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Create Unique Pickling Brines

Craft personal canning recipes that’ll become go-to favorites with a clean jar, simple ingredients, and your imagination.

| August/September 2019

brines 
Photo by Adobe Stock/Artem ShAdrin

Years ago, when I was segueing my cooking career away from baking, I enrolled in a Master Food Preserver program. I’m a naturally experimental cook; I have an uncanny knack for what my father called “loaves and fishes,” or creating tasty meals out of meager pickings. The first day of the Master Food Preserver program, our esteemed instructors quickly told us that “canning is not creative cooking.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. They also said we needed to always follow established and lab-tested recipes.

I sat in that program greatly conflicted. Here I was, trying to enhance my cooking career while at the same time being told my creative expression was severely limited. So, I found a way to work around that notion. My career change brought me the good fortune of landing a position in recipe development for an international brand that does lab testing of all its canning recipes. I recall only twice creating recipes that didn’t meet the pH standard of lower than 4.6; neither were pickles. (For the curious, one involved persimmons, the other figs, both low-acid.) Let this inspire you to bare your creative pickling soul.

To help you on your way, here you’ll find all you need to develop your own recipes: brine measurements, as well as suggestions for aromatics, seasonings, and vegetables or fruits that are best paired with each brine.



Brine Building

Let’s begin with a safety checklist for pickling. My recipes rarely contain more than three vegetables. I also call for more acids than is necessary, for two reasons: I want you to have a brine template that’s safe to use — and sour is a great flavor when balanced with salt, a sweetener, aromatics, seasonings, and produce. You can create your own brine recipes following these guidelines:

Always use a mixture of at least 50 percent acids to other liquids. To play it safe, use more than 50 percent. A basic brine is 1-1/2 cups white vinegar to 1 cup water.



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