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Pickling

Pickling is a favourite method for storing food and has been for a long time. But pickling with premade vinegar is quite a new thing and vinegar is quite time consuming to make reliably in a post disaster world. This is some information on salt based pickles which use salt and water to regulate microbiological agents to turn the brine into vinegar over time around the food to be stored. This can be done with fruits and vegetables and also meat (i.e. corned beef)

You’ll need a clean, cool place to do this kind of pickling and also some time. You also need something to make your pickles in. Because the vessel will hold both brine and acid, metals are out. Wood and glazed pottery are traditional but plastic is cheap, easy to clean and available in about every size and shape you could want. But tall and narrow is the best. You will also want a clean weight to keep the vegetables under the surface of the brine. Salt, it is in nearly every home, it’s cheap and it lasts forever. Depending on which method you use (see below) you can use different salts. In the first recipe (the one where you make a brine) you can use whatever salt you have as you can boil and then chill the brine to get all the salt dissolved. With the dry method you are relying on water from the vegetable to dissolve the salt so it has to be very fine. Table salt can work but if all you have stored is rock salt you may wish to use the wet method. It is very important that you do not use chlorinated water for your brines as it could kill all of the microbes you want making pickles. You will also want to clean and trim your vegetables.

Wet method for large objects (whole or spears of cucumbers, etc.)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 5 1/4 ounce by weight of salt
  • 3 pounds of vegetables/fruit)

Mix the brine together and then cover the vegetables with it. You will want something to keep everything under the surface of the liquid while not blocking air. You want to place it in a cool spot. After 3 days you will want to skim the scum, scooping off anything that looks white or moldy. It should just a by-product of the fermentation. Then every other day you want to repeat this step for a total of 6-10 days for mild pickles or up to 3 weeks if you like really sour pickles.

Dry method for small or chopped up foods (shredded cabbage, etc.)

  • 5 pounds of vegetables/fruits
  • 3 tablespoons of salt (the finer the better)

In a clean bowl mix the salt and vegetables together, then leave for 10 minutes. There should then be some liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Pack the vegetable and liquid into you container and again, push everything under the surface with a clean weight. After a few days the liquid should cover the vegetables and you will want to scum regularly for 2 to 4 weeks.

Those are the basic recipes and of course you can improve them however you like. Herbs, spices, fruits, a mixture of veggies. Whatever you have and like. If at any time the pickles become soft or give off strange odours you should throw that batch away. So now for what is happening during this time. The salt limits the presence of bacteria, except those who can work in a salty environment. They produce lactic acid in the brine and make it sour. But even the ones who can survive work very slow in it so it takes a while. This is fine as is will give you a more flavourful pickle, rather than just a strong one. Once your pickle is finished you can put it in the fridge, still in the liquid and eat them over a couple of months. Or you can seal the container from air and store them. I’ve had pickles up to 6 months old and they were fine, I’m sure you can go longer but I have just had little luck in not eating them. As for any leftover liquid, I either use it in salads or you can use it to make up part of your next brine. It’s packed with the microbes you want in your brine. Keep it in a cold place, loosely covered and in the next month start another pickle. If you do this you will want to make your brine, boil and chill (if needed) before adding your pickle juice.

I have never tried water bath canning jars of the pickles but I’m sure it would work. If you want a slightly safer storage system that doesn’t require loads of Kilner jars try this: Drain the pickles saving both the pickles and liquid. Boil the liquid to kill off you microbes. Then put the pickles in hot, sterilised jars (the ones with plastic pop lids), top up with the hot liquid and put the lid on. If any don’t seal put them in the fridge and use within the next month.

This information is based on my experience and reading. If you have a book that disagrees with me, you should probably follow its instructions instead. Also this is fermentation so everything, the container, utensils, weight, everything must be clean. Things can go wrong (especially the first time) so follow these instructions at your own risk.

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