We know that even the folks who built the Great Wall of China ate sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage - a style of pickling.
There are two styles of pickling. The first is when vegetables (yes, lots of different types of vegetables can be pickled, as long as they are not too soft) are soaked in a salt-water-brine solution that causes fermentation. The fermentation causes the growth of good bacteria that help preserve the product. The best examples for me are sauerkraut and kim chi.
The second method of pickling is when a product is preserved in vinegar, where bacteria cannot survive. Cucumber pickles are the best example. Normally a hot vinegar solution is poured over vegetables or fruit, which is then bottled or refrigerated.
Either technique produces pickles, and both work well, but let me give you a few tips to keep your pickle making experience from going sour.
_ Never use table salt; always use a pickling salt.
_ Use a vinegar that is at least 5 percent acidity. There are many to choose from, although the ones labeled "pickling vinegars" will make your product more sour.
_ Use stainless steel or glass when making your pickles. Never use containers or utensils made of brass, copper, iron or anything that will react with acid or salt.
_ When making cucumber pickles, use fresh pickling cucumbers. Never use waxed cucumbers.
_ Be careful when experimenting with or altering recipes, because if you change the level of acidity or the salt too much, it may lead to spoilage.
_ If you think something has spoiled, do not take a chance. Just throw it out and save the doctor visit for something else. *
Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows – "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.