When disaster strikes, one of the first things to go out will be electricity. Without a stable source of power, you won’t have the means to preserve food via refrigeration, and you’ll have to find other ways to extend your food’s edibility.
Food preservation used to be an essential skill for humans, since refrigeration and freezing equipment did not see widespread use until the early 20th century. Before that, methods like canning, smoking, and drying was staple knowledge for families.
Thankfully, there is another food preservation method that doesn’t require much skill or resources: pickling. Pickled food is fermented, or immersed in its acidic juice, to slow the growth of harmful microorganisms and preserve the food past its normal expiration date. Pickling is so easy and effective that it has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years. It also enhances the flavor of food in most cases, turning pickled items into delicious snacks. When preparing for lean days when food may be scarce, pickling is a great alternative for food preservation.
ITEMS YOU CAN PICKLE
One of the best things about pickling is the vast selection of foodstuffs that can be pickled: fruits, vegetables, even meat.
Some of the well-known fruits that can be pickled include apples, lemons, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and pears. You can even pickle watermelon rind as a condiment for meat.
You can use cauliflower, carrots, radishes, beets, cabbage, onions, and many other vegetables. Pickling is popular in Asian countries like Korea, where they pickle napa cabbage and radish for kimchi
One of Louisiana’s specialties is pickled meat- pork, specifically. Originally, it was made from fresh pork rubbed with saltpeter, allspice, salt, onions, and bay leaves, but many modern variations use brine instead. Corned beef is another good example of pickled meat. Other types of meat that can be pickled include chicken and fish such as herring, trout, and salmon. Done right, pickling will let you preserve meat for months.
An additional, common, and inexpensive source of protein is eggs. Pickled hardboiled eggs are commonly found in stores and are easy to process at home.
Depending on the item you want pickled and what you want for your final product, there are different pickling methods that you can choose from:
Quick or “fresh” pickling is the easiest method. The produce is packed in sterilized containers and submerged in pickling brine. Some produce may be cooked before being pickled, but most fruits and vegetables can be cleaned and left whole, ready for pickling.
This method, either dry or brined, draws out the water from your produce. This allows the food item to be thoroughly soaked with pickling juice, and improves its flavor and shelf life compared to quick pickling.
This method is used on produce with high water content like cucumbers, cabbages or eggplants.
Popular in Asian countries, pickling produce with vinegar brine is a step above the salt brine method and draws out more water, completely soaking the produce in pickle juice. Salt, sugar, and spices can be added to flavor the pickled produce.
Pickling through fermentation adds another layer to brine pickling, giving your pickled produce a distinct flavor and aroma. When fermenting, you must make sure that your produce is completely submerged in the pickle solution.
Examples of produce pickled through fermentation are sauerkraut and kimchi.
WHAT YOU NEED
Most of the necessary supplies are easy to find and may already be part of your household supplies. Here are the items you’ll need when pickling:
Glass jars with a wide mouth and thick glass walls are recommended. The wide mouth will make it easier to put in and take out your pickled item, while the thick glass will help the container withstand the heat when being sterilized. Because of these requirements, mason jars are often used as containers for pickled products.If you don’t like the fragile nature of glass, there are metal (stainless steel) containers that can be used for pickling, though some people will tell you that this can affect the taste of pickled food. DO NOT use copper, brass, aluminum or iron containers and utensils- they can react to the salt and acid in your pickle juice and produce toxic compounds in the preserved food.Aside from the containers, you’ll also need lids to seal your containers. You can often get them with your jars, but you can also purchase them separately when you need spares or new lids.
These cover your container and protect it from contaminants. They used to be disposable, but reusable lids are now available.
These are the o-rings that secure your lids in place and seal your containers. They’re reusable, but be on the lookout for rust. Dispose rusted bands and replace them with clean new ones.
WATER BATH CANNER
These are basically large pots with a lid and rack to accommodate your containers. Your pot should be tall enough to completely submerge the containers you’ll be using.
A rack keeps your containers from having direct contact with the bottom of the pot and holds them steady during the sterilization process. Racks are usually packaged with pots during purchase, but you can also purchase canning racks separately.
JAR TONGS OR LIFTERS
Though not really a requirement, lifters make it easier and safer to extract containers in and out of the hot water and makes the process faster.
If you plan to pickle a large batch of items through fermentation (like sauerkraut), a pickling crock will make the job much easier. They’re large earthenware pots, water-sealed, and designed specifically for fermenting food items.
SALT & VINEGAR
Pickling requires pickling salt. In case you can’t find a supply of pickling salt, other kinds of salt like kosher or pure sea salt can be used as long as they do not contain additives.When vinegar is required, distilled white vinegar is often used, although apple cider vinegar can be substituted in some cases. Other types of vinegar with lower acidity, like wine vinegar or salad vinegar, should be avoided because they could result in poorly-pickled produce.
Different food items require different formulas and methods of preservation, and there can be more than one way to pickle a particular produce. You can look for recipes online, and use the one that’s best suited to your needs, taste and resources.
Out of the many techniques to keep food edible, pickling is one of the easiest and a good introduction to the different methods of preserving food. Being able to pickle produce and other food items will allow you to stretch your food supplies for the long term.