I have written about numerous preserving techniques. Let’s say it is a passion of mine. Although I have covered so many, I finally get to write about my favorite: pickling. I remember once as a child I stumbled upon my aunt’s larder. I thought it was the perfect place to hide from my brother and the chickens I had made enemies of. I flipped the light switch, and a dim glow filled the room. I remember thinking it was a magical place. Jars and pots filled with fruits, vegetables and meats lined the walls. Some of them were overgrown with cobwebs, obviously not disturbed for years. When I asked my aunt what I had stumbled on, she simply replied, “I hate waste.”
Pickling is a preservation technique that extends the shelf life of ingredients, making it an ideal way to store perishables without the need for refrigeration.
Pickling dates back thousands of years, but it is actually one of the more contemporary preserving techniques; air-drying and smoking were most likely the first ways cultures preserved foods, including meat. Sugaring, jellying, salting and burying are other ways that humans have preserved their food. Canning was introduced relatively late; it was developed during the Napoleonic Wars.
Pickling can be achieved with salt as well as vinegar. In Europe around the 16th century, the price of salt began to fall, and it became more readily available, causing brining to become a common technique for the poor. People with the means to do so discovered that vinegar had a pleasant taste and used that to preserve their foods. Specialty dishes were even created to store and serve food pickled in vinegar, as the high acid content would erode traditional china.
Vinegar is ideal for food preservation. It has high levels of acetic acid and good bacteria created during fermentation. This good bacteria creates an environment where bad bacteria simply cannot grow, making vinegar a simple preserving agent. In order to keep any additional bacteria out, pickled food should be consumed within a few weeks or canned. It is important to follow proper canning procedures, and there are many tutorials available on that subject.
As the seasons are changing, take advantage of the last of summer’s crops and extend their availability all through the winter. I mean, who wouldn’t want to enjoy garlic scapes in December?
Cassy Vires is the owner and chef of Home Wine Kitchen. She received her culinary training in Houston and has a knack for reimagining classic dishes.
Yield | 3 cups |
- 1 bunch red radishes
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt
| Preparation | | 1 | Clean and quarter radishes and then | 2 | pack them tightly into a glass container. | 3 | Combine remaining ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. | 4 | Carefully pour the hot brine over the radishes. Place a plate or other heavy object on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged. Cover and refrigerate. Allow to cure for 24 hours.