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The Beautiful art of pickling anything!

I recently attended a pickling course with one of my favourite and inspirational local food business – Corner Smith.

If you haven’t heard of Corner Smith, they are a family run business in Sydney’s Inner West serving meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they also conduct cooking classes to learn a new skill.

Their belief and practice of ethical food production, sustainable business practice and community engagement are things that are also dear and close to what I believe in and value.

But let’s talk about pickling.

Pickling is the process of preserving or extending the lifespan of food by either fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. In East Asia, vinaigrette (vegetable oil and vinegar) is also used as a pickling medium.

The pickling process is about adding an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to a low-acid food to lower its pH to 4.6 or lower, preserving the food and altering its flavour.

The exact origins of pickling are unknown, but it may have begun in the northwest of India, about 2400 B.C. Pickling was used as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys, especially by sea. Salt pork and salt beef were common staples for sailors before the days of steam engines. Although the process was invented to preserve foods, pickles are also made and eaten because people enjoy the resulting flavors.

According to some health research, pickling may also improve the nutritional value of food by introducing B vitamins produced by bacteria

I love the concept of pickling because it is such an easy and delicious way to be more sustainable with food and in your kitchen.

And another bonus, pickles taste amazing.

You can pretty much pickle any vegetables and fruit. At my pickling lesson with Corner Smith, we pickled and walked away with three jars of:

  • Lime Marmalade
  • Apple and Rhubarb Jam
  • Poached Pears in Sugar Syrup.

I won’t go through the step by step process to pickling here as there are many amazing instructions for this but I will create some pickling recipes to share very soon.

I am thinking of an instant and easy to make but super delicious Carrot Pickle for wintry days and a Mango Pickle for the warmer summer days. In between, I am always up for having nearby chutneys – Mint & Peanut, Tomato and Date and Walnut – for a flavoursome addition to meats, to eat with warm bread or crackers as a snack.

I won’t go through the step by step process to pickling here as there are many amazing instructions for this but I will create some pickling recipes to share very soon.

But I will share here my top take-aways from my pickling classes that will hopefully be useful for your own at home pickling.

One: Produce

Your produce must be fresh when pickled and scrub your chosen vegetable or fruit well to remove any dirt. You don’t want to be pickling sand at the same time and bite into a pickled cucumber or carrot and get the grittiness of the sand as well.

Two: Water!

Most water is suitable for pickling, but hard water (water high in minerals, which you can tell when the water leaves white scale in your glass, in your bathroom etc) may interfere with the pickling process and discolour the vegetables over time. If in doubt, I would suggest using filtered water.

Three: Vinegar

You can experiment with different vinegars that you are storing in the fridge. I would suggest using white distilled or cider vinegar with 5 percent acidity (the labelling should indicate the % of acidity). Use white vinegar when light colour is desirable, as with fruits and cauliflower. Think twice before using red wine vinegar as it will turn all your vegetables pink.

Four: Salt

Use pure sea salt without any additives or salt labeled “canning” or “pickling” salt. Additives in table salt may make the brine cloudy.

Five: Herbs

Use herb or spice in your brine to give your pickled goodies flavour. The classic spices are: mustard seed, peppercorns, and bay leaves. For herbs, dill, mint, basil, or anything that’s overtaking your garden will be great.