When you make a juicy burger or savory sandwich using American cooking techniques, few things go better on the side than a delicious pickle spear. Making homemade pickles is an easy way to utilize farm-to-table practices and get a lot of flavor out of locally sourced cucumbers and other vegetables. Canning pickles at home and doesn’t require much more than water, vinegar, salt and a few herbs and spices. Here are five tips for making delicious pickles at home:
1. Go local
For produce to be properly pickled, it has to be fresh. Those cucumbers covered in plastic wrap you find at the grocery store are probably already past their pickling prime, so stick with local produce found at farmers markets. For optimum freshness, start a home garden so that you can pickle some of your veggies as soon as they ripen.
2. Add some leaves
NPR notes that traditional pickle recipes may call for the use of grape or cherry leaves because they are high in tannins. The leaves help pickles stay crisp and can add to the complexity of the taste. Try using different leaves to develop a unique flavor.
3. Salt veggies overnight
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends brining your veggies, especially cucumbers, in pickling salt in a bowl overnight. The salt will absorb some of the natural moisture found in the veggies, giving your pickles a crispier texture once they’re canned. In the morning, rinse off the veggies and pat them down dry before continuing the process. Make a point of using pickling salt, as it has no additives. Iodized salt can change the color of your final product and cause sediment to form in the brine.
4. Play with flavors
You can add a lot of flavor to pickled vegetables by adding herbs, spices and other vegetables to your brine. If you’re a fan of garlic, consider adding a couple extra cloves to give your pickles a stronger flavor. For a bit of zing, try adding jalapenos, serrano chiles or habanero peppers. Better Homes and Gardens notes that granulated white sugar not only adds sweetness, but also helps the pickle remain firm.
5. Remove the cucumber ends
The blossoms of cucumbers, which are found at the vegetable’s end, contain enzymes that soften them up. Make sure to cut off each end to help ensure that your pickles remain firm.