Pickling is the process of preparing a food by soaking and storing it in a brine (salt) or vinegar solution, a process which can preserve otherwise perishable foods for months. If the food contains sufficient moisture a pickling brine may be produced simply by adding dry salt. Some pickling forms, most notably Korean Kim Chi, salt the vegetables to draw out excess water, then allow natural fermentation of the vegetable to create a vinegar-like solution. Unlike the canning process, pickling does not require the food to be made completely sterile before it is sealed. The acidity or salinity of the solution makes it an environment in which bacteria or fungi do not easily grow.
Pickling began as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys, especially by sea. Salt pork and salt beef were common staples for sailors before the days of steam engines. Although the process was originally used to preserve foods, pickling is frequently done because people enjoy the resulting flavor.
Fruits are generally pickled in high-sugar or solutions with spices such as cinnamon.
Foods that are pickled include:
- vegetables: onions, cabbage (to make sauerkraut and kimchi), cauliflower, ginger, pepperss (chilli pepper: banana peppers, jalapeņos, etc.), mushrooms, lotus root, garlic. beets
- fruit: mango, plum, kumquat, lemon, watermelon rind
- meat: beef (to make corned beef and pastrami), pork, ham
- fish: herring