Pickling is a way of preserving a certain type of fruit and or vegetables. In some countries they do this process because not all fruits and vegetables are in season all-year round. They usually do this process during summer or spring time, in preparation for the winter and fall season.
In Asia, pickling is done for different reasons. In the old times, they pickle their food to prevent it from spoiling. Since not most households have refrigeration, they would put their meat/fruit/vegetable in brine solution so that they could preserve them. (I’ll give you a recipe of the brine solution later.)
In countries like South Korea, pickled foods play a big part in hansik (Korean food). Kimchi is a staple in every meal, and it’s the best example of pickling. Most popular kimchi is cabbage, but they pickle almost everything in that country.
In the Philippines, we’re used to pickled papaya, or better known as achara. My aunt makes the best achara, and she doesn’t put raisins in it. And because of that reason, unconsciously, I hated pickling. I can’t seem to make that perfect brine even though I follow her recipe to a T. Besides, I’m not fond of pickled fruits or vegetables, even though I love kimchi. I like to use fresh ingredients as much as possible. If it’s not in season, then I work with whatever ingredient is available in the market.
But pickling is really convenient for all households. Aside from the fact that it’s good as a side dish, it also helps busy mommies save time and be able to preserve those ingredients that they use often but are not always in season.
A few weeks ago, my dad brought home more than a dozen of unripe santol. I love fruits that that a sweet-sour taste, but these santols are still bitter. He didn’t want to throw them out. My first suggestion was wrap them in old newspapers and keep them inside our rice dispenser, but my mom said I should just pickled them so that we can use them for sinigang. As Kapampangans, we love sinigang so much that we use all sorts of vegetables and fruits to provide the sour flavor. Aside from santol and the staple tamarind, we also use kamias (kalamias, or bilimbi), and miso.
I have two kinds of brine mixtures, the salt-based and the other, sugar-based. Of course, vinegar is a key ingredient too in your brine. My culinary friends will use high-end types of vinegar, but I always believe that not all kitchens are supplied with expensive ingredients in their pantries. So, I make with what’s available and make some necessary adjustments.
For the santol fruits, I did both salt and sugar brine mixtures, just in case one of my family members decides to munch on them. I’m really not good with measuring so I always go with equal parts of water and vinegar. But, you have to make sure that your vinegar is not too acidic. If that happens, then make it 2/3 water- 1/3 vinegar. My measurement for sugar and salt is also the same. I usually add in 10 tablespoons of sugar (and or salt) per 1 liter of liquid (vinegar and water combined). Of course, you have to taste it as you do the process.
With salt, I put it on top of a low-heat fire, just so the smell and acidity of the vinegar evaporates. I let it simmer, just like with the sugar, until all the particles get dissolved. Turn off the stove and by this time, you can add in whatever aromatics you want to add. Cloves and star anise are ok too. They’re good agents in pickling. But I like mine simple. Just salt (sugar), water and vinegar unless I’m doing achara.
One very important thing in pickling is that the jar you’re going to use is very clean. You don’t want any bacteria entering or seeping through your brine and fruit. I suggest you boil your jars first, them clean them dry with a cloth. Store your pickled stuff in a cool area. You don’t need to put them in the fridge, just an area in your house that’s always cool, but not damp.
Update: Here’s my pickled vegetables recipe.