Pickles!

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

Pregnant women crave them, Peter Piper picked them, and Cleopatra even claimed them as a beauty secret. We are talking about pickles and plenty of them. The Pickle Packers Association’s website Ilovepickles.org states Americans eat over 2.5 billion pounds of pickles every year. That’s 20 billion pickles! American’s love their pickles. There are pickle of the month clubs, pickle festivals and the granddaddy of all festivals Picklesburgh! 

The story begins in 2030 BC when cucumber seeds were brought from India to the Tigris River Valley in Mesopotamia, which is current day Turkey/Syria/Iran. They thrived, producing heaps and heaps of cukes. Pickling in a salt or brine bath was the easiest way to preserve the fruits of their labor, making pickles one of the first “fast” portable foods of the times. Pickles were taken on ships, horseback and even stored for the long winter months. The crunchy snack made its entrance in the New World around the 17th century and the first pickle plant was constructed in 1820. 

Kudos to the Buckeye state for ranking in the top ten for U.S. pickle production: 73% of all pickles come from 5 states, including Ohio. Pickling cukes and peppers are grown on over 140,000 acres in the U.S. When we talk pickles, you may be just thinking pickling cucumbers, but pickles encompass much, much more, including pickled peppers and 7-plus specialty pickled veggies. There are three different production methods in making these tasty products from field to your grocery shelf. 

Refrigerated pickles are packed fresh into jars with specially seasoned brine and totally fermented in the refrigerator. These pickles have the shortest shelf life with an expiration date. Fresh pack are pickles packed fresh into jars, with seasoned brine and then vacuum-sealed, pasteurized, and cooled. These are labeled “fresh pack” on the label and are usually crispier, less acidic, and taste more like fresh cucumbers. Processed pickles are fresh from the field washed and cleaned cucumbers. They are placed in a brine solution in large tanks and fermented over months. After fermenting is completed, it’s time for a bath to rinse off some of the salt. They then head back into jars to marinate with their “special” seasoning. Processed pickles are more opaque, darker green and have a sharper flavor than fresh pack and refrigerated processed products. Did you know there is even a “scientific tool” for pickles called the audible crunch meter? A pickle is labeled good if the audible crunch can be heard at 10 paces. Sidenote: Is that a Shelly or Paul 10 paces because that’s a BIG difference. Funny thing is if you can only hear the crunch at one pace, then the uncrunchy pickle is slapped a with label of denture dill.

  Pickles are most often added to sandwiches but are also often just eaten right from the jar. A meal in some families wouldn’t be complete without a side assortment of pickles. Who hasn’t had a fried pickle? You are missing out. You can add pickles and pickled peppers, onions and other pickled treats to salsas, sauces, and salads as well as zippy toppers on sandwiches, soups, and main dishes. Chefs have been known to pickle anything from red onions to radishes, watermelon rind and even strawberries! Pickles are fat free, low in calories while adding a flavor punch and a crunch. There is some thought that these vinegary flavors can even help reduce your appetite. Don’t load up on these crunchy treats if sodium is an issue for you. 

You have the entire month of July to celebrate pickles! Try a new variety of pickles every day this month. Explore the process of pickling. Choose something new from your garden and pickle it. You are sure to find a new favorite. 

Eat well and healthy,

Shelly

Bread and Butter Pickles      tasteofhome.com

Air-Fried Pickles foodnetwork.com https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/air-fryer-fried-pickles-5463233

Pickled Green Beans freshlypreservedideas.com

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