Pickling, also known as brining or corning, is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water), to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid). The resulting food is called a pickle. This procedure gives the food a salty or sour taste.
The distinguishing feature is a pH less than 4.6, which is sufficient to kill most necrobacteria. Pickling can preserve perishable foods for months. Antimicrobial herbs and spices, such as mustard, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, are often added.
If the food contains sufficient moisture, a pickling brine may be produced simply by adding dry salt. For example, sauerkraut and Korean kimchi are produced by salting the vegetables to draw out excess water. Natural fermentation at room temperature, by lactic acid bacteria, produces the required acidity. Other pickles are made by placing vegetables in vinegar. Unlike the canning process, pickling (which includes fermentation) does not require that the food be completely sterile before it is sealed. The acidity or salinity of the solution, the temperature of fermentation, and the exclusion of oxygen determine which microorganisms dominate, and determine the flavor of the end product. (McGee 2004, p. 291-296)
When both salt concentration and temperature are low, Leuconostoc mesenteroides dominates, producing a mix of acids, alcohol, and aroma compounds. At higher temperatures Lactobacillus plantarum dominates, which produces primarily lactic acid. Many pickles start with Leuconostoc, and change to Lactobacillus with higher acidity. (McGee 2004, p. 291-296)
Pickling began as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys, especially by sea. Salt pork and salt beef were common staples for sailors before the days of steam engines. Although the process was invented to preserve foods, pickles are also made and eaten because people enjoy the resulting flavors. Pickling may also improve the nutritious value of food by introducing B vitamins produced by bacteria.
Popularity of pickles around the world
China is home to a huge variety of pickled vegetables, including radish, baicai (Chinese cabbage, notably suan cai, la bai cai, pao cai, and Tianjin preserved vegetable), zha cai, chili pepper and cucumber, among many others.
In Sri Lanka, they traditionally prepare pickles called achcharu which is made from slices of carrots, onions, ground dates, mustard ground with pepper, crushed ginger with garlic and vinegar seasoned in a clay pot.
Indonesian acar is usually made from sliced or diced cucumber, carrot, bird's eye chilies, shallots and seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. Sometimes Indonesians added other kinds of fruits, such as sliced/diced papaya and pineapple.
In the Philippines, they also have pickles called "achara" which are made from slices of green papaya, shallots, cloves of garlic and vinegar.
In Turkey, pickles are called turşu. Turkish people make turşu with several vegetables, roots, and fruits such as peppers, cucumber, Armenian cucumber (acur), cabbage, tomato, eggplant (aubergine), carrot, turnip, beetroot, green almond, green plum, etc. Also, they use several spices to flavour their pickles.
In Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia, mixed pickles are known as turshi. They are a very popular traditional appetizer for raki. Pickled green tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, peppers, eggplants, and sauerkraut, are also very popular.
In Russia, popular pickled foods include beets, mushrooms, various types of tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, ramsons, garlic, eggplant (typically stuffed with julienned carrots), custard squash, and even watermelon.
In Britain, pickled onions and pickled eggs are often sold in pubs and fish and chip shops. Pickled beetroot, walnuts, and gherkins, and condiments such as Branston Pickle and piccalilli are typically eaten as an accompaniment to pork pies and cold meats or a ploughman's lunch.
In Ukraine common garden produce is usually dilled to be consumed in winter. Salt, dill, currant leaves and garlic are used and, after storage in a cool, dark place, give tomatoes and cucumbers a distinctive flavour.
In Iran and many Arab countries like Lebanon and Egypt, pickles (called mekhallel in Arabic, hamutzim in Hebrew, or torshi in Persian) are served at almost every meal. They vary, but the most common are made from turnips, peppers, green olives, cucumbers, beetroot, cabbage, lemons and cauliflower.
The United States and Canada pickle market is dominated by pickled cucumbers (which are commonly referred to as simply pickles), olives, and sauerkraut, although many pickles popular in other nations are also available (such as the pickled tomato common in New York City delicatessens). Giardiniera, a mixture of pickled peppers, celery and olives, is a popular condiment in Chicago, often served with Italian beef sandwiches. Pickled eggs are common in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In the southern United States, pickled okra is popular. In Mexico, chile peppers, particularly of the Jalapeño and serrano varieties, pickled with onions, carrots and herbs are common condiments.
Other foods that are commonly pickled
- Vegetables: ginger, lotus root, garlic, asparagus, onion, radish, green beans, eggplant
- Capers and olives are usually served pickled in the West (unlike the salt-cured versions favored in the Orient).
- Fruit: mango, kumquat, lemon, peach, watermelon rind
- Peppers and chiles: banana peppers, jalapeños, etc.,
- Meat: beef (to make corned beef and pastrami), pork, ham
- Fish see also ceviche
Other home food preservation methods
Main article: Food preservation
- Fermented Fruits and Vegetables. A Global Perspective. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: How do I...Pickle
- How to make pickles
- How to pickle olives
- Pickles (BBC)
- Dill Pickle Lamp
- ^ McGee, Harold (2004), On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, ISBN 0-684-80001-2.