More and more people are getting into pickling and fermenting at home, but did you know that you can do both of these things using your sous-vide machine?
What is Pickling?
So what is pickling? It’s essentially any food which has been preserved in acid, and while it usually refers to cucumbers, there’s actually a whole host of foods you can pickle, such as garlic, onions, grapes, asparagus and more!
Whatever it is that you want to pickle is usually left in vinegar or a vinegary brine in an airtight container such as a can.
The ingredients can then be heat-treated to pasteurisation to speed up the process and this is where sous-vide comes in.
Sous-vide machines can hold the ingredients at the point of pasteurisation (about 60˚C) and have your pickles ready to go in just a couple of hours.
Before You Begin
Before you get started, it’s worth knowing that while you’d usually use vacuum sealed bags to cook sous-vide, for pickling we recommend using a canning jar.
As for the vinegar you should use, we’d recommend one with a 5% acidity, as this is commonly used in cooking and as we mentioned earlier, it’ll be safely acidic enough to kill pathogens.
Food pathogens cannot grow at an acidity of below 4.0 pH and 5% vinegar is about 2.6 pH, so this will safely kill any harmful bacteria (remember that the lower down the pH scale, the more acidic).
After this, the acidity will mean that no pathogens can grow, meaning that your pickled ingredients can be shelf stored for up to six months.
Firstly, inspect your canning jars to make sure that they aren’t damaged in any way. Check for any chops or cracks, make sure that the lid isn’t warped or bent, and make sure that the inside is nice and clean before you start.
If you want to just use vinegar, that’s fine, but if you could also choose to make your own brine, made from vinegar, water, and sugar for a sweet brine for fruit, or adding salt for a savoury brine.
Next, set your sous vide water bath or circulator to the desired temperature (around 60˚C).
Take this time to prepare your ingredients, whether this be peeling, chopping or just rinsing.
Put your ingredients into your canning jar, along with any seasoning, but be sure not to fill it up too much, allowing enough room for the food and seasoning to move around freely.
Ideally, don’t place the food any higher than 2cm from the lid. Finally, add the brine or vinegar until this is about 1cm.
Seal the jar, making sure that it’s tight, but still loose enough to allow some air out as you submerge them.
If they’re sealed too tight, there will be too much air trapped in the jars, which could cause them to crack.
Place the jars into your sous-vide bath or container and leave to cook for about two and a half hours.
Once they’re done, allow the pickles to rest for about a day. Make sure you don’t quick chill like you might with meat, as this could damage the jars. Once they’ve rested, you can store your pickles to enjoy for up to six months!
So, now that you know how to pickle using sous-vide, where’s best to start? We have a number of pickle recipes in our resource centre which you should check out.
For example, while pickling is mainly used for vegetables and fruit, how about trying this pickled mackerel?
Mackerel is ideal because it already has a strong flavour, meaning that it won’t be overpowered by the vinegar.