In a pickle: An easy way to preserve a garden’s bounty
Preserving • Experts suggest going beyond cucumbers to pickle all sorts of garden produce.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: July 17, 2012 01:16PM
Updated: October 30, 2012 11:32PM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Alison Einerson shows just some of her pickled foods at her home in Salt Lake City on Wednesda,y July 11, 2012. She has been pickling for over seven years and usually produces more than 300 jars a year, from several dozen varieties of vegetables. Einerson is teaching several canning and pickling classes this summer through Wasatch Community Gardens and The Downtown Farmers Market.

The best thing about a successful backyard garden is the bounty of food it provides.

The worst thing about a prolific plot: Figuring out what to do when the beans, zucchini, peppers and other vegetables come on fast and furious.

An easy, time-tested way out of this gardening pickle is to pickle what comes out of the garden.

Cucumbers are the preferred pickling vehicle, but just about any fresh vegetable or fruit can be brined in salt and vinegar, says master food preserver Alison Einerson.

“Right now in my cupboard I have pickled carrots, dilly beans, pickled beets, pickled watermelon rinds and pickled okra,” said Einerson, who will help teach a series of canning classes in Salt Lake City this summer. (See schedule at the end of this page. Three recipes follow at the end of this story.) Asparagus, corn, jalapenos, tomatillos, green tomatoes and even fennel are other pickling possibilities.

Einerson said she remembers as a child pickling vegetables with her grandmother. But it wasn’t until seven years ago, when her garden produced more food than her family could consume, that she relearned the skill. The taste is the payoff, she said. Pickled vegetables make quick and easy side dishes. Or when you “add a pickled vegetable to a fresh green salad, it takes it to a whole different place.”

Easy does it • Pickling is a great option for busy people who don’t have a lot of time, and also works for those who worry about the possibilities of food poisoning.

The scientific reason why pickling has been around so long has to do with acid levels. When canning high-acid foods such as tomatoes, peaches, plums as well as jams and jellies, cooks can use a simple water bath canner because the pH levels in the food will naturally keep bacteria from growing.

Vegetables, however, have lower acid levels and require the use of a more serious — and intimidating — bacteria killer: the steam-pressure canner.

When vegetables are packed in the right kind of vinegar and salt (see tips at left), it ups the acid levels and the water-bath method works just fine.

Of course, part of pickling’s beauty is that it can be done without a canner. Cooks can pack a single jar with fresh, cleaned vegetables, cover them with a brine and store the whole thing in the refrigerator.

“Pickling is very hip right now,” explained Claire Uno, director and Wasatch Community Gardens. The nonprofit gardening organization is sponsoring a seven-part canning series that Einerson is teaching, along with the Downtown Alliance, Harmons and Edible Wasatch magazine. Customer demand was part of the reason for the classes.

“So much of what we do is encouraging people to grow as much food as possible, but when your harvest is bountiful it can be difficult to eat it all at once,” Uno said.

Teaching people to preserve, no matter if it’s by pickling, freezing or canning, “allows people to eat locally for many more months out of the year than they would otherwise.”

New again • Andrea Chesman, author of The Pickled Pantry ($19.95, Storey Publishing), has seen the pickling movement come full circle. She originally wrote the book in 1983. A new version with additional recipes and tips was published earlier this month.

“There’s this whole revived interest in all sorts of back-to-the-land skills, and pickling is among them,” Chesman said during a telephone interview from her home in Vermont.

Pickling is easy, and the process actually improves the flavor of some vegetables. “Cauliflower is at its most delicious as a pickle, and I think cabbage is particularly good as kimchi or sauerkraut,” she said.

While pickling is a tried-and-trued method for preserving food, some things have changed over the last three decades. “There are more ethnic influences on how we eat and how we cook,” she said. Which is why the new edition of her cookbook includes recipes for Korean kimchi and Latin America curtido. “Salvadorian sauerkraut wasn’t on anybody’s radar — at least outside of San Salvador — back then,” she said.

