How are pickles made?
Pickling was of supreme importance to every household. So how are pickles made? Winters were long, fresh vegetables practically unprocurable, whilst for months on end fruit was unknown to masses of the people.
The Winter diet largely consisted of pickled food in various forms. Salted and smoked meats such as beef, pork, bacon and hams. Pickled and salted fish, especially herrings and a wide range of what we understand today by pickles. Vegetables and fruits preserved in vinegar and spices.
Success in anything means understanding what you are trying to do and how to do it. Food goes bad chiefly for one reason. It is attacked by minute organisms which, under suitable conditions, grow at a rapid rate and break down the composition of that particular food. These organisms are divided into three groups — bacteria (which are the smallest), yeasts and molds.
The vast majority are quite harmless in themselves and many are beneficial. It is only when the wrong one gets into the wrong food that trouble arises.
For instance, the blue mold that makes Stilton Cheese so delicious becomes a very unwelcome visitor on a bunch of hot-house grapes, and the lactic bacteria that turn your milk sour would also turn it into cream cheese if you’d let them.
Home Pickling is so treating the food that these organisms cannot grow and it becomes pickled or preserved.
There are three natural preservatives: sugar, salt and vinegar.
Sugar is chiefly used to preserve fruits as jams, marmalades and jellies. Salt is the main agent in preserving meats and fish. Vinegar plays the principal part in turning vegetables and fruits into pickles. Though salt is an important partner in first brining the vegetables and sugar is also used when sweet pickles or chutneys are made.
Many old cookery books state that the brine should be strong enough to float an egg, but this is rather a chancy method for the strength will depend on the age of the egg – always a doubtful.
Good spiced vinegar is the foundation of a good pickle and having got that don’t upset it by adding additional fresh spices to the jars. A few whole peppercorns, cloves, or two or three red chillies will add considerably to the appearance of a clear pickle, but take them from jour spiced vinegar. Then you won’t alter the flavor, but four large chillies fresh from their bag arranged carefully on each side of the jar will look beautiful, though the pickle will be too hot to eat after a month.