Pickling – A Tradtional Food Preservation Technique.


Pickling is an ancient and honorable art in the Orient. There are specialized stores cum restaurants that pickle all kinds of fruits and vegetables for sale both in the restaurant and retail in the store. Traditionally people around the Mediterranean countries preserved food by pickling and drying as sunshine abounds in this part of the world. In northern countries salting followed by drying and smoking were the preferred preservation methods. They had enough wood to burn and salt could be extracted from mines, and sea salt came from the south.

The art of pickling developed out of the age-old need to preserve food for cold winters. Pickling involves preserving food in a brine which consists of two or more of the following: vinegar, allspice, mustard seeds, chilies, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, turmeric, fresh garlic, onions and water.

White cabbage, eggplants, carrots, green tomatoes cauliflower, hot or sweet peppers, young corn on the cob, artichoke hearts, watermelon rings, lemons, pears and mangoes are often pickled pending on location.

Chutney is an assortment of cooked ingredients prior to pickling.

Of all pickles, however, the cucumber is the most popular in North America, so much so that pickle generally means pickled cucumber. Dill-, kosher- (garlic flavored), sour- (typically fermented in brine), and sweet pickles are a few of the many varieties.

Gherkins are miniature cucumber pickles, while cornichons are the French counterpart, more sour than sweet.

Pickles must be firm, without blemishes, soft spots wrinkles.

Small pickling cucumbers are best as they have fewer seeds.

Fresh-from-the-barrel pickles taste better and have a firmer texture than those sold in jars. Most of the pickles in jars also contain ascorbic acid generally used by manufacturers as a preservative.

Pickling spice consists of whole peppercorns, cloves, mustard seeds, bay leaves and chilies. Ready pickling spice is expensive, but recipes are widely available for home use.

Curry, as western chefs understand it is unknown in India where it was supposedly invented.

Sri Lankans claim to have invented curry or more accurately mixing spices to achieve a range of tastes.

Regardless of its place of birth, the word is a derivation from the Tamil word for “sauce”. Indian cooks use different names for different blends, which are blended just before use.

Commercial curries contain primarily turmeric from which they derive their yellow colour, and coriander, black- and cayenne pepper, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, mace, fenugreek, bay leaves, saffron and mustard seeds. Madras style commercial curry is somewhat tastier than others less expensive.

Curry powder must be subjected to medium heat only to prevent burning and a bitter taste.

Soy, sauce, the traditional Chinese and Japanese flavouring agent, is a thin, brown, salty liquid derived from soy beans, salt, and water, basic to many oriental cuisine.

Each manufacturer has its own highly secret recipe. Chinese and Japanese soy sauces may be sweet or dry, although the latter is more popular with Chinese who are fond of sweet and sour specialties than Japanese. Actually Japanese favour either salty or acid foods and practically never eat sweet and sour dishes.

Hoisin, another oriental sauce, is also derived from soybeans, but enriched with garlic, spices and chili pepper. Hoisin is used mainly for meats.

Oyster sauce does not contain oysters neither does plum sauce or apricot sauce any fruit. All are almost always used to enhance the flavour for dim sums, or Chinese rolls.

A wide range of prepared sauces is marketed by large and small manufacturers, as are dressings.

All can be produced at home with less expense and little effort.



One Comment