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Pickling Process


The pickling process is preserving foods in brine or vinegar or a combination of two. Brine is a combination of salt with water in propositions to make either a weak, medium or strong solution. In some cases, salt is added directly to the food in the dry form and the brine is formed as juices are drawn out of the food. Vinegar, an acid, acts as a preservative and contributes flavor different from flavored produced by lactic acid fermentation that occurs during the brining process.

Pickles are one of the important consumer products in the world. These products are of different varieties in veg and non-veg. actually, they are one of the earliest commercial products that appeared in the market in the past years and people are consuming the various pickles in daily diet.

The pickling process is a way to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables with the presence of salt, chilly and spices. The tasty product of this process is known as pickles which are good appetizers and digestive agents. These products are consumed throughout the year by people from all walks of life. The researches show that each family consumes about 2 Kg of pickles every year.

Pickles and relishes contain small amounts of nutrients, depending on ingredients used in making them. The processing method for these products should be selected in keeping with the food to be processed and the desired product. Most pickle products are low in calories, except for the sweet varieties.

Pickle Manufacturing Process

Pickling is also known as brining or corning and it’s the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water) to produce lactic acid or marinating and storing it in an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid).

For pickling, it is suitable to use young vegetables and fruits otherwise; the result may be very mushy.  While there are many different types of pickles, some characteristics are common to all. In general, pickled cucumbers are crisp vegetables, which can be described as having a strong, biting flavor caused by the vinegar in which they are stored. Different pickle manufacturers normally add spices to give their pickles a unique flavor. Dill-flavored pickles are perhaps the most common of all pickles. There are also sweet pickles, which are packed with added sugar. These are typically used for making relishes.

Undoubtedly, the most important ingredient in pickle manufacturing is cucumber. Special seeds are used to produce cucumbers that are straight, thin-skinned, have a predictable number of warts, and are properly sized. These characteristics are important for uniform pickle manufacturing. Technically, pickles can actually be made using all kinds of foods such as onions, peppers, olives, pears, peach, and even fish and meat. These are usually referred to as pickled foods to indicate the type of processing required to make them.

Acetic acid (vinegar) is the primary ingredient used in pickle manufacturing. After water, it makes up the bulk of the pickle liquor and contributes significantly to the flavor of the pickle giving it a sour taste. Additionally, it also has a preservative effect and is nontoxic. Vinegar is derived from naturally occurring sugars or starches through a two-step fermentation process. Starch is converted to sugar, which is then yeast fermented to form alcohol. The alcohol is exposed to an acetobacter, which converts it to vinegar. Vinegar can be obtained from many sources and each one has a slightly different taste. Therefore, depending on its source, the vinegar can have a significant effect on the taste of the final pickle product.

Other ingredients, which impact the final taste of the pickles, are added to the liquor. Sugar is used to provide a sweetness to offset the sour taste of the vinegar. It also helps to make pickles more plump and firm. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine can be used for a similar effect without increasing the calories. Salt is added for flavor and it also has an added preservative effect. Pure granulated salt is typically used since it is devoid of anti-caking ingredients that could make the liquor cloudy.

While vinegar, sugar, and salt make up the bulk of all pickle liquors, it is the various spices and herbs that differentiate between pickle types. Dill weed is the most common type of aromatic spice and is used to make all forms of dill pickles. Other aromatic spices include allspice, cassia, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, fenugreek, and nutmeg. For more potent pickles, hot spices such as capsicum, black pepper, ginger, and mustard are used. Herbs like basil, marjoram, mint tarragon, and thyme are also used to give pickles a unique taste. Flavorful vegetables including onions and garlic are often included in pickle liquor. Typically, the pickle manufacturer has a standard spice mix made for each type of pickle they manufacture.

Some additional ingredients may be added to ensure the pickles meet standards set by the manufacturer. In general, pickles do not require any colorants because their natural color is acceptable. However, to create a standardized product and overcome the effects of processes such as bleaching, manufacturers often add color. Two common types of colorants are turmeric caramel and chlorophyll. The caramel provides a slightly brown to yellow color and chlorophyll gives a green color. To inhibit color changes in pickles, sulfur dioxide is added. Firming agents such as lime and alum may also be added. These materials help make pickles crispier without significantly impacting the flavor. Surfactants such as polysorbate are also used to a couple of ingredients in the liquor solution.