Pickles are a class of salty, sweet, sour or spicy vegetables or fruit marinated in brine and vinegar. In the Asian countries, pickles consist of dried and diced fruit or vegetable in a mixture of salt, oil chilli powder and a pickling medium. Stored for years, pickles are readily available condiments that serve to bring life to bland main course recipes. Mango, tomato, cabbage, ginger, cucumber and carrot pickles, made throughout the world are a favorite with most people.
Pickle is defined as an edible product, made with any particular vegetable such as cucumber, that is often spiced and that has been preserved and flavoured in a solution of vinegar or brine and served as an accompaniment to add extra spice to any meal. In general, Pickling is a method of food preservation.
Pickles and pickled vegetables act as a perfect complement to any meal or snack and depending on the method of preparation they may be prepared – fat free and low in calories. This apart, they may also be used as pre-prepared ingredients in fillings for sandwiches, burritos; flavorings in soups, salads, rice dishes, curries and some sauces too.
The term ‘pickle’ is a derivative of the Dutch word pekel, which literally means brine. In the U.S. and Canada, the word pickle almost all the time refers to a pickled cucumber (because any other type of pickle will be described using the vegetable involved such as "pickled onion," “pickled radish” or "pickled beets," and so on). In the UK, pickle generally refers to a ploughman's pickle, like the Branston pickle which is traditionally served along with a Ploughman's lunch [a meal that consists of a sandwich made using bread and cheese and a salad].
The pickle as we know it today is thought to have originated in India, where cucumbers were first developed. This crisp, fermented food item gradually made its way to Egypt and then made its presence felt in the Mediterranean Basin. It is believed that it was the Romans who introduced the first pickles all through Europe, after which they rapidly gained popularity. In fact, pickles later went on to play a significant role in Columbus's discovery of America in 1492: since Vitamin C rich pickles were the only resort for crews on transoceanic voyages who suffered from Scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency) due to the non-availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Types of Pickles
· Fresh-pack (or the quick process) pickles are the ones that are cured for several hours in a vinegar solution or are combined right away with hot vinegar as well as spices, and seasonings. Common examples include dills, pickled beets and bread and-butter pickles. Other types are:
· Fermented pickles are the ones in which vegetables are soaked in a brine solution for anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, the lactic acid bacteria i.e. lactobacillus species, naturally occurring on the surface of vegetables, continue to grow, while other microorganisms are inhibited by the presence of salt. The color of the vegetables gradually changes from a bright shade of green to yellowish-green or olive, and the white interior turns translucent. Examples include sauerkraut and dill pickles.
· Refrigerated dills are cucumbers that have been fermented for a week in simple salt brine and then refrigerated for a period of up to 2 months.
· Fruit pickles are essentially cleaned, whole or sliced fruit that is simmered in a spiced, sweet-sour syrup. Some examples include spiced peaches, pears and crab apples.
· Relishes are usually prepared from chopped fruits or vegetables, and involve their cooking to a desired consistency in a rather spicy vinegar solution. Examples include corn relish and horseradish.
There are numerous pickles that are prepared today and a few of these are-
- Pickled cucumber
- Pickled onion
- Pickled herring
- Branston or British (food) and similar sweet pickle relishes
- Kim chi, a type of Korean pickle
- Indian pickle includes oil-based food preservation
- Tsukemono, Japanese pickled vegetables
1. Pickled Cucumber/Gherkins
A pickled cucumber is perhaps the most well known form of pickle, most popular across the US. In common parlance, it is simply called pickle in the United States, Australia, Canada, and generally referred to as gherkins in the UK. It is basically a fermented type of pickle. Cucumber that has been pickled in brine, vinegar, or other solutions is allowed to ferment over a period of time. Fermentation is undertaken by either immersing the cucumbers in an acidic solution or through souring by lactobacillus fermentation.
Preparation of Gherkins involves the use of cucumbers of a specific size as well as of a particular species. The Burr Gherkin (Cucumis anguria) is used for this purpose, which produces somewhat smaller fruit compared to the regular garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
Cornichon are quite tart, French pickles prepared from small sized gherkins pickled in a vinegar and tarragon base. They are traditionally served along with ‘French Pates’.
