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Pickling without a water bath, what's the shelf life?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I've made pickles one time before but I put them in a water bath, so leaving them in a cool shelf area for weeks was not a problem. However I am wanting to do this again and I've seen a lot of people that are making pickles and not going through the trouble of the water bath. Instead they boil the lids, and pour a boiling hot brine into the jars. I was wondering, with the acidity and salt content of the brine - is the water bath even necessary? I'd prefer not to have to refrigerate them, how long should I expect the shelf life to be? Thanks for any info.

post #2 of 14

Without know your recipe and the exact ph of your pickling liquid it would be hard to say if that would be a safe way or not.  Your best bet would be to contact your county extension office.  Most of them have considerable resources, and recipes, for canning, most of them are free.  I would check them out.  But remember, the foodborne illnesses that result from improperly canned food are pretty serious.  We're not just talking stomach issues and all that goes along with it, we're talking serious risk of death.

http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I don't have a recipe per se, I find it fun to mix up the spices but as far as what is critical for safety as I understand it you need vinegar of at least 5% acidity and that needs to be of a ratio of at least 50% to the water. I don't have the salt amount off hand but have found info on those things. I got a little info from a pm too, but more than likely I will end up doing the water bath because I really want to stay in the safe zone and have good shelf life. To me canning is labor intensive but if done right, and in a large quantity its something that allows you to enjoy the labor for months and months afterwards.

post #4 of 14

I think you are very wise to go ahead and water bath. I tell my canning students that it's like wearing a seat belt.  

 

Chances are, you could decide not to buckle up before driving your car, and you'll still reach your destination just fine.  But even though your a careful driver, you can't control everything around you.  

 

That one time you decide not to buckle up, there could be a crazy driver on the loose. He hits you, your car flips, and you're gone.  And everyone else in your car that agreed not to buckle up (i.e., eat unprocessed canned goods), has the same fate as you.  

 

We can control acid, heat, timing, but we cannot see or predict the presence of certain microorganisms.  Some of these bad guys can live at unusually high temperatures (so a water bath deprives them of oxygen).  And some of them have to breath (so the water bath kills them with high heat).  In my mind, it's divine intervention - how just a few minutes in a water bath can do so much good.  Cheap auto insurance, if you ask me...

 

Enjoy pickling!  We had garlic pickled beans on our subs tonight - yummy!

post #5 of 14

I believe this all hinges on just what sort of pickles you are making.  If you want the best cuc pickles in the world, you lactoferment them - just pure water, salt, astringing leaves such as oak, currant or grape, and of course your cucs. Maybe garlic & fresh dill seed tops, too.   You don't want them exposed to heat.  Other vegetables can be lactofermented, too. 

 

Pickling was traditionally understood to mean the process I described.  "Canning" (ie, processing with heat to kill organisms to enable longterm storage) would be necessary if you aren't using all that salt.  But with the proper amount or salt, I am not certain I see the point of the hot water bath.  At home on the farm,  we never did that for any type of pickle - bread & butter, beet, etc. etc. because there is plenty of sugar, spice & salt in there, which act as preservatives.

 

licklips.gif

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

Nothing is simple in the world of preserved foods! I guess it's one of those subjects where technically different answers are correct to various degrees based on different merits. I have postponed my water bath dills for the moment, but in talking with KYHeirloomer I was able to source a local produce stand (the only one we have sans flea market) and he is willing to sell me an entire crate for just 5.00 over what the terminal charges him.. so that's around 45-50 lbs of pickling cucumbers for roughly 37.00!

 

Today though I am going to hit the flea market and pick up enough cucumbers to try the lactose fermented (sour) pickles! I am excited about the lack of overall work that is required and I personally really enjoy a fermented pickle for different reasons vs a salt and vinegar dill. Thanks for the info Wyandotte!

 

I will say though that even with regard to the fermented pickles there is simply no single answer to the preparation. The "national center for home food preservation" includes vinegar in their recipe but in many other blog posts they don't use vinegar at all. Also.. I see blog posts that indicate that they ferment their pickles for 3-4 days before moving them into the fridge and yet the above NCFHFP recipe says 3 WEEKS.. is that possibly because of the addition of the vinegar?

