When you first think of the term “pickling” what’s the first food that comes to your mind? For me, I envisioned pickled cucumbers.
Pickled vegetables have been used for several millennia as a mean of food preservation and storage. In its simplest form pickling is any food soaked in a solution to prevent spoilage, such as vinegar or a salt water brine solution.
Pickled vegetables are a centuries old method of safely preserving food for long winters and through other times of need. The workers that built the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago ate sauerkraut (pickled cabbage).
It’s an excellent way to extend the shelf life of your veggies, prevent bacteria, and to keep them tasty at the same time. What’s even better is that the majority of vitamins, minerals and fiber content are still retained when pickling.
The original pickling method used by our great grandparents has been an essential part of healthy diets for thousands of years. It boosts the gut’s good bacteria and acts as a natural antibiotic.
Benefits of Pickled Vegetables
- High in fiber
- Retains fat soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K
- Support immune function
- Increases B vitamin intake, and digestive enzymes
But do the commercially prepared pickled vegetables at your local grocery store offer such health benefits?
For one thing, the heat required to pasteurize pickled vegetables in the commercial canning processes, destroys much of the vegetables vitamin C content. While light destroys riboflavin.
Mass produced pickled vegetables are usually made with chemical based lactic acid, acetic acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate – which is a far cry from homemade pickles made with vinegar or using natural lactic fermentation created from salt.
These chemical processes destroy the important beneficial gut bacteria that your body desperately needs.
So how do you eat healthy pickled vegetables?
One of the best ways is to choose pickled vegetables that have been naturally fermented, and contain live bacteria.
When a food is allowed to naturally ferment, the nutritional content increases over time. The good bacteria causing the fermentation produces B vitamins and additional healthy bacteria that your digestive tract needs.
If you aren’t a big raw veggie fan, pickling vegetables dramatically changes the flavor profile. You’ll find pickling gives them a cooked but crisp texture and adds a depth and complexity you just can’t get from a fresh salad.
Pickled vegetables are also easier to digest.
Salt brined pickled vegetables become firmer in texture, more concentrated in composition, and nutrient profile. According to Korean scientists, kimchi (a traditional Korean spicy pickled cabbage dish) contains more than double the levels of vitamins B1, B2, B12 and niacin as unfermented fresh cabbage contains.
Because salt is used in the process, if you’re watching your sodium intake – we recommend a balanced approach. Enjoy pickled vegetables on occasion and in smaller quantities. It’s a great addition that will give your meal a burst of flavor.
Instead of buying store bought pickled vegetables, try making your own.
Don’t make that face, seriously – if you really want to be sure you’re eating healthy, pickle up these veggies using easy traditional methods to create a tasty snack, colorful relish or simple garnish.
11 Vegetables You Can Pickle Besides the Obvious Cucumber
- Beets – traditional picnic food
- Celery – no need for ranch dressing, pickle up some celery sticks instead
- Green beans
- Green tomatoes
- Tri-colored peppers brighten up an appetizer plate
Our friends at Food Matters tell us exactly how to start pickling:
- Choose any vegetable you like…
- Fresh or dried spices (such as peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and /or caraway seeds)
- 1 cup any kind of vinegar (white wine vinegar works great)
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 tablespoon kosher, Himalayan, or any non-iodized salt
What to do…
- Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar.
- Add between ¼ – ½ teaspoon of whole dried spices.
- Combine vinegar, filtered water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Put your just boiled brine over the vegetables in the jar and put on the lid.
- Hide the jar in the back of the fridge for at least a week. Two weeks is better, three is best.
- Keep them in the fridge for up to 6 months.