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Type of pickle
Before deciding whether or not a pickle recipe is safe, you must first decide whether the pickle is a fermented (or brined) pickle or a quick (or fresh-pack) pickle. The following guidelines will help determine the kind.
Quick- or fresh-pack
Recipes for fresh- or quick-pack pickles will have at least as much vinegar as water in the recipe. They will be heat-processed immediately after they are made or else stored in the refrigerator.
Fermented or brined pickles
Recipes for fermented pickles generally have a small amount of vinegar and a fairly large amount of salt in the brine recipe. Brined pickles generally have a large amount of salt and the recipe calls for adding additional salt over a period of several weeks. The pickles are not ready to eat until after several weeks of fermentation.
Why recipes may not be safe
Ingredients have changed over the years so old recipes may not be safe. For example, vinegar used to be sold at 7% (70 grain). This is much stronger than today’s 5% vinegar.
Procedures for pickle recipes have changed over the years. It is now recommended that pickle recipes be heat processed. Older recipes do not recommend processing.
Guidelines for analyzing pickle recipes
- Use up-to-date, tested recipes from reliable sources.
- Make sure the recipe calls for vinegar that is 5% acidity.
- For fresh- or quick-pack pickles, make sure the recipe has at least as much vinegar as water unless it is an OSU/USDA-tested recipe.
- If lime is used, be sure it is USP (pure) lime. Calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, calcium chloride and calcium hydroxide are food-grade sources of calcium. Do not use slake lime purchased from the lumber yard or garden lime. Be sure the recipes using lime call for rinsing the pickles thoroughly before the brine is added. Lime can make the pickles alkaline and give them a terribly bitter taste.
- Recipes for fermented or long-cure pickles must include salt. It is important not to reduce the salt in fermented or brined pickles or use low-sodium salt. Canning or pickling salt is recommended.
- Processing is recommended to prevent spoilage during storage of home-preserved pickles. Quick- or fresh-pack pickles are processed as soon as they are made. Fermented or brined pickles will be processed after a 3–6 week fermenting time. DO NOT PROCESS THEM UNTIL THEY HAVE A SOUR TASTE.
Source: OSU Master Food Preservers Program