---------- Recipe via Meal-Master (tm) v8.02
  
       Title: Preparing Pickled and Fermented Foods
  Categories: Canning, Information
       Yield: 1 guide
  
  
   The many varieties of pickled and fermented foods are classified by
   ingredients and method of preparation.
   
   Regular dill pickles and sauerkraut are fermented and cured for about 3
   weeks. Refrigerator dills are fermented for about 1 week. During curing,
   colors and flavors change and acidity increases. Fresh-pack or
   quick-process pickles are not fermented; some are brined several hours
   or overnight, then drained and covered with vinegar and seasonings.
   Fruit pickles usually are prepared by heating fruit in a seasoned syrup
   acidified with either lemon juice or vinegar. Relishes are made from
   chopped fruits and vegetables that are cooked with seasonings and
   vinegar.
   
   Be sure to remove and discard a 1/16-inch slice from the blossom end of
   fresh cucumbers. Blossoms may contain an enzyme which causes excessive
   softening of pickles.
   
   Caution: The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to
   its safety as it is to taste and texture.
   
   * Do not alter vinegar, food, or water proportions in a recipe or use a
   vinegar with unknown acidity.
   
   * Use only recipes with tested proportions of ingredients.
   
   * There must be a minimum, uniform level of acid throughout the mixed
   product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria.
   
   INGREDIENTS
   
   Select fresh, firm fruits or vegetables free of spoilage. Measure or
   weigh amounts carefully, because the proportion of fresh food to other
   ingredients will affect flavor and, in many instances, safety.
   
   Use canning or pickling salt. Noncaking material added to other salts
   may make the brine cloudy. Since flake salt varies in density, it is not
   recommended for making pickled and fermented foods. White granulated and
   brown sugars are most often used. Corn syrup and honey, unless called
   for in reliable recipes, may produce undesirable flavors. White
   distilled and cider vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) are
   recommended. White vinegar is usually preferred when light color is
   desirable, as is the case with fruits and cauliflower.
   
   PICKLES WITH REDUCED SALT CONTENT
   
   In the making of fresh-pack pickles, cucumbers are acidified quickly
   with vinegar. Use only tested recipes formulated to produce the proper
   acidity. While these pickles may be prepared safely with reduced or no
   salt, their quality may be noticeably lower. Both texture and flavor may
   be slightly, but noticeably, different than expected. You may wish to
   make small quantities first to determine if you like them. However, the
   salt used in making fermented sauerkraut and brined pickles not only
   provides characteristic flavor but also is vital to safety and texture.
   In fermented foods, salt favors the growth of desirable bacteria while
   inhibiting the growth of others. Caution: Do not attempt to make
   sauerkraut or fermented pickles by cutting back on the salt required.
   
   FIRMING AGENTS
   
   Alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, it is
   unnecessary and is not included in the recipes in this publication. Alum
   does not improve the firmness of quick-process pickles. The calcium in
   lime definitely improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as
   a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before
   pickling them. Excess lime absorbed by the cucumbers must be removed to
   make safe pickles. To remove excess lime, drain the lime-water solution,
   rinse, and then resoak the cucumbers in fresh water for 1 hour. Repeat
   the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. To further improve pickle
   firmness, you may process cucumber pickles for 30 minutes in water at
   180 degrees F. This process also prevents spoilage, but the water
   temperature should not fall below 180 degrees F. Use a candy or jelly
   thermometer to check the water temperature.
   
   PREVENTING SPOILAGE
   
   Pickle products are subject to spoilage from microorganisms,
   particularly yeasts and molds, as well as enzymes that may affect
   flavor, color and texture. Processing the pickles in a boiling-water
   canner will prevent both of these problems. Standard canning jars and
   self-sealing lids are recommended. Processing times and procedures will
   vary according to food acidity and the size of food pieces.
   
   ===========================================================
   * USDA Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539 (rev. 1994)
   * Meal-Master format courtesy of Karen Mintzias
  
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