Pickles make fantastic condiments! Whether you love the sweet-sour flavor of atsara that pairs wonderfully with your inasal na manok recipe or love the sharp sweetness and tang of burong mangga that complements your piniritong isda recipe, pickled vegetables are common to almost every Pinoy table.
While you can certainly just buy a bottle or two, pickles are really quite easy to make. So easy, in fact, that you can make easy pickled vegetables recipes at home!
The culinary definition of pickling is to preserve food through a brine solution. This solution is usually vinegar based or it can be salt based. Whichever solution you use, the same process is required: the food is submerged in the solution and left “to pickle”. This preserves the food as well as flavors it.
There are recipes that require as few as 10 to 15 minutes to as much as days. The biggest requirement for anything that has been pickled is time. Time is needed to infuse the pickling liquid into the vegetables (or fruits as the case can be) that you want to pickle. Once you know what you want to pickle, then it’s just a matter of figuring out what to do with it.
When you’re ready, read these pickling tips and tricks so you know exactly what you’re doing:
1 Choose and prep your pickle.
The wonderful thing with pickles is that you can actually pickle any vegetable or fruit. There are recipes for pickled papaya (or the atchara) as well as pickled fruits. You can pickle apple slices, mangoes, tomatoes, and chili peppers as is usually done with jalapeños. For many, the usual pickle is cucumbers, green papaya, carrots, or red onions.
Whichever you choose, thinly slice or grate it. This will help the pickling solution better penetrate it and speed up the pickling process. So, the thinner the food, the faster it will become pickled. Anything left whole will take longer to pickle so adjust the time it takes for the solution to fully penetrate the food and finish the pickling process.
2 Make your pickling liquid.
Once all of your food has been prepped, set it aside and choose your pickling liquid. It can be a pre-seasoned vinegar or you can make your own. What’s important is that the resulting flavor is what you want it to taste. Whether it’s sweet-sour or salty-sour, the liquid is responsible for the taste of your pickle. A good ratio is 1:2 for water and vinegar. The liquid has to be acidic enough to prohibit the growth of harmful bacteria in your jar of pickled vegetables or fruits as it soaks.
Then to offset the acidity, add salt (usually 1 tablespoon) and sugar (as little as 1/4 cup to much as 1/2 cup), so it’s a great balance of sweet-sour. You can also add spices as desired: peppercorns, chili peppers, and fresh herbs are great additions to a pickle.
Once you have your desired solution decided, mix it all together and bring to a rolling boil.
3 Fill your (sanitized!) jars.
The pickled vegetables need a very clean container to continue its pickling. For this, you need sanitized jars. You can easily learn how to sanitize jars. Once you have sanitized jars, immediately fill these jars. Either stuff your prepped vegetables in the still hot jars and pour the just-boiled solution in the jar until the brim or simmer your pickling solution with the vegetables (as with atchara) before filling the sanitized jars with it.
The trick to filling jars for pickling is to fill it to the brim to squeeze out as much air as possible from the jar when the lid is locked. The trapped air in the jar is the enemy to pickles since the air may contain microbes that might prove to be harmful. Prevent this by filling jars to the brim or as is possible. Then close the lid while it’s still hot.
4 Cool it.
While it’s still hot and the lid freshly locked, flip the jar upside down. This will fill and heat up any air pocket from the brim to the lid with the heat from the just boiled pickling liquid. This is to help sanitize and kill any microbes still inhabiting the trapped air in the jar form the rim up to the lid and prevent botulism.
Once filled and flipped, cool it completely at room temperature then refrigerate. As an extra precaution against botulism, you may, instead of flipping it, resanitize these filled jars in boiling water again before cooling completely.
5 Let it pickle.
Once cool, let time pass before opening the jar and consuming your pickled food. You can let it pickle for longer than normal but once opened, refrigerate the jar since the sanitized seal has been broken.
Once you know all of these tips and tricks to pickling your own food, there’s little that can stop you from doing it at home. Let your taste buds be your inspiration so you can create delicious pickled food to serve with your favorite food.