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Canning and Preserving Class
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Lesson 4: Vinegar Pickling
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Why This Method Works

The major player in this process for outsmarting the spoilers is vinegar and the low pH of the brine it creates. The high acidity of vinegar combined with either the heat of boiling water bath canning or the cold storage of refrigeration, alters the environment inside the jars enough to ensure safe preserving.

With canned pickles, because we're using the boiling water bath canning method, the combined ingredients must have a pH of 4.6 or lower. You can buy a pH meter to test your recipes, OR you can stick to the following rule:

Never dilute the vinegar in your brine with more than 50% water. As long as you stick to a ratio of a minimum of 50% vinegar, you will maintain safe levels of acidity.

NOTE: For the above rule to be effective, you must use vinegars that have a acetic acid content of 4.5% or higher. If you stick to using commercial vinegars, they should fall in that safe range. The label will provide that percentage info. (I personally like to use apple cider or red and white wine vinegars. White vinegar tends to taste astringent to me.) If you have your heart set on making your own vinegars, then it's imperative that you invest in a quality digital pH meter so you can be sure you're using something with a low enough pH.

With refrigerated pickles, the above rule isn't necessary to follow because of the effectiveness of cold storage against the spoilers. Using less vinegar will produce a milder flavor, with less of a bite. You will see that less vinegar is used in the fridge pickles we'll make next.

NOTE: A refrigerator recipe cannot be turned into a canned recipe unless you increase the amount of vinegar to meet the 50/50 vinegar to water ratio rule.


Tools & Equipment

Here's what you'll need to make each recipe in this lesson:

Refrigerator Pickles

Canned Dilly Carrots

*It's not necessary to sterilize the jars. Washing and drying them is enough as we'll be using cold storage in conjunction with the vinegar for the Refrigerator Pickles and we'll be boiling water bath canning the Dilly Carrots for 10 minutes.


Refrigerator Pickles

Recipe

  • (x1) clean quart jar
  • 2 lbs small pickling cucumbers*
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp light honey
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 3 small grape leaves**
  • 2 large sprigs of dill or 1 tbsp dried dill weed

*You can substitute these small, jar sized cucumbers for pretty much any vegetable! Carrots, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus are all delicious options, to name a few.

**Grape leaves are sold in jars packed in water or oil. I found mine at Whole Foods, but any Mediterranean market will also carry them. They are optional - they help keep the pickles crunchy - so don't worry if you can't find them!

Add the water, vinegar, salt and honey to a medium saucepan.

Give the ingredients a stir and bring the mix to a boil. Once the bubbles start roiling, turn off the burner and move the saucepan to a cool burner. Let the mix cool to room temperature while you prep the cucumbers.

Weigh out your 2 lbs of pickling cucumbers. For me, that was 4 cukes.

Use a sharp chef's knife to remove the ends of the cucumbers and cut them into halves or spears.

Measure out the remaining ingredients and remove the skins from the garlic cloves.

Place one of the grape leaves (if using) in the bottom of the jar.

Add the garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and peppercorns.

Now it's time to 'build' your jar of almost pickles.

Tip the jar to a 45° angle with one hand while starting to stack in the cucumber spears with the other. As you build up layers of spears add in the remaining grape leaves and fresh dill as you go.

Once you've filled the jar, straighten it back up and add any remaining spears into any remaining spaces. Be forceful if necessary. As the cucumbers pickle, they will shrink a bit, so the more tightly packed they are in the jar, the less likely they are to float up out of the brine.

Like so!

Once your brine has cooled back down to room temperature (feel free to speed that process along if necessary by sticking it in the fridge), fill the jar with brine until it covers the cucumbers completely.

There's no need to leave headspace for fridge pickles.

Seal or secure the lid and you're done! Well, almost done. The only thing left to do is stick it in the fridge! The sooner the better.

PROPER STORAGE

Now that your fine work is chillin' in the fridge, kick back and give the pickling process 4-5 days to work its magic before serving. Refrigerator pickles will last for up to 3 months in cold storage. But I'll bet you a Canadian quarter that they'll be long gone before then. ;)


Pickled Dilly Carrots

This recipe is a bit of a 'choose your own adventure'. I did both a canned jar and a refrigerator jar of dilly carrots so I could contrast and compare tastes and textures of each. If you prefer to just do two canned jars instead and skip the refrigerator one, I've provided the recipe amounts for that as well.

The A/B Split Test Recipe (1 pint jar for canning & 1 1/2 pint jar for the refrigerator)

  • (x1) pint jar
  • (x1) 1 1/2 pint jar
  • 1 3/4 lbs of carrots (approx. 12 lrg carrots)
  • 1 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic

2 Canned Pints Recipe

  • (x2) pint jars
  • 1 1/2 lbs of carrots (approx. 8-9 lrg carrots)
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic

Fill your large blanching pot halfway with water and set it to boil.

