The History Of Pickling, And The Different Techniques

Pickling, a method of preserving food that has been practised for centuries, is a culinary tradition that has left an indelible mark on many cultures worldwide. From Asia to Europe and beyond, pickling has served as a cornerstone of food preservation, providing a way to extend the shelf life of perishable ingredients and add flavour to dishes.

At its core, pickling is a preservation method but it goes so much further than mere practicality. Pickling is a way to showcase local favourites and highlight the flavours of your region in a way that’s both effective and delicious. 

In Korea, for example, kimchi is a traditional side dish made from pickled vegetables such as cabbage, radish, and cucumber. Or how about Japan, where pickled ginger is a go-to condiment for sushi? And in India, we’ve got an endless amount of achars where every region has something traditional of their own. 

In addition to being used as a preservation method, pickling can also be a form of culinary art. The addition of herbs, spices, and other flavourings can create complex and interesting flavour profiles. Some pickling recipes are closely guarded family secrets, passed down from generation to generation. Besides the delicious taste, there are several benefits of pickling food that make it a worthwhile technique to try.

Firstly, pickling extends the shelf life of food, making it possible to enjoy seasonal produce year-round. This is particularly useful for fruits and vegetables that are only available during certain times of the year. Pickling also helps to retain the nutritional value of food by preserving the vitamins and minerals.

Another benefit of pickling is that it can enhance the flavour of food by adding a tangy, savoury taste. The combination of vinegar, salt, herbs and spices creates a unique flavour profile that can be customised to suit individual preferences.

There are several different techniques that can be used for pickling, including quick pickling, fermentation, and canning. 

Quick pickling is the easiest and quickest method and involves immersing food in a vinegar-based solution for a few hours or overnight. This method is best for foods that are already ready to eat, such as boiled eggs, or raw vegetables that are thinly sliced.

Fermentation is a more scientific method that involves allowing natural bacteria to break down the sugars in food and create lactic acid. This process can take several days or even weeks and creates a sour, tangy flavour that is popular in many cultures. Sauerkraut and kimchi are two examples of fermented foods.

Canning is another method of pickling that involves sterilising jars and lids, and then filling them with food that has been packed in vinegar or brine. The jars are then boiled to create a seal, which allows the food to be stored for several months or even years.

The art of pickling food is a time-honoured tradition that is used around the world to preserve and enhance the flavour of food. Whether it's a traditional Korean kimchi, a classic American pickle, or an Indian achar, pickled foods are a delicious and versatile addition to any cuisine.