Pickles are made by slicing or chopping cucumbers and heating the vegetables in a seasoned mixture, known as the brine. The brine, which contains vinegar, acidifies the food so it is resistant to bacteria or destroys the bacteria more easily when heated during the pickling process.
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Two-step Pickling Process
A typical brine for dill pickles contains 8 cups water with 1 cup salt. This solution is poured over the chopped cucumbers and the mixture sits for at least 24 hours. Then you drain the mixture off and add a solution of vinegar and spices to the cucumbers and place the vegetables in glass jars and process in a hot water canner.
Common Vinegar Brines
The amount of vinegar needed varies according to the natural acidity of food being pickled. The University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends heating 1 1/2 qt. vinegar and 2 qt. of water -- along with spices -- to pour over jarred salted cucumbers in its standard quick-pack dill pickle recipe. While its pickled jalapeños recipe calls for 7 1/2 cups of vinegar and 1 3/4 cups water.
Nearly any type of vinegar is suitable for pickles. Distilled white vinegar gives the pickles a more sour taste, while apple cider vinegar gives a slight sweetness to the pickles. Never decrease the amount of vinegar in a recipe to avoid your pickles developing bacteria. If a sweeter pickle is desired, add more sugar.
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