Food Preservation: Vinegar Pickling

Pickling can be done for either long or short term storage. The initial process is the same for both, with the addition of water bath processing for long-term storage; without this step your pickles will need to be kept in the fridge.

Pickling Ingredients

The three main ingredients you will need are water, vinegar, and salt. These three will combine to make the brine that will cover your vegetables. If you are following a recipe use the proportions it gives; if not, I’ve included a couple of starter recipes below.

The other ingredients will be your chosen vegetables and extra flavour items such as garlic or spice seeds.

Some notes on your ingredients:

  • Water: Most water is fine but avoid using hard water or chlorinated tap water.
  • Vinegar: For fridge storage you can use any vinegar you like. For long term storage you need to make sure you use a vinegar with at least 5% acetic acid.
  • Salt: Use pure salt without additives (or salt labeled “canning” or “pickling” salt). Table salt contains additives that may make the brine cloudy.

Pickling Directions

  1. Clean your jars: Wash and fill with boiling water, or boil for 10 minutes to sterilise. If you will store long term, keep the water boiling for processing the jars at the end.
  2. Prepare your brine: see below
  3. Prepare your veg:
    1. Wash and chop your vegetables to the desired size
    2. Then blanch them (see below) in boiling water. (skip this step for soft vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes as they will become mushy)
  4. Fill your jars:
    1. Using tongs, remove garlic from brine and add some cloves to each jar.
    2. Add your chosen flavours (eg sprigs of dill, peppercorns, mustard/celery/coriander seeds).
    3. Then tightly pack the jars with your chosen veg (eg. small cucumbers, scallions, chillies, beets, cauliflower, carrots) leaving a couple inches of space at the top.
    4. Pour your hot brine over the vegetables, leaving an inch and a half of headroom if water processing.
  5. Store short-term: Allow jars to cool then put them in the refrigerator. The vegetables will be ready in two weeks and will keep for at least 4 months. If yeast scum develops remove it, it is not harmful but may affect the flavour.
  6. Store long-term: Water process (see below) then store in the cupboard. Your pickles can last for up to 3 years.

Brine Recipes

Here are some basic variations, all of which can have the pickling spices or herbs of your choice added to them.

Sour Pickle Brine


  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 cups of vinegar (distilled white or cider vinegar)
  • 3 tbsp of sea salt.
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  1. Combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  3. Let boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat

Sweet Pickle Brine


  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 cups of vinegar (distilled white or cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar


  1. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  3. Let boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat.

Garlic Brine


  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 cups of vinegar (distilled white or cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 a cup of salt.
  • Garlic (to your preference)


  1. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  2. Add garlic and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Then, add salt and vinegar.
  4. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  5. Remove from heat.


This is done to stop enzymatic action which can lead to discolouration in your pickles.

  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. immerse vegetables for about 1-5 minutes depending on type, the aim is for them to still be firm.
  3. drain from boiling water and immerse in ice water to stop further cooking.

Water processing

This is done to create a vacuum seal. Once your jars are sterilised and filled with hot product, and while they are still hot:

  1. Place the lid on firmly but not overly tight.
  2. Carefully return the jars to the boiling water you sterilized your equipment, ensuring the water completely covers the jar by at least two inches above the lid.
  3. Cover the pot with a lid.
  4. Bring the water back to a boil and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat.
  5. Pull off the lid and wait a few minutes under the water is not longer boiling.
  6. Using tongs, carefully remove each jar from the water and sit on a countertop protected with a towel.
  7. Once the jars are completely cool press down on the lids, if they don’t make a popping sound you have successfully canned your pickles.

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