The Pickled Pantry offers tips on produce selection and pickling techniques as well as recipes for incorporating pickled vegetables into everyday meals.

“Its easy to get enthusiastic and end up with 50 jars of pickled vegetables, which you must go through at a rate of one a week,” she said. “When you do end up with a surplus of pickles, you need to get creative about using them.”

kathys@sltrib.com

Twitter @kathystephenson

Small batch dilly beans

For each pint jar you will need:

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

6 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon pickling or fine sea salt

2 garlic cloves

6 sprigs fresh dill, 1 dill head or 1 tablespoon dill seed

2 cups (about 6 ounces) trimmed green beans

Combine the white vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolved sugar and salt.

Pack garlic, dill and beans in a sterilized, hot 1-pint canning jar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over beans, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Run a knife between the beans and the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles, adding more brine if necessary. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Cover jars with the lids and secure with metal screw band. Beans can be placed in the refrigerator at this point.

Or to seal, process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes (or more depending on altitude. See processing time chart). Remove from hot water and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Don’t open for at least six weeks to allow flavors to develop.

Recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled depending on how many jars you want to make.

Serving • 1 pint jar

Source: The Pickled Pantry: From Apples to Zucchini, 150 recipes for pickles, relishes, chutneys and more, by Andrea Chesman

Corn relish

20 medium-size ears of corn, husks and silk removed

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

Thoroughly wash and scald 6 (1-pint) jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids according to manufacturer directions.

In a large kettle, boil ears of corn for five minutes. Drop into ice water and cool 5 minutes. Carefully cut kernels from cob, but don’t scrape cobs. Measure 10 cups corn.

In a large kettle, combine corn with remaining ingredients. Boil gently, uncovered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Run a knife between the corn and the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Cover jars with the lids and secure with metal screw band. Process 15 minutes* in a boiling water bath (*or more depending on altitude).

Servings • Makes 5 to 6 (1-pint) jars

Source: America’s Best State Fair Recipes, by Catherine Hanley

Orange pickled beets

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon pickling or fine sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Zest from 1/2 of an orange, cut into thin strips

2 allspice berries

2 cups cubed cooked beets*

Combine white vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Pack the orange zest and allspice into a clean hot one-pint canning jar, followed by the beets. Pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Run a knife between the beets and the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Cover jars with the lids and secure with metal screw band. Process in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes (*or more depending on altitude). Remove from hot water and allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Don’t open for at least six weeks to allow flavors to develop.

Recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled depending on how many jars you want to make.

*4 to 5 medium-sized beets make a pound; and each pound will yield 2 to 3 cups of cubed beets.

Serving • 1 pint jar

Source: The Pickled Pantry: From Apples to Zucchini, 150 recipes for pickles, relishes, chutneys and more, by Andrea Chesman

Can-do attitude

Wasatch Community Gardens is offering a series of classes and events on canning and preserving. To register visit www.wasatchgardens.org/workshops.

Shop and can • This two-part class starts with a shopping trip to the Farmers Market and then, a few days later, putting up all the produce.

When • Saturday, July 28 10 a.m. to noon; Monday, July 30, 5 to 8 p.m.

Where • Saturday at the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park, 340 W. 300 South; and Monday at Squatters Pub Brewery, 147 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.

Cost • $25

Canning fair • Professional picklers, canners and fermentation artisans will demonstrate key techniques and offer samples.

When • Saturday, Aug. 18, 3-6 p.m.

Where • Utah State Fairpark, 1037 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City

Cost • $10.

Tree fruits • Preserve peaches and other seasonal fruits so they retain color, texture and nutrients.

When • Tuesday, Aug. 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Harmons City Creek location, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Cost • $25

Tomatoes • Preserve tomatoes whole, crushed or in a sauce.

When • Tuesday, Sept. 4, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Harmons City Creek location, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Cost • $25

Quick jam • Shop for fruit and then get a hands-on lesson for making quick jam.

When • Tuesday, Sept. 18, 4:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Pioneer Park, 350 W. 400 South; and Harmons City Creek, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City.

