Not every vinegar is the same

Kathy in the Pine Journal office makes great refrigerator pickles, so my interest was piqued anyway. If others out there are dealing with a plethora of garden vegetables and not a lot of experience with pickling, this article might come in handy. It basically explains what kind of vinegar to use, along with a few other precautions.

Vinegar for pickling

By Deb Botzek-Linn, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (8/9/2010) — The tang of vinegar gives pickled foods flavor and acts as a preservative.  To insure a safe quality pickled product, pickle with distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar of 5% acidity.

Be sure to read the vinegar bottle label when purchasing vinegar for pickling.  There are 4% and even 3% acetic acid vinegars on the market shelves bottled similar to 5% vinegar.  This is not a high enough acid content to produce safe pickled cucumbers, asparagus, green beans or other low-acid vegetable products.

Most recipes call for distilled white vinegar.  It has a mellow aroma, tart acid flavor, and does not affect the color of the light-colored vegetables or fruits.

Cider vinegar made from fermented apple juice is a good choice for many pickles.  It has a mellow, fruit flavor that blends well with spices.  However, it will darken most vegetables and fruits.

Do not use wine vinegars or other flavored vinegars when you make pickles unless you are sure of their acetic acid content.

When you make pickles, do not dilute the vinegar unless the recipe specifically directs you to add water to a 5% strength vinegar.

Vegetables from asparagus to zucchini can be home preserved by pickling.  The key for a quality pickled product is to select a recipe that is specifically designed for the vegetable you are pickling and pickle with 5% acetic acid vinegar.

Written by Deb Botzek-Linn, a food science educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

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