Thu 23 Jun, 2011 02:33 pm
I sell at two (and soon to be three) of my local farmer's markets. My father and I own a company that deals mainly in plants, consisting of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. About a week ago, I decided to do some things with extra produce we had leftover.
I make jams and preserves often, so my peach preserves came out magnificent - As always.. However, it's been a few years since I last pickled anything, and it was in a kitchen with my Grandmother directing my every motion.. I took this chance to try out a squash pickle recipe I found on a favourite website of mine.
Rather than your usual pickling spices, I had to omit a few things for the sake of time as well as what I had provided.. I did the usual brine, but I used fresh dill, fresh cilantro, cinnamon, salt, vinegar, a hint of ginger, and some pepper. So no mustard seeds or anything like that.
I filled each jar to the brim with brine so that the squash and onions would be fully soaked in it. All had gone well. So I thought... I went into the kitchen to bag them up before I have to pack everything for a market day tomorrow. And when I looked at the jars, some of the squash skins were wrinkled.
I was distraught! So for the sake of making sure the other jars were okay, I opened one of them up. It smelled just fine, I even took out one of the wrinkled squash pickles and tasted it. It was fine.. In fact, it was excellent! For my first taste of squash pickles, homemade nonetheless, I felt alright.
But lo and behold, I'm still concerned. I figure if in the next twenty minutes I start to feel sick on my stomach, it's likely the squash pickles that have done it to me. Thus far I feel alright, but of course my main priority is my customers. I have an iron stomach, and I only ate about a quarter of the pickle slice. My question is this: Is this safe to give to my customers? Is it rotting? I asked my dad (who grew up pickling with his mother) what he thought, he said it was probably from the skin soaking up the liquid. Could it possibly be because of the vinegar I used? (apple cider vinegar)
I looked it up online and the best I could find was something that said that signs of softening and the like were probably caused by improper sealing, or vinegar with less than 5% of... I believe it said alcohol? Or was it acid? I can't remember! Either way, I'm in quite a pickle here. (no pun intended) Could someone please help me?!
If it were me, I would not be selling or giving away anything I had canned/pickled and was unsure about, especially so soon after processing when enough time has not passed for anything questionable to become fully evident.
That said, here's a pickle recipe for Dilled Zucchini Sticks from the Ball Jar Company's sister site. They make no mention of skin appearance. They have several other variations of pickled squash recipes that you may wish to check out.
Here's a link from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that has detailed instructions on pickling and the needed low temperature pasteurization treatment.
Here's their version of Pickled Bread-And-Butter Zucchini with instructions for the boiling water processing method for pickling.
I'm still working on last summer's batch of pickled cucumbers. Am hoping to have them finished before the cucumbers take over the garden in another few weeks.
Good luck with your recipes and marketing!
Regarding your last paragraph, the percentage of acidity is one very important aspect of pickling.
Here is what the NCHFP site I linked to earlier has to say about that:
Caution: The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to its safety as it is to taste and texture.
Do not alter vinegar, food, or water proportions in a recipe or use a vinegar with unknown acidity.
Use only recipes with tested proportions of ingredients.
There must be a minimum, uniform level of acid throughout the mixed product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria.
Salt is also an important factor:
Pickles with reduced salt content
Recipes for pickles with reduced sodium content are provided in Guide 6 of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
In the making of fresh-pack pickles, cucumbers are acidified quickly with vinegar. Use only tested recipes formulated to produce the proper acidity. While these pickles may be prepared safely with reduced or no salt, their quality may be noticeably lower. Both texture and flavor may be slightly, but noticeably, different than expected. You may wish to make small quantities first to determine if you like them.
However, the salt used in making fermented sauerkraut and brined pickles not only provides characteristic flavor but also is vital to safety and texture. In fermented foods, salt favors the growth of desirable bacteria while inhibiting the growth of others. Caution: Do not attempt to make sauerkraut or fermented pickles by cutting back on the salt required.
Thank you both for the information. I discussed it with a few other people I know who have been pickling for the better part of twenty, thirty years and so on. They took a look at it as well, and nothing seemed wrong with it to them.
I was, however, advised that next time I should cut it into hamburger type slices, rather than the long slices like I did. After I was sure it was alright, I brought the pickles to my family reunion and the entire jar was finished in about an hour! I already have requests for Christmas!