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The Beginner’s Guide to Pickling

Here at Planetary Design, we’ve talked about the perks of keeping worms in your apartment, of taking your hot cup of joe on the road and of owning a mug you consider a friend.

Now we have a new trend to rave about: pickling. Yes, the process that creates those delicious and nutritious dill pickles on your burgers.

Pickling boasts both great health and planetary benefits (and pickled veggies make great holiday gifts) so let’s get into it:

What exactly is pickling?

At its heart, pickling is a way to preserve fresh vegetables. You bathe your veggie-of-choice in a solution that will prevent its spoilage.

There are two main types of pickling: quick pickling and fermented pickling. The former is a quick and easy, but doesn’t develop the same robust flavor of the latter, nor does it last as long on your shelf.

In quick pickling the solution you create will be a combination of vinegar, sugar, water and spices. In fermented pickling, the solution is a salty brine that encourages the fermentation process.

Why should I pickle?

With the advent of modern technology (refrigerators) and grocery stores that sell carrots and strawberries and peppers all year long, preserving food isn’t as important as it was in the 18th century. But pickling still has numerous benefits.

For one, pickled foods are healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that are lost with time and heat — pickling preserves these nutrients and important antioxidants that your body will thank you for injesting.

Vegetables pickled without the use of vinegar (through fermentation) have an additional health benefit: they are full of probiotics that keep your gut healthy.

Moreover, pickling cuts down on food waste. In America, there is an estimated 133 billion pounds of food waste per year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That’s so much waste it’s impossible to imagine.

This food waste causes numerous issues — from churning out methane in landfills to simply being really expensive to the modern American family (all together, Americans threw away $161 billion in food in 2010, according to the USDA.)

By pickling vegetables you otherwise would’ve thrown away — say you forgot about those red peppers you bought or your garden produced a crazy amount of cherry tomatoes this year — you’re saving that food from being tossed in with the garbage.

What can I pickle?

What you can pickle is limited to your imagination. Well, for the most part. Pickled fruits, vegetables and even meats are common across the world, where as pickled bread is both pointless and most-likely disgusting. Anything from green beans to watermelon brines to tomatoes will be delicious pickled.

You can play around with the various shapes of your vegetables — it’s said cherry tomatoes are best left whole, while carrots and cucumbers are best cut into spears. You can also blanch your vegetables before your pickle them to preserve their color.

You can eat your pickled food by itself (think pickles), over some form of starchy grain (think Kimchi), as a condiment (think sauerkraut) or in numerous other ways. Check out the ways cultures around the world pickle their food to get inspired.

In future articles, we’ll talk about the more technical aspects of pickling like the necessary tools to become a master pickler and the step-by-step process to best preserve your favorite veggies.

Until then, think of all the pickling possibilities and get excited!

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