Introduction: Instant Pickles! (30 Second Vacuum Pickles!)

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Got that tickle for a pickle, but feeling fickle about the wait? With your hand-powered vacuum, you can convert your cucumbers in about 30 seconds to delectable dills of delight!

This pickling relies on a fascinating process using negative pressure to collapse the cell walls of your cucumber, and break down the membranes, letting water out, and your vinegar brine in. Whether you're in it for the science or in it for the taste, 30 second pickles are just magical!

  • What: Instant Pickles! (30 second vacuum pickles)
  • Wait, seriously!?: Yes indeedy
  • Concepts: air pressure, cell structure, diffusion
  • Cost: ~ $2 for a full on cucumber conversion
  • Time: ~ 60 seconds prep, 30 seconds pickling
  • Materials:
    • Cucumber
    • Vinegar
    • Sugar
    • Spices
    • Large syringe (with no point)
    • Small cup
  • Tools:
    • Knife

There is an amazing amount of pickle info out there. To get an introduction to pickles, look at pickles through history and to learn more about the science, here's how traditional pickling works.

However, we're going to take what sometimes takes years and blow it out of the vinegar. In 30 seconds. About one millionth the time.

Step 1: Mix Your Brine

Flavors and preferences will vary here, but for the most part, you'll want to start off with pouring in some vinegar. White vinegar works well, but for more flavor up front you can go with balsamic (yum!) Add some sugar to taste, and some spices. I used cumin and turmeric, but also common is salt, pepper, curry, cayenne, really anything you want!

Mix it in a cup, and you want enough to be able to partially fill your syringe.

Step 2: Cut and Load Your Cucumber

For instant-pickling, thin slices work best. Slice your cucumber, and then divide those slices into chunks that can fit into your syringe. Remove the back plunger, throw them in, and then squeeze then replace the plunger and squeeze. You're ready for pickle time!

Step 3: Pickle Time!

With your cucumbers in the syringe, pull enough of your brine to submerge them. Then flip your syringe upside down, and place your thumb over the tip. Then pull back the plunger so a partial vacuum is created inside, and hold!

Step 4: Hold for 30 Seconds (also Science Time!)

As you hold the vacuum for 30 seconds, you can take a moment to check out the science. If you look in your syringe, you can see bubbles forming and escaping from your cucumbers. This is because there are tiny air pockets in every plant cell and throughout the structures. As you pull your partial vacuum, the air trapped in cell vacuoles burst out of the cell and in between the structures. This is one of the many reasons we wouldn't do too well in space. Check out this blog of someone using a vacuum chamber to pickle for more details.

This breakdown also release a lot of the water within, allowing it to be replaced by our brine, which will give our pickles their taste. The longer you hold, the more brine infusion, but 30 seconds is a pretty good amount of time.

When you're done, release your thumb from the syringe tip!

*** Neatly, Liam brought up in the comments the possibility of the water inside the syringe boiling, and that can happen, too! If you can pull your vacuum such that the pressure inside is ~0.36psi in a 70 degree fahrenheit room, you can see large bubbles forming throughout which is actually boiling water. Woot! It's definitely worth doing with even just water alone.

Step 5: Extract Ze Pickles and Enjoy!

Push out your brine into your cup, remove the plunger, and pour out your pickles! You can see them next to regular ol' cucumber, and they are looking GOOOOOOOD!!!

Chomp them up, and mess with your recipe to get ones you love even more. Also, you can pickle and infuse so many things like tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, watermelons, and more. So long as you're working with plant items and vacuums, it's hard to go wrong.

Pickle lots and pickle often. Especially now that it's 10000% faster.