While the water is heating up, we'll prep the carrots! Cut the ends off and peel 'em.

Starting with the pint jar, cut enough carrots into thin spears (the length of the jar minus 3/4") to fill it.

Repeat for the 1 1/2 pint jar. (Or the other pint jar if you're doing 2 canned.)

Make sure you cut enough so that the carrots are packed nice and tight.

Like this!

Now to blanch the carrots. Set a colander on a towel next to the now boiling pot of water and get your slotted spoon ready.


Blanch the carrots to be canned for 90 seconds.


Once the timer goes off...


quickly remove them from the water.


Then immediately run them under cold water for 90 seconds, or plunge them into ice water.

If you're doing the jar of refrigerator dilly carrots as well, repeat the above process but blanch the carrots for 3 minutes. As you learned in the last recipe, it's not imperative to blanch veggies for refrigerator pickles, but it does help slow down the enzymatic process and keep the carrots a more vibrant color.

Now it's time to pack the carrot spears into their respective jars along with the de-skinned garlic cloves, dill, and spices.

Add 2 garlic cloves, a sprig of dill, and half of the peppercorns and dill seed to each jar.

Lean, stack and fill the jars with their 'like sized' carrot spears just like we did with the cucumber spears in the last recipe.

Now it's brine time! Bring the water, vinegar and kosher salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and leave the saucepan sitting on the same burner.

Now it's time to set up the canning station. Fill your canning pot that works with pint jars 3/4 full of water and set it to boil. Put the sealing lid(s) in a shallow bowl (or pie plate in my case). Set out the lid lifter, jar lifter, lid ring, and a clean towel to set the hot jar(s) on post canning.

While the canning water is boiling, fill the refrigerator jar with brine*, completely covering the carrots. Use the ladle to push down on the carrots, making sure they're snug in place. Screw a lid on and put the jar immediately into the fridge. Those are done. Great work!

*In most cases, for refrigerator pickles, you will want to let the brine cool to room temperature before adding it to the jar of veggies like we did in the last recipe. The reason I didn't for this jar was because we had already added heat to the veggies so it wasn't going to ruin any fresh crispness -- and I had a pause in the canning process and wanted to make use of that time. If you want to save your fridge from the extra work of cooling down the hot brine, you can definitely wait to fill the jar of refrigerator dilly carrots until after you've finished the canned jar(s).

Now to finish the canned jar(s). Fill the jar with the still hot brine, leaving 1/2" headspace. Then rinse the ladle and use it to transfer some boiling water to the shallow bowl to soften the sealing compound on the lid.

Tap the jar to release any air bubbles that may be hiding in between the carrots. Wipe the top edge of the jar with a clean cloth or paper towel and use the lid lifter to set the lid in place. Screw on the lid ring.

Then follow the same boiling water bath canning steps that we used for the canned peaches in Lesson 2:

  • Once the water is boiling, use the jar lifter to place the dilly carrot jar(s) in the rack of the canning pot .
  • Set your timer for 10 minutes once the water has returned to a roiling boil.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you live more than 1000 feet above sea level, please refer to the Altitude Adjustment Chart from Lesson 2 for how to adjust your processing time.

  • Once the timer goes off, use the jar lifter to remove the jar(s) and place it on the towel to cool.
  • After one hour, remove the outer lid ring and lift the jar by the edges of the sealer lid to ensure that you achieved a proper seal.
  • Let cool on the towel for 6 hours before labeling and moving to the cupboard or pantry.


Storage Tips

Canned Dilly Carrots

Store in a cool, dry place like a cupboard, pantry or root cellar for up to one year. Once opened, store pickles in the fridge and eat within 3 months.

Refrigerator Dilly Carrots

Store in the fridge for up to 3 months.

NOTE: For both versions, for maximum deliciousness let pickles rest in brine for 4-5 days before serving.


Put on Your Smart Pants

Cause it's quiz time!!

{
    "id": "quiz-1",
    "question": "Which of the following statements is true?",
    "answers": [
        {
            "title": "Vinegar is acidic = a high pH",
            "correct": false
        },
{
            "title": "Vinegar is acidic = a low pH",
            "correct": true
        }
       
    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct! Low pH means high acidity.",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect! Try again."
}
{
    "id": "quiz-2",
    "question": "For canned pickles, what is the highest ratio of water to vinegar allowed for making safe brine?": [
        {
            "title": "60% water / 40% vinegar",
            "correct": false
        },
{
            "title": "50% water / 40% vinegar",
            "correct": true
        }
    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct!",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect. You must NEVER add more water than there is vinegar in order to make a safe brine. You can have less water, but never less vinegar!"
}

CLASS PROJECT

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