In a way, we can thank hipsters for bringing the art of pickling back to the forefront of our cooking methods.
The back-to-the-land mindset that goes hand-in-hand with plaid shirts and fuzzy chins (the official uniform of the hipster, it seems) has led to a rather intriguing return to the act of preserving.
Don't believe us? Just check out this clip from the hipster bible otherwise known as 'Portlandia.'
Also see: A beginner's guide to pickling
The art of preservation seemingly disappeared with our grandmothers' generation, but has made a resurgence in the kitchens of 20- and 30-somethings looking to preserve the tastes of summer in trendy little mason jars.
Pickling, among other food preservation methods, wasn't always a hobby, though. Long before the advent of 24-hour grocery stores stocking fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, Canadians had to pickle to survive in the colder months.
"Historically during the winter you’d be hunting, and then in the warmer months you plant and gather, and you start to 'can' it," Chef Brad Long of Café Belong in Toronto, Ont., tells Yahoo Canada Shine. "You'd preserve it in sugar and salt and acid to keep it longer and allow you to eat vegetables in the cold months. You saved as much of it as possible to survive."
Also see: Surprising foods you can pickle
To Long (who is not, by the way, a hipster), preserving isn't part of a trend -- it's a sustainable way of life. The Food Network host serves exclusively local food in his restaurant, and looks to pickling and canning as a way to add fruits and vegetables to his menu in the colder months.
For home cooks, pickling and canning is one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries in the winter -- by buying produce when it's in season, you're getting it at its cheapest and its peak.
The best part? It's incredibly easy -- all you need is a couple of pots, some mason jars and a set of tongs. Look for complete canning kits (Bernardin has a really good one) that include everything you could possibly need.
Also see: The condiment we're seeing everywhere
For pickling savoury ingredients, the essentials are a) super cheap and b) probably already in your cupboard. Vinegar is a must, along with salt, sugar and whole spices for flavour. When selecting a food to pickle, look for sturdy vegetables such as beets, onions, peppers, cucumbers, beans and radishes.
Preserving sweeter ingredients, such as fruits, is generally referred to as 'canning.' It's a fabulous way to save things like fresh, vibrant peaches, tomatoes and plums for enjoyment during the bland winter months. Instead of a vinegar solution, these recipes use a homemade sugar-water mixture to pack in with the produce to ward off bacteria.
Always, always, always follow a trusted recipe when home pickling. Food safety is a concern with these preserved food products, so never alter a recipe's ratio of acidic ingredients and water -- the vinegar is what keeps botulism at bay.
Need more incentive to start pickling? Check out these recipes below!
Bread and Butter Pickles
Mustard and Ginger Pickled Carrots
Pickled Chipotle Asparagus
DIY Pickling Dos and Don'ts
- Sanitize your mason jars before adding the ingredients. Some dishwashers have sanitizing cycles, or you can sanitize them by submerging the jars in a large pot of boiling water
- Open all the windows of your house before you start pickling; the vinegar solution can be quite pungent -- air circulation is your friend
- Follow the recipe's directed sterilizing time for your completed jars -- no shortcuts! And be sure to start timing only once the water returns to a boil
- Don't use ground spices in your pickling or canning liquid. Over time, the spice will become too strong and overpowering in the jar, so you want to use whole spices and scoop them out with a fine mesh sieve before pouring the liquid into jars
- Don't forget to remove the peels of the fruits or veggies. The easiest method is to blanch them in boiling water for a minute or so to loosen the peel, dunk them in cold water and gently peel away the skin
- Don't use old lids -- any tiny scratch in a lid can harbour bacteria, so you want to use new lids every time
- Don't forget to check the lids 24 hours after they're removed from the water bath to make sure the jars sealed properly. To do so, press the lid down -- if it pops back up, the seal didn't take, and you'll need to refrigerate the contents and enjoy immediately, or you can try to re-process it
Watch the video below for a step-by-step guide to pickling pretty much anything!