Making great tasting pickles can be a challenge. Here are some pickle pointers.
· Begin by using high quality ingredients. Select fresh, firm, high quality fruits and vegetables for pickling. Discard bruised, moldy or insect-damaged produce. Grow or purchase varieties of cucumbers that are designed for pickling. Contact your county extension office for varieties suitable for the region of the country you live in. Wax-coated cucumbers bought in the supermarket are not suitable for pickling because the pickling solution cannot penetrate the wax coating. For best quality, pickle fruits and vegetables within 24 hours of harvest.
· Use commercial vinegar that is standardized at 5 percent acetic acid content. Many grocery stores now also stock 4 percent vinegar. This vinegar is not approved for home canning. Check the label on the front of the container to determine acidity.
· Firming agents such as calcium hydroxide (lime) and aluminum (alum) are not necessary for pickling and are no longer recommended. The use of lime in pickles may result in an unsafe product. Calcium chloride is used to firm commercial pickles. Tested recipes have not been developed for using calcium chloride in home canned products.
· Canning and pickling salt – pure granulated salt is recommended for use in all kinds of pickles. This salt does not contain anti-caking agents or iodine.
· Most pickle recipes call for whole spices for fresher and more concentrated flavor than ground spices.
For more information on preserving pickles, contact your county extension office.
Source: University of Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series: Homemade Pickles & Relishes