We talk a lot here at Urban Leaf about growing your own herbs and veggies so that you have fresh basil, dill, tomatoes, peppers, etc. to add to your favorite recipes. But fresh herbs aren’t the ONLY option for use! We recently learned a lot about pickling and preserving fresh produce as a sustainable (and delicious) food storage option, as well as a way to get some added nutrients to your diet. Pickling, canning, and preserving things like tomatoes, peppers, green peas, and even zucchini or beets is a great vehicle for using your herbs to adjust the flavor profile of these stored foods, and branch out of your typical mealtime routine!
We chatted with the two humans behind The Real Dill, whose happy hobby “making pickles” turned into a full-fledged business. They gave us some insight into pickling and canning along with some recipes for you to try out yourself.
What is the Difference Between Canning and Pickling?
So let’s get into it. First, let’s understand some key terms. Apparently, canning and pickling are NOT the same things. The main difference is that pickling implies that whatever goes in the jar is acidified using vinegar or some other form of acid. This also means that it undergoes a fermentation process, which creates some incredible benefits for your gut (i.e. probiotics, necessary to your immune health!).
Pickling is the process of converting fresh produce( usually vegetables) to a pickle by use of a solution of vinegar, water, salt and sometimes sugar and often some herbs or spices. Heat the liquid well and pour over the veggies you have sliced/diced/chips packed into hot sterile jars. These can be put in the fridge as they require no canning. It is also important to note that not all pickling results in fermentation. It absolutely can, however, you have to make lacto-fermented pickles. We actually don’t use this process for many reasons, but mostly because it doesn’t result in a shelf stable product.
Canning is a method of preserving food by processing (usually by submerging it in boiling water for an extended amount of time) and sealing fresh foods in an airtight container. It uses heat to sterilize the bacteria that cause spoilage, which allows you to store food for up to 5 years (no refrigeration required). There are two common methods for canning: either boiling preserved food or boiling it under pressure. You can learn more about these two methods by researching the “Water Bath” and “Pressure” Methods. jars have to be heated prior to filling so they are sterile and the lids are left in the hot water until needed as the jars are filled.
The team at The Real Dill mentioned that you can “pickle” almost anything, not just pickles (or cucumbers, rather). However, certain ingredients fare better. For instance, water-dense vegetables like celery, beets, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, okra, and onions hold best. The more tender vegetables won’t retain a crunchy texture.
Many of these vegetables are available in our Vegetable Seed Collection and of course, we also provide seeds for one of the secret ingredients to pickling and canning – the addition of fresh herbs! The dynamic duo at The Real Dill loves to add fresh herbs to bring a unique flavor to their pickles. Typically, you add them while packing the jar, and before you put in your brine. Dill is the obvious choice here, as it will give you that classic dill pickle, but for other pickling recipes you could try out herbs like parsley or basil for a different kind of flavor. These would be delicious in a pickled carrot, beet, or cabbage recipe. You can grab all three at once in our culinary classics bottle garden kit. And also be sure to check out this recipe for Dill and Swiss Fritters, which would pair well with your homemade dill pickle.
How to Sterilize your Pickling Jars
One question that came up as we chatted with The Real Dill was regarding your pickling jars – especially if you aim to re-use them. To sterilize your jar, you should either wash them in the dishwasher or simply use soap and water. It was also recommended to dip the lids in boiling water to sterilize them as well. Pretty simple.
What kinds of vegetables can I Pickle?
When it comes to pickling vegetables and other recipes, there is no wrong way! The top advice to remember is to be creative, mind your sanitation, and have fun. Try out different recipes as you go. Keep in mind that you can even use the herb stems to impart flavor in a brine (Basil and Cilantro are great for this, as the leaves are a bit too delicate for pickling, but the stems go a long way in adding flavor). Additionally, Mint is great for pickling fresh peas, oregano is great for pickling carrots and jalapeños. Thyme is very versatile and can be used for many recipes such as pickled mushrooms, okra, and onions. Chives could be used with green papaya or jicama. And all of these herbs could also pickle cucumbers of course.
Try out this Quick Pickle Recipe, courtesy of The Real Dill, and let us know what you think