The American Pictorial Home Book
or Housekeeper's Encyclopedia - online book

A reference manual of household management in Victorian times.

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PICKLES.                                       491
ripe, but sound and firm and gather very early in the morning, and on a dry day, guarding against letting them fall or getting bruised in any way. Gather them with the stem, else the juice will exude and the article wither. They should be carefully culled and wiped with a dry cloth, very clean and soft. Do not wash them unles they are to be scalded or steeped before pickling, and even this is better to be let alone, for the pickles are observed to spoil the sooner by it. The purest, best, and strongest vinegar, whether wine or cider, should be used and full quantity to more than cover the whole contents of the jar.
Let your articles used in pickling be done sufficiently to be tender and wholesome, and not lose their crispness and brittleness. Let them be just done through, let it be by simmering, pouring, or boil­ing the vinegar, or in whatever way managed. In obtaining a good color health is often left out of the question or sacrificed to please the eye. The beautiful green, so brilliant and so much admired in pickles, is produced artificially by verdigris, formed by boiling them in brass, or untinned copper kettles, or by adding pieces of brass or copper to the boiling vinegar, though as often detected as denied. This green color is poisonous and permeates the whole fruit. A good green color may be obtained by placing vine or cabbage leaves several thicknesses over boiling vinegar while scald­ing the fruit; it is green enough. A small portion of potash will promote the much admired color, while it weakens or destroys the acid of the vinegar. The fruit may be scalded in alum water, after being taken from the vine, before putting them in scalding vinegar, then soak them in clear water for a few hours; it toughens and makes them more crisp, then scald them in strong cider or other vinegar, before putting them in the spiced liquor. If a red color is desired put in a few grains of cochineal. Vinegar may be allowed to simmer but never to boil, as in boiling a large per cent. of the fomented liquors escapes. Cold vinegar becomes thick or ropy it added to fruit which requires boiling or more spices. But radish pods (which should be very young) and nasturtiums, onions, young pods of green pepper and similar articles being of a pungent nature, require no spices nor boiling, but may be gathered and put in cold vinegar until the jar is full, when it should be closed tightly.
Spices seem to mellow and conteract, and refine the sharpness or acidity of pickles. But they should be selected and used to suit the quality of flavor of the vegetable which is to be pickled. Such as cauliflower, cucumbers, indian pickle, cabbage, &c, requires a good portion of spice. But if the spices are cooked in a vessel, and steeped in the best cider, wine, or pure vinegar on a hot hearth, a small quantity will do.