With unadulterated access to an overabundance of fresh fruit and vegetables during summer, it's a shame to see the seasons change. But don't think that just because the tomatoes have fallen from the vine and the leaves are changing, you cannot enjoy your summertime favorites year round. Pickling is your secret weapon against insipid and uninspired menus. The reason being that pickling enables you to add a tangy twist to preserved fruits and veggies, so you can add a splash of color to your plate on the coldest of days. If you're a pickling newb, don't let daunting mason jars and an empty knowledge bank deter you from getting started. We've highlighted some crucial details to get you familiarized with this DIY staple.
Pickling & Fermenting Aren't Mutually Exclusive
Before you start anything, we need to set the record straight. Pickled food isn't synonymous with fermented food. We'll keep it simple. Pickled food can be --and often is -- fermented. However, you can have pickled food that is not fermented and fermented food that is pickled.
What is Pickling?
To make things clearer, we'll help you learn what exactly pickling is and is not. Pickling something is simply processing food in an acidic substance, ergo preserving it. In effect, the original food source's flavor becomes altered - often sour or tangy.
It is not unusual to see items pickled with vinegar, which is sometimes referred to as "quick pickling." This is especially true of store-bought varieties. This vinegar taste is sometimes mistaken as fermentation, since many fermented items have a strong acidic taste, resulting from the by-product created during the natural fermentation process. While both fermentation and pickling create a natural preservative, you now understand that one is not necessarily the other.
Pickling Through Fermentation
As proponents of beneficial microorganisms, we're a fan of pickled foods that have been fermented. It's the best of both worlds. You get the tangy taste you love, along with the natural lactic acid bacteria (read: probiotic) byproduct of the fermentation process (otherwise lost when opting for quick pickling). And don't let the whole bacteria aspect of creating pickled, fermented food intimidate you. All you need is some filtered water, a starter, and some salt. Oh, and don't forget a fruit or veggie of your choosing.
For the best pickling results, there are some good checks and balances. We'll get to that in our next blog, though. So come back and visit us next week, okay?