 

The addition of leaves such as wyandotte mentioned is interesting - I read that you can use cherry leaves. I have a couple black cherry trees on my property so I read a little about the leaves. It seems that the black cherry leaves have what is essentially cyanide in them surprised.gif .. it mentioned livestock but I don't think I'll take a chance on creating garlic cyanide pickles. I also read that the leaves aren't even necessary if you trim the blossom end off of the cucumber?

 

Well I could read for weeks and probably not arrive at a particular point so in 2 hours I'm off to the flea market to learn the best way.. by doing!

post #7 of 14

As you state you could read for weeks. The science of food and the technology offers a never ending learning experience .

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Well.. I prepped 14 cucumbers and put them into my container. They are sitting with a plate forcing them under the brine now. I ended up following the national food preservation peoples recipe because they called for much more salt and the addition of vinegar as compared to another recipe, figured they are playing it safe so I don't mind waiting a little longer for a good end product. For my spice mix I used 12 cloves of garlic, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fresh dill and also some dry dill. Crossing my fingers!

 

pickles.jpg

post #9 of 14

ES, they look good, how long will they take to brine and are they just sitting on the counter or on the refer..................thanks Chefbillyb

post #10 of 14

That's a lovely photo!  I hope your cucs turn out well!  I am wondering what will happen with them being cut, though.  That isn't normally done and all the traditional recipes that I've seen say to not pickle a cuc if it has so much as a little cut or gouge in it.  This should be interesting and I hope you'll report back.

 

Yes, all my old recipes say that cherry leaves are fine but they are referring to the various sour cherries, not the sweet black; however, maybe these latter are suitable as well, so I can't say anything either way.   Me, I don't know anything about cyanide; I think that the astringent factor in oak/currant/grape/cherry leaf is tannin.

 

Making your own pickles, all kinds, is so much fun!  Sometimes a jar will go bad and I never know why. redface.gif

 

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyandotte View Post

I am wondering what will happen with them being cut, though.  That isn't normally done and all the traditional recipes that I've seen say to not pickle a cuc if it has so much as a little cut or gouge in it.

 



The main reason is that enzymes present towards the blossom end cause the cucumber to be soft. Cutting that end off eliminates those enzymes and reportedly eliminates the need to have those astringent leaves in the mix. It may be time for an updated recipe.. I can't say.. just from my reading! smile.gif

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post

ES, they look good, how long will they take to brine and are they just sitting on the counter or on the refer..................thanks Chefbillyb



Sorry missed this in my previous reply. They are supposed to sit on the counter at room temp and the recipe I used claims that it will be approximately 3 weeks until they are done. I've read in other recipes that you can start tasting them to determine when you like them and when you get there to a point you prefer they go into the fridge to slow the fermentation process. You can also can these in a water bath.

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Well.. today marks right around 4 weeks that I have had my pickles fermenting at room temperature. It took about 5 days before I started seeing real signs of a fermentation occurring. Now, all of the characteristics are there, the cloudiness of the brine, the dark olive color of the pickles, etc. However, in tasting one today, I find they are still too salty and they don't have the zing that I would associate with a sour pickle. I read a little more, and the brine solution I used had a slightly higher salt content than what I read over at wildfermentation.com in addition it called for a small amount of vinegar.

 

I never really developed a "scum" but towards the end of the 4 weeks I did start to develop surface mold, which I removed carefully using a spoon. Reading a little more about it, some people suggested adding a little more vinegar and it did appear to stop any further mold from developing. In case you are interested, here's the best photo I could get of them, it at least shows the color and general cloudiness that you would associate with sour dills.

 

sour garlic dill pickles at 4weeks

 

I've removed the plate and seal them in the fridge now. I did read at wildfermentation that some of the older recipes called for "enough salt to float an egg in" and would result in pickles that needed to be soaked in fresh water before eating.

 

Honestly.. I find this initial experience to be a tease/disappointment. I think in the future it is going to make more sense to just hot pack vinegar based garlic dills and forgo the 4 week baby sitting, but I won't give up completely without talking a little more to people that have done this with success.

post #14 of 14

Or find a real old, traditional recipe and try that.  That is what I do.

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