It's time for pickles

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UK Extension Agent

By Theresa Howard

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 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 you are new to home canning, a good place to start is with the Extension publication FCS3-578 “Home Canning Basics.” More information on pickling and recipes for beginning, intermediate and advanced canners and for individuals with dietary restrictions are available in publication FCS3-582 “Home Canning Pickled and Fermented Foods.” Both publications are available at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/FCS3/FCS3578/FCS3578.pdf and http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/FCS3/FCS3582/FCS3582.pdf or through the LaRue County Extension Service at 807 Old Elizabethtown Road, Hodgenville (270-358-3401).