Loved by some and avoided by others, pickles are nevertheless a popular food all around the world; we even have a national pickle day on November 14! While we often enjoy them today for the taste, the process of pickling was first used to preserve foods. According to some sources, the practice of pickling began in 2400 BC with the Mesopotamians. Then, in 2030 B.C., cucumbers native to India were brought to, and pickled in, the Tigris valley, and its practice spread around the world. Since then, pickles have been used to give strength to Roman soldiers, feed hungry sailors on long voyages, and fill pantries through long and cold winters.
The world pickle comes from the German word pókel or the Dutch word pekel, both meaning salt or brine, given for the process of making the pickled food. There are two main ways to pickle, both used differently around the world. The first uses lactofermentation; the item is placed in salt water brine, and the bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum transforms the sugars of the food into lactic acid. This preserves the foods and give it the characteristic taste. These bacteria grow because of the salt content, which also kills harmful bacteria. The second method is much quicker, and involves the item being canned with water, vinegar, salt, and spices.
Many claim they have the best version of the pickle, but there are many different variations from all around the world. Also, different countries and regions are known for pickling all sorts of foods. In Japan, gari, a pickled ginger, is commonly enjoyed. In India and much of southeast Asia, a popular dish is pickled mangos, called achar, which is often used as a spicy condiment. In the Middle East, torshi is very popular, and includes a wide variety of vegetables. Other popular dishes include sauerkraut in Germany, kimchi in South Korea, and ceviche in Peru.
While pickles can be enjoyed from right off the shelf, they’re fun and easy to make at home too! From cucumbers and onions to fish and beef, you can try to pickle a wide variety of different foods, and just might find a new favorite. As a team we decided to make our own pickles too, and seasoned them with some of our delicious flavors. We all enjoyed the classic pickle crunch with an interesting new taste.
We’ll be showing off some of our new pickles at Pickle Packers International in Tampa on Tuesday, October 22-24. If you’re attending as well, stop by and say hello!