Pickling is a popular method of preserving garden fresh cucumbers, but have you ever ended up with soft or discolored pickles? Or discovered the liquid in your jars turned cloudy? There are a lot of different things that can go wrong when making pickles. Here is a list of some of the common problems, and what could be causing them.
* Soft or slippery pickles can be caused by a variety of things. The salt brine may be too weak during fermentation. Be sure you use a research tested recipe and maintain the salt concentration that is specified in that recipe. Your vinegar could be too weak. Be sure to use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity. The pickles may not have been processed properly. Be sure to use a boiling water bath canner for the recommended time and pressure after filling the jars.
* Pickles may have a strong and bitter taste if too many spices were used, the vinegar is too strong, the weather is too dry, or you use salt substitutes. Be sure to follow the directions for amount of spices used, and stick with 5 percent acidity vinegar. The main ingredient in salt substitutes, potassium chloride, will cause a bitter taste. Use canning or pickling salt for the best results.
* Dark or discolored pickles can be caused by minerals in hard water, the use of ground spices, spices left in the jars, the use of brass, iron, zinc or copper utensils, or iodized salt. If you happen to use brass, copper or zinc utensils or brining equipment, do not use the pickles. These metals can react with the acids or salts, and make the pickles unfit to eat. Instead, use food-grade unchipped enamelware, glass, stainless steel, or stoneware utensils.
* Cloudy liquid in the jars can indicate yeast development during fermentation, and can be a sign of spoilage. Another reason for cloudy liquid is the use of table salt. Most salts contain an anti-caking ingredient, and this may cause the cloudiness. If the pickles are soft or slimy, they are spoiled and not safe to eat.
For more information on food preservation, or if you need help troubleshooting what went wrong, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org