In A Pickle

pickles.jpgNew York produces wine and apple cider, so you might think it would also produce wine and apple cider vinegars, but you’d be wrong. Or at least I haven’t been able to find any that aren’t imported from California, Spain or Italy. No problem, I thought. I’ve made vinegar at home before.

So I used up the last of my Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar (“with the mother”) as my starter and got a batch of wine vinegar going. All fine and good except that I am doing a lot of canning and pickling in preparation for the winter portion of my 250-mile diet. Every book on the subject says do not use homemade vinegar for pickling because there’s no way to know for sure if it is acidic enough to kill off harmful bacteria (you need minimum 4.5%, preferably 5% acetic acid to be safe).

Well, I did a little online research. One mail order acid titration kit and a couple of tests later I knew that my homemade wine vinegar had 8.2% acetic acid: more than enough for pickling safety, but too much to taste good in salad dressing. (This is why the label on your bottle of commercial vinegar says diluted with water to 5% acetic acid). Got my friend Sean to help me with the math and now my vinegar is a tasty and safe 5%. Whew.

What have I made with my wine vinegar so far? Bread ‘n’ Butter Pickles, Pickled Cherries, Nectarine Chutney and Dilly Beans. Oh, and a lot of very good salad dressing (remember, lemon trees don’t grow in Brooklyn).

How To Make Your Own Vinegar

How To Test Your Homemade Vinegar

Where To Buy An Acid Titration Test

Not sure what Leda’s 250-Mile Diet is about? Click here.

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3 responses to “In A Pickle”

  1. Miriam says:

    Admirable, Leda. Where did your recipe for pickled cherries come from? I made some this summer, using a recipe from an Elizabeth David cookbook, but I’m the only one that likes them! I know you’re a great preserver, so I’m sure you’re putting up jams too. So tempting to trap all the summer flavors into jars – for you less a luxury than a homesteading necessity this year.

    I have made vinegar from wine (sometimes inadvertently), but have never thought to use it for pickling. Why not! I’ll bet the pickles are delicious.

    Can you recommend a good, up-to-date book on preserving food in all kinds of ways?


  2. ledameredith says:

    The pickled cherry recipe, my favorite of the couple I’ve tried, is from a book by Marion Brown called ‘Pickles and Preserves’. The recipe itself is called Luta’s Brandied Cherries (though there is no brandy or other alcohol in the recipe. Apparently “brandying” is a process as well as a potential ingredient).

    Favorite preserving books include the one mentioned above,
    ‘Putting Food By’ for its exhaustive explanations of what makes preserved food safe (or not) and its easy reference for double checking processing times,
    ‘Summer In A Jar’ for small batch preserving recipes,

    and my all time favorite, ‘Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes’ by Claude Albert and Terre Vivant. This little book covers only methods that do not require pressure canning or any other fancy equipment, and over the years some of the best recipes I’ve tried have come from it. Unfortunately, this paperback is out of print and has become a collector’s item with a hefty price tag. But if you ever come across one in a used book store, grab it!


  3. ledameredith says:

    Just found out that a newer edition of ‘Keeping Food Fresh’ is available for reasonable prices. It is now called ‘Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning’.

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