This week I opened up a jar of some pickles I put away last month, and they've been getting rave reviews so I thought I'd share some pickle tips. I'm not an expert - I only got into canning last year and this is my first time with pickles - but this is what I've learned.
1. Apple cider vinegar is your friend. Most of the recipes out there call for white vinegar because it makes a nice clear pretty brine. It's true that ACV will give your pickle brine that L.A. air effect, but most of us are canning to eat food and not just to decorate our pantry shelves. Using equal parts white vinegar and cider vinegar will make pickles that are sweeter and more flavorful.
2. Use pickling cucumbers, not regular cucumbers, and cut the tips off. There is an enzyme in the tip of the pickle that will somehow make them soggy in the jar. I did this and my pickles are nice and crisp even though I processed them in a boiling water bath, supposedly another soggy factor, so there must be something to it. And anyway, I'm Jewish; cutting the tip off the pickle just seems like the right thing to do.
3. Garlic, garlic, garlic. 'Nuff said.
4. The longer they sit, the better they get. Put the pickles away and then try to forget about them for at least a few weeks. This jar I opened this week is good, but it still has a bit of a bite. In another few weeks they'll have mellowed out some more. I'm looking forward to enjoying them with a grilled cheese sandwich and some mustard once it gets cold outside.
5. Don't limit yourself to cucumbers. Cauliflower, green beans, peppers, even peaches and eggs - you can pickle anything. One of my favorites is pickled garlic. I've been making that for awhile now and last year it was a gift-giving hit! Pickled garlic cloves are excellent in salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and martinis. AND it looks pretty in the jar.
Here's how you make pickled garlic:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar (or you can use 2 c ACV)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp pickling spice
5 heads of garlic, peeled into individual cloves
1 chopped hot pepper, optional
Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the pickling spice and boil vigorously for five minutes before adding the garlic and pepper; bring it back to the boil and leave it another five minutes. Take it off the heat. Fill sterile jars with the garlic cloves and then top off with the liquid, leaving about 1/4" of space at the top. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes if you want to store it in the pantry or mail it, or just stick it in the refrigerator. Give it a minimum of three weeks before you open the jar and enjoy!