In pioneer America, pickling was done in the summer so that families would have what to eat in the winter. As agricultural societies, these trailblazers were solely dependent on the products of their farms. It was a no no to touch your pickled crops in the summer when you could eat those same vegetables and fruits fresh from the vines. Rather, pickled foods were a winter treat when no other fresh produce was available. There were no supermarkets or delivery services to rely on.
Today, we are fortunate to be able to eat most fruits and vegetables both in the summer and winter so pickled foods have become the go to in all seasons. In fact, food magazines are showing interesting pickling recipes in their summer issues, not to save for the winter but to enjoy in the summer. Most of the recipes for pickling take a short time and can be enjoyed not long after the pickling process is completed, many on the same day.
We will give you some easy recipes to begin your own home pickling and also explain the difference between the two types of jars, regular and wide mouth. Most of the pickling recipes can be interchanged with these two types of jars and sometimes it’s just a matter of which jar you have on hand or prefer.
Philosophically we can compare these two types of jars to people’s personalities and depending on your particular personality you may find these comparisons humorous or deep. When you meet a new acquaintance, they can be described as wide mouthed or narrow mouthed depending on how much of themselves they divulge. A regular pickle jar is compared to finding a first job, the first child to get married or other major life changes.
When applying for a first job it is a catch-22 situation. One of the first questions asked by the interviewer is how much experience the applicant has in that field. Unless the applicant has done some summer interning the answer is usually none. A novice finding their first job is akin to pulling the first pickle out of a regular pickle jar, which can be quite difficult. You can try a finger, fork or tongs but whatever you use it will be difficult to manipulate that first pickle without breaking or damaging it. So too, the new applicant’s ego is just as sensitive, and an interviewer should be careful not to damage it.
Once the first pickle is out of the jar the other pickles have room to move around and those pickles are so much easier to remove. This analogy is effective in explaining the difference between a wide mouthed jar and a regular jar. Another way of comparing these two types of jars is another human analogy called shoulders.
There are certain times when it is beneficial to use regular size jars such as small size pickling cucumbers. This type of vegetable would float around in a wide mouth jar, and you would not be able to get the snugness that is standard in a typical pickle jar. On the other hand, certain foods such as large sized cucumbers, whole fruits and tomatoes need larger openings to fit these foods into a jar.
Salsas, jams, and jellies although not pickled in the strict sense do best in wide mouth jars. Wide mouth jars are much easier to fill and pack since there are no indentations or curves to contend with. Jars with shoulders will keep smaller sized foods below the liquid level which ensures that all the fruits or vegetables get pickled equally.
There are many ways to pickle vegetables and fruits with some methods taking longer than others. We will concentrate on the almost instant methods that are so popular for barbeques this summer. Remember, that certain canning methods are for long term preservation as we stated above on the prairie and others only work with refrigeration if not used immediately.
There are so many interesting vinegars on the market today. One of the most commonly used vinegars for pickling is rice vinegar which has a less acidic flavor than your standard vinegar.
Simple & Easy Pickles
- One bottle 12.7 oz rice vinegar (Trader Joe’s has a good one)
- Sugar and salt to taste
- Thinly sliced onions
- Fresh garlic
- Pickling spices
- Rinse the jar.
- In a large pot, add equal amounts of water and rice vinegar enough to fill the mason jar.
- Add your salt and sugar.
- Put the rinsed pickles in the jar as snugly as possible.
Notes: If you are using larger jars such as half gallon you may have to double this recipe and when done after adding rice vinegar you can use the same jar for the water. When using the above recipe for thinly sliced vegetables such as radishes, red onions, carrots or cucumbers, your pickled veggies can be ready to serve right away.
After the vinegar/water mixture comes to a boil pour it over the pickles to completely cover them. If you see you skimped on the water and vinegar repeat the boiling process with additional vinegar and water until the liquid covers the pickles completely. Put the sliced onions, garlic, and pickling spices on top of pickles before closing the jar. Cool the jar on the counter and refrigerate as soon as it reaches room temperature. Unlike actual canning which requires sterilization of the jars, this process once the pickle jar is refrigerated needs no additional preparation. How many days will the pickles take to be ready depends on how sour and what color you like your pickles. Half sours can be ready in a day.
Garden Fresh Vegetables Pickling
How proud will an amateur vegetable gardener be to have extra produce to pickle. Half gallon glass wide mouth mason jars are right for the following. Sweet corn, daikon radishes, bell peppers and even strawberries are wonderful candidates for summer pickling adventures. For example, if you take the time to remove the corn from the cob, the kernels will fit perfectly into your wide mouth mason jar for a wonderful addition to your favorite salsa recipe. There is no comparison to a pickled cup of corn than to a simple canned version. You might not even have to add any additional dressing to your original salsa.
Spicy Pickled Strawberries
Strawberries are turned from a dessert to an appetizer accompanied with cheese.
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. Chili garlic sauce
- 1 tsp. Toasted sesame oil
- ½ tsp grated orange zest
- ½ tsp. Black sesame seeds
- 1 minced green onion or dried chives
- 2 pounds fresh backyard strawberries hulled.
Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl and add the strawberries stirring to coat thoroughly. Transfer to wide mouth mason jars and cover snuggly. These can be used immediately or stored up to two days in your refrigerator.
- About 4 medium ears of fresh corn
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. Salt
- ½ tsp black pepper (coarsely ground)
- Optional pinch of red pepper flakes
Remove corn from cobs and place in a bowl. Boil remaining ingredients in a pot simmering until the sugar melts. Pour mixture over corn and transfer to your mason jar and tightly seal. Corn should be chilled for at least two hours for best taste and can be refrigerated for up to two months.
There are many uses for wide mouth half gallon jars, and we have just written about one, pickling. The summer is here and there is no limit in the types of vegetables that are successful with pickling. We have not even mentioned the health benefits that pickling has, we have only described some delicious and creative ways to use the G D given produce that is set before us. We just must take some extra time to try out some recipes and then to become creative and make up our own. Whether it’s at your next BBQ or a weekend brunch, pickled vegetables and fruits add a whole new dimension to the gifts from the ground and trees. The sky’s the limit of what we can do with the basics of life. Have some fun and try to fool around with other foods that we failed to mention such jalapeno and other types of peppers. Make sure to use quality mason jars so as not to have any unexpected accidents such as cracking jars or leaky covers.
Incidentally there are different types of covers for mason jars, such as plastic or metal and additional protection are rubber inserts. It pays to do a little research on jars if you are purchasing new ones, however, if you have some trusty mason jars in your kitchen cabinets, they will probably do the trick as well. Practice makes perfect, so don’t despair if your first batch of pickled produce doesn’t compare to store bought. Your family will love it anyway if it’s coming from your own backyard garden.