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4.3.1 I followed this pickle recipe, but they don't look like they do in the store. What happened? Can I still eat them?




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This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker ericnospam@getcomputing.com with numerous contributions by others.

4.3.1 I followed this pickle recipe, but they don't look like they do in the store. What happened? Can I still eat them?

PICKLE AND PICKLE PRODUCT PROBLEMS

Making home-made pickles is a time consuming and expensive operation.
There are a variety of different steps along the road from cucumbers
to sweet Gherkins, so there are a number of places where the process
can break down. Pickle problems can usually be traced to the method by
which the pickles, brine or syrup are prepared:

o a. Weather and growing conditions (quality of your vegetables).
o b. Kind of salt used (canning or pickling vs iodized table salt).
o c. Vinegar (5% acetic acid, or 50 grain).
o d. Temperature of storage conditions (fermentation).
o e. Pickling method (fermented, quick-pack).
o f. Time lapse between gathering and pickling the vegetables. [And
you store them during this step.

1. White scum appears during fermentation--the scum is a layer of
yeast and/or mold: Safe

o A. Vegetables are not submerged in brine.
o B. Pickling container is not sealed.

2. Pickles or sauerkraut is soft or slippery: Unsafe

o A. Brine is too weak (less than 10-12% salt)--allows growth of
organ- isms which cause texture softening and sliminess.
o B. Vinegar is too weak (less than 5% acetic acid)--allows growth
organisms which cause texture softening and sliminess.
o C. Temperature during brining was too high (over 75 F).
o D. Too little brine--all cucumbers must be immersed.
o E. Salt is unevenly distributed on cabbage.
o F. Air pockets due to improper "packing" of cabbage allow for
growth undesirable microorganisms. [Need to tamp well
o G. Failure to remove scum daily on surface of brine.
o H. Failure to remove the cucumber blossoms--enzymes from the
blossom will cause softening.

3. Pickles are hollow: Safe

o A. Improper curing: weak brine, pickles uncovered during curing,
curing stopped short of full fermentation.
o B. Too much time lapse between gathering and brining (ie. more
than 24 hours).
o C. Cucumbers have grown in an "abnormal" way.
o D. Temperature too high during fermentation.

4. Shriveled pickles--caused by excessive loss of water from the
cucum- bers: Safe

o A. Curing brine is too strong (more than 12% salt, vinegar more
than 6% acetic acid).
o B. Too much time lapse between gathering and brining (i.e. more
than 24 hours)-- cucumbers are dehydrated.
o C. Pickling solution which is too "heavy", or contains too much
sugar.

5. Pickles or sauerkraut is dark or discolored: Color development due
to iron is safe to some extent but not with other metals.

o A. Using hard water for pickling solution--minerals in the water
react with pigments in the cucumbers. Iron in the water is the
worst offender.
o B. Use of brass, iron, copper or zinc utensils during pickle
making - they contribute metal ions which react with cucumbers to
form dark pigments.
o C. Use of ground spices will darken pickles.
o D. Whole spices were left in the pickles after packing.
o E. Vegetables (cabbage) is unevenly salted.
o F. Curing temperature is too high.
o G. Vegetables are making contact with the air - pigments oxidize.
o H. Use of cider vinegar with light colored vegetables.
o I. Use of brown sugar with light colored vegetables.

6. Sauerkraut turns pink: Unsafe

o A. Too much salt (over 2.25%) = yeast growth on surface.
o B. Uneven distribution of salt = yeast growth on surface.
o C. Kraut is improperly covered or weighted during fermentation =
yeast growth on surface.

7. Moldy pickles or sauerkraut during fermentation: Unsafe

o A. Fermentation temperature is too high.
o B. Insufficient lactic acid production (too much salt).
o C. Failure to keep cloth on top of kraut clean during
fermentation (may need to be replaced after skimming).

8. Pickles are strong or bitter tasting: Safe

o A. Used too much spice.
o B. Spices cooked too long in the vinegar.
o C. Vinegar is too strong (more than 6% acetic acid).
o D. If pickles are too acid increase the sugar, do not decrease
the acid.
o E. Use of "old" or overmature cucumbers with tough, bitter skins.

9. White sediment occurs in the jars: Small amount of sediment normal.
If pickles are soft and slippery---Unsafe.

o A. Yeasts grow on the pickle surface then settle to the
bottom--they are harmless, but can be prevented by water bath
processing filled jars.
o B. Use of table salt instead of pickling salt--it contains
anti-caking ingredients which settle out.
o C. Poor temperature control.

10. Pickling liquid in the jars is cloudy: Unsafe

o A. Pickles are spoiled--discard.
o B. Hard water minerals may cause clouding.
o C. Use of table salt instead of pickling salt--it contains
anti-caking ingredients which cause clouding.
o D. Use of unstrained brine (from fermentation) for pickling
liquid may cause clouding.

11. Pickles or sauerkraut "spoil": Unsafe

o A. Use of unsterilized jars.
o B. Use of ingredients which have lost their strength (i.e.
vinegar).
o C. Inaccurate measuring of ingredients.

12. Pickles are "dull" or "faded" in color: Safe

o A. Use of over-ripe or yellow cucumbers.
o B. Use of fruits with pale color.
o C. Overprocessing of beet pickles--pigments are damaged.
o D. Pickles exposed to excessive light.

Prepared by Susan Brewer/Foods and Nutrition Specialist/Revised, 1992
EHE-695 ----

 

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