Pickling is a form of brining used to preserve foods. This practice was thought to have started in India where the cucumber originated.
The pickling process is carried out in one of two ways. One method is through anaerobic fermentation done in a brine that creates lactic acid. The other method is through marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid). Although pickling is closely linked with cucumbers, any vegetable can be preserved using this process. German sauerkraut and Korean kimchi are two well-known pickled foods. The result is a salty, sour taste accented with sugar, herbs and spices.
Because of the low pH, less than 4.6, pickling will preserve perishable foods for months. Spices including mustard seed, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, are added for seasoning and also because of their reputed antimicrobial effect.
Lactic Acid Fermentation
Lactic acid bacteria is naturally present in many foods grows that feeds on unfavorable bacteria in the pickling process. By salting the vegetables moisture is drawn out of the product producing a brine. The salt prevents other bacteria from growing and allows lactic acid bacteria to digest sugars in the vegetables creating acids that give the pickles their characteristic sour tang.
Natural fermentation in pickling starts with a simple brine of water along with other seasonings, garlic, chilies, and peppercorns, and fresh herbs including thyme, tarragon or dill. The salt solution is 5% of the weight of water or about 2oz. /50g per quart/liter. The ideal temperature range for lactic acid fermentation is 70°F–75°F. Keep the product submerged in the brine to control the oxygen level and prevent unfavorable bacteria from growing.
Fresh Pack Pickling
Pickling in vinegar is a quicker process because there is no fermentation activity. Vegetables, fish, eggs, pork hocks or feet, and sausages are pickled in this manner. Vegetables and fish are usually pickled raw while meats need to be fully cooked. The product is either salted or brined for several hours or days, drained and packed in a vinegar solution that includes salt, sugar and spices. The acid of the vinegar keeps bacteria at a minimum. White distilled, cider vinegar, and white wine vinegar of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) are recommended. White vinegars are preferred for lighter colored vegetables including cauliflower. Allow the vegetables to sit in the brine for a week for flavor development. Pickled products can be kept in refrigeration for several weeks but often are canned and heat processed, to extend the shelf life for up to one year.