Quick Pickling vs. Water-bath Canning
There are two methods to pickle foods: quick pickling and water-bath canning.
Quick pickling has become a popular shortcut to achieving tangy flavors. Produce is sealed in a boiling solution and then refrigerated for several hours before enjoying. Foods made through quick pickling can last for several weeks to several months in the refrigerator. This method is best for foods that you plan to enjoy within a short period of time after making.
The traditional water-bath canning method involves heating jars of food in boiling water. When processed and stored properly at room temperature, the canned food can be safe to eat for up to a year – which means you can always have a pickled food in store for a rainy day. Because the food marinates longer, it yields stronger flavors than the quick pickling method.
Vanessa McNeil Trent, who has been pickling since childhood and now instructs others on canning processes, believes water-bath canning is worth the wait. She explains, “Refrigerator pickles have a weaker brine, the pickles aren’t as crisp, and they don’t keep nearly as long as canned pickles. While those are great in a time crunch, canned pickles are worth the time and effort – the taste and crispness are unmatched.”
“There is no one way to pickle. Everyone has their own unique touch,” adds Sandy Hood, a pickling pro with over 60 years of experience. “The end result is great-tasting food, and pickled food is good for you!”
The Pros of Pickling
Pickling can come in handy for reasons beyond achieving tasty flavors. For Morgan Howard, pickling is a useful solution to avoid wasting the excess vegetables she harvests from her home garden. “You get to eat your garden harvest all year long! And they make a great gift for friends and family.”
Shanahan similarly finds joy in sharing homemade pickled foods with those around him on a large scale. Pickling is an annual tradition for Shanahan and a group of men on Lookout Mountain, who learned the ins and outs of pickling from their friend, Mike Loy. After Loy passed away in 2021, the group continued to gather each year to pickle hundreds of jars-worth during what they now call the “Mike Loy Pickle Fest,” in remembrance of their dear friend and his extensive knowledge of the preservation process. “It’s all about the fellowship – a yearly open house with a purpose. It’s a lot of work, but much more fun,” shares Shanahan.
To those interested in learning how to pickle, Shanahan advises, “Do your homework. Research through whatever method you want – you can buy books, you can get online, you can go on YouTube. Start small and then go from there.”