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Tips for Creating the Perfect Pickle

A symbol of both thrift and abundance, the pickle jar is a staple in every well-stocked pantry. And with the start of the harvesting season upon us, putting up your cucumber bounty with Grandma’s dill directions maintains an important link with the past—and a promising future. If growing your own pickles doesn’t strike your fancy, you’re still a pickler if you enjoy mixing up that lively relish recipe or gourmet side dish of spicy pickled mango. Using an array of spices and a variety of produce (think outside the cucumber patch), you too can easily make your own signature pickles.

You’ll find it easy to experiment when making pickles, because the basic ingredients and processes are similar. There are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Use soft water, or distilled or bottled water. Hard water interferes with the curing process.
  • Use vinegars—cider, white, or others—with 4 to 6 percent acetic acid. Commercial vinegars meet this requirement, and you can buy a ph-meter to test homemade vinegars.
  • Use pickling salt—not table salt that contains iodine or anti-caking agents or sea salt, which contains trace minerals. Pickling salt (and kosher salt) is free of additives that might discolor ingredients.
  • Use pots, pans, and bowls that are enamel, stainless, or glass. Galvanized, copper, brass, or iron pans or utensils can react with the salts or acids and change the color and taste of the pickles or even form toxic compounds.

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Perfectly Pickled

picklesGood spices are essential to good cooking. If you have fresh spices in the garden, like graceful stalks of dill, include those for visual interest and fresh taste. But dried spices – whole, ground, and crushed – are really all you need.

For ease and dependability, you might want to keep a ready-made pickling blend on hand. There are a variety of these—including Frontier’s Mild and Sweet and Original Spicy options. But have some fun concocting your own custom spice combinations, too. One person’s favorite pickles might highlight the warm sweetness of cardamom and allspice, for example, while another cook’s favorite blend might pop with chili peppers and garlic.

Get-You-Started PIckling Spice Blend

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