softly sour lactic acid. This is called lacto-fermentation, and it yields not only pickles with deeper, richer flavor, but also a hefty dose of healthy probiotics.

International recipes for pickling

Pikliz

Pikliz (Haitian spicy pickled vegetables)

(Haitian spicy pickled vegetables)

Gari

Gari Japanese pickled ginger

(Japanese pickled ginger)

Torshi

Jars of vegetable torshi

(Iranian, Afghan pickled vegetables)

Leems

Leems (Moroccan preserved lemons)

(Moroccan preserved lemons)