Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pickling Day

Today we made our first batch of pickles from the cucumbers grown here at the farm school.  It is a fairly simple process that requires a few special pieces of equipment and a couple hours, but the end product is totally worth it.  The endless variety of flavorings is also a fun part of the process.

We are using vinegar, salt, and spices to create an atmosphere that will hinder the growth of certain bacteria.  Pickles, tomatoes, and chutneys are examples of food preserved in this way.  Sugar can also be used this way to preserve jams and jellies.

The canning method we are using here is the boiling hot water bath.  Once the water returns to a boil with the full jars in the pot the timer is set to fifteen minutes.  In this time at 212 degrees most of any bacteria present will be killed off, and the jars will have expelled much of the air that was inside.   The acidic environment will take care of the rest.  When they cool the lids will give a distinctive "ping!" sound and you can see that they have created a vacuum seal.  Stored in a reasonably cool place these jars will store indefinitely, if they are not eaten right away.  They usually need a week or two to absorb all the flavors and then a week in the fridge will add to their crisp and crunch.  The other method of canning uses produce that is not acidic, or is not desired to be acidic.  This process uses a pressure canner because the temperature needs to be much higher than boiling in order to take care of the bacteria that might be present.