Last updated: July 14. 2014 2:27PM - 247 Views
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There is nothing that sets off a cold cut sandwich better than the taste of a pickle, and with so many varieties, you are bound to find one to suit every palate. So it probably won’t surprise you that pickles are a popular home food preservation item.

To ensure safe, tasty home-canned pickles, always follow research-based recipes, such as those offered by Extension, that have been tested for product safety. Follow the recipe and use the proper amounts of the appropriate ingredients to yield the best flavor from your food and to prevent food-borne illness.

Quick-process pickles usually consist of cucumbers or other vegetables, vinegar, spices and seasonings. Always use fresh, firm vegetables for pickling. Discard a one-sixteenth inch slice from the blossom end of the vegetable to help keep the final product firm. Blossoms contain enzymes that can cause vegetables to soften. Soaking the cucumbers or other vegetables in salt water for several hours before covering with the pickling liquid will allow for easier packing.

When making pickles, use only commercial vinegar that has at least 5 percent acidity. Do not dilute the vinegar unless specified in the recipe, because the acidity is needed for a safe product. The addition of vinegar makes pickles a high-acid food, which allows them to be safely processed using a boiling-water canner. Use canning or pickling salt. Table salt may make the pickling mixture cloudy. Use white sugar unless the recipe calls for brown.

Quick-process pickles are more flavorful if allowed to sit for several weeks after processing. This allows the vegetables to aromatically blend with the seasonings and spices.

If proper techniques and correct temperatures are used, frozen foods retain greater amounts of their vitamin content, natural color, flavor and texture.

Freezing foods preserves them by stopping or slowing the growth of microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses and spoilage.

Freezing is perhaps the easiest food preservation method, but not all foods freeze well. Some vegetables with high water content are not well suited for use as raw vegetables after freezing, but work well as ingredients in cooked dishes, like soups. Green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage and celery can become limp and watery. They may also develop an oxidized flavor when frozen. Foods containing eggs or milk may separate water from solids or become tough, frothy or watery depending on the other ingredients. Freezing fried foods can cause them to lose their crispness and become soggy.

Like freezing, canning, when done correctly, can stop the growth of microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses and spoilage. Canning is a safe and cost-effective way to preserve foods. Many fruits and vegetables begin losing their nutritive value once harvested, so it’s best to can foods at the peak of freshness. This is usually within six to 12 hours after harvesting or purchasing from a farmers market.

You should know the acidity of the food you are canning. Foods high in acid can be prepared in a boiling-water canner while low-acid foods must be preserved using a pressure canner to minimize food-borne illnesses.

The amount of freezer space or access to canning supplies and equipment are additional factors to consider when choosing the best way to preserve fresh summer produce. As food consumers become more familiar with food preservation, the question of freezing or canning becomes a choice based on taste, food preferences, convenience and available resources.

The University of Kentucky offers extension publications on the correct way to freeze and can foods. For more information on food preservation, contact your Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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