While there are a number of pickling techniques followed by people, one of the easiest methods is-
- medium cucumbers
- cloves garlic
- black peppercorns
- whole mustard seed
- fresh dill weed
- whole dried bay leaf
- organic light brown sugar
- white distilled vinegar
- white-wine vinegar
1. Selected cucumbers are cut into long spears or slices and placed in a container or jar with a lid. The garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed, and bay leaf are added.
2. The brown sugar, vinegars, and water are stirred together until all the sugar is dissolved. This vinegar mixture is then poured over the cucumbers and the jar shaken well to combine all the ingredients and marry all flavours together. The liquid must immerse the cucumbers completely and reach almost the brim of the jar before it is covered and kept to chill. For maximum flavor, at least 24 hours must pass before serving. These pickles would keep well up to 3 months under refrigeration.
Dill Pickles are prepared in somewhat a similar manner. A ‘Kosher Dill Pickle’ is a pickle made in the traditional manner followed by Jewish pickle makers, with addition of generous amounts of both garlic and fresh cleaned dill weed (placed first, at the bottom of the jar) to natural salt brine with white vinegar.
The serving size of pickle is usually quite small and only about ~ 28 g i.e. ¾ of a spear of pickle provides-
· 5 calories
· 0 g fat and cholesterol
· 255 mg sodium
· 1 g total carbohydrates
· 0 g carbohydrate
· 0 g protein
2. Lime Pickles
Lime pickles are prepared by soaking in lime juice rather than in regular salt brine. This is more to enhance their texture (by making them crisper) rather than for preservative purposes. Vinegar and sugar are often added after the 24-hour soak in lime, along with other selected pickling spices.
3. Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread-and-butter pickles are somewhat sweeter in flavor than traditional dill pickles, with a high concentration of sugar or any other sweetener mixed into the brine solution. Rather than being presented alongside a sandwich, their use is more common in fully flavored sandwiches, or hamburgers, or these may be used in a potato salad. Cucumbers to be made into bread and butter pickles are most often sliced before pickling.
4. Branston Pickle
Branston is actually the name of a popular British food brand with this product being one of its premier merchandise. This pickle is made using a large variety of diced vegetables, including carrots, onions, gherkins and cauliflower pickled in a special sauce made using tomato, apple, vinegar, and dates employing spices such as garlic, mustard, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper along with some sugar. High-fructose corn syrup has been used in place of sugar in the product sold in the American market whereas sugar continues to be used in the British version.
Branston Pickle is both spicy and sweet with a chutney-like consistency, containing small chunks of vegetables coated in a thick brown sticky sauce. It is usually served as part of a ploughman's lunch. Very frequently combined with cheddar cheese as part of sandwiches, it is easily available at many sandwich outlets in the UK offering "cheese and pickle" as an option.
5. Indian Pickle
In India, myriad varieties of pickles are made and served as an accompaniment with the simplest to the most elaborate meal spreads. Indian pickles may be spicy with a number of condiments and spice powders or whole spices used. Alternatively, they may be prepared sweet using jaggery or sugar. Very often Indian pickles are made in an oil base to enhance shelf life. Different vegetables or fruits or their combinations may be employed in the pickling process. Popular pickles are Mango, Lemon pickle, Indian Gooseberry (amla) pickle, mixed vegetable pickle, Date pickle etc.
6. Kim Chi
Kim chi is a traditional fermented pickle originating from Korea made using some main vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage, radish and scallions. Kimchi forms a main ingredient in many Korean dishes like kimchi soup (kimchiguk), kimchi stew, and kimchi fried rice.
In Japanese, Tsukemono literally means "pickled things" and is the name for Japanese pickles (pickled mostly in salt or brine solution), usually served along with rice as okazu (i.e. side dish), with drinks as an otsumami (snack), as an accompaniment to or as a garnish in meals. In fact, it is used as part of the course in the “kaiseki” segment of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.