Cost • $25

Pressure canning • Preserve meats, broths, soups, beans and more using a pressure canner.

When • Tuesday, Oct. 2l, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Harmons City Creek location, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Cost • $25

Harvest holidays • Make relishes, pie fillings and other winter favorites for holiday gift-giving.

When • Tuesday, Oct. 16, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Harmons City Creek location, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Cost • $25

Best of the Last • Capture the last of the season by making salsas, sauces and more.

When • Tuesday, Oct. 30, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where • Harmons City Creek location, 135 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Cost • $25

Tips for perfect pickling

Here are a few things to consider when pickling:

Produce • The difference between good pickled vegetables and great ones is the freshness of the ingredients. Ideally, you should pickle as soon as you harvest.

Salt • Regular table salt, which contains additives, may darken pickles or cause the brine to become cloudy. Most recipes call for pickling (or canning) salt because it contains no additives. Fine sea salt is a good additive-free substitute. Kosher salt can be used, but it’s tricky because of volume differences. Usually 1 teaspoon table salt is equal to 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

Vinegar • It’s best to use commercial vinegars when pickling. Distilled, cider, malt and wine vinegars with at least 5 percent acidity can all be used successfully. Rice vinegar usually has a lower acidity level, about 4.3 percent, and isn’t considered safe for canning.

Start small • Making pickles one jar at a time is easier and less intimidating than large batches. It also means vegetables are preserved at their peak and not stored in the refrigerator until you have enough for a big batch. One-jar batches also are recommended when trying a new recipe. Then you’ll know if you like the product before making a large time/vegetable investment.

Be clean • Before filling, wash jars, lids and bands in soapy water and then sterilize with boiling water.

Follow the recipe • Don’t make substitutions or alter the proportions of ingredients, as it can change the acid level and make the food unsafe. Same goes for processing times. Food must reach a certain temperature to kill bacteria and other organisms and failing to process long enough can result in contamination.

Altitude adjustment • Most canning recipes are tested at or below 1,000 feet above sea level. Because water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes — which is most of Utah — cooks will need to increase processing times to ensure that food is safe. Here’s a guide.

Altitude in feet » Increase processing time*

1,001 to 3,000 » 5 minutes

3,001 to 6,000 » 10 minutes

6,001 to 8,000 » 15 minutes

8,001 to 10,000 » 20 minutes

*Processing time doesn’t start until the filled bottles are submerged and the water is brought back to a rolling boil.

Small batch dilly beans

For each pint jar you will need:

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

6 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon pickling or fine sea salt

2 garlic cloves

6 sprigs fresh dill, 1 dill head or 1 tablespoon dill seed

2 cups (about 6 ounces) trimmed green beans

Combine the white vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolved sugar and salt.

Pack garlic, dill and beans in a sterilized, hot 1-pint canning jar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over beans, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Run a knife between the beans and the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles, adding more brine if necessary. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Cover jars with the lids and secure with metal screw band. Beans can be placed in the refrigerator at this point.

Or to seal, process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes (or more depending on altitude. See processing time chart). Remove from hot water and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Don’t open for at least six weeks to allow flavors to develop.

Recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled depending on how many jars you want to make.

Serving • 1 pint jar

Source: The Pickled Pantry: From Apples to Zucchini, 150 recipes for pickles, relishes, chutneys and more, by Andrea Chesman

Corn relish

20 medium-size ears of corn, husks and silk removed

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

Thoroughly wash and scald 6 (1-pint) jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids according to manufacturer directions.

In a large kettle, boil ears of corn for five minutes. Drop into ice water and cool 5 minutes. Carefully cut kernels from cob, but don’t scrape cobs. Measure 10 cups corn.

In a large kettle, combine corn with remaining ingredients. Boil gently, uncovered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Run a knife between the corn and the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles. Cover jars with the lids and secure with metal screw band. Process 15 minutes* in a boiling water bath (*or more depending on altitude).

Servings • Makes 5 to 6 (1-pint) jars

Source: America’s Best State Fair Recipes, by Catherine Hanley