NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Read the Fine Print: All Vinegars Are Not Created Equal

Read the Fine Print:  All Vinegars Are Not Created Equal


Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Pickled foods add a special touch to many snacks and meals.

One of the key ingredients in pickling is vinegar.  The vinegar that is recommended for use in pickling and other food preservation should have 5% acidity. 

The label on the bottle or jug of vinegar will state what percent acidity it is, but it may not be easy to find, so examine it closely.  Some brands of vinegar have only 4% acidity; avoid those when canning.  If you do not find the acidity listed on the label, avoid using it and choose one that is labeled as 5% acidity.

The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to its safety as it is to taste and texture.

Other pickle pointers:

  • Use only recipes with tested proportions of ingredients, and do not alter the proportions of vinegar, food/produce, or water.  You must have a minimum, uniform level of acid throughout the mixed product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria.
  • Use a canning or pickling salt to assure that the brine stays clear and does not become cloudy. 
  • Do not reduce salt in fermented pickles.  Proper fermentation depends on the correct proportions of salt and other ingredients.
  • Use of salt substitutes or reduced-sodium salts in fermented pickles is not recommended.
  • Use fresh, whole spices for the best flavor in pickles. Powdered spices may cause the product to darken or become cloudy. Spices deteriorate and quickly lose their pungency in heat and humidity. Store opened spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  • Use two-piece metal lids and screw-on bands.  These are the ones that were used in the testing for safety of food preservation processes.  With the shortage of those this year, freezing is an option for canning in some cases, such as salsa and vegetables that are not being pickled.

For detailed information about other pickling ingredients including water, sugar, and firming agents, as well as the equipment and procedures to use, and tested recipes, contact me at 701-724-3355, or check the NDSU Extension website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation/pickle-and-ferment.

I plan to be at the Rutland Farmers Market on September 13, and will be offering pressure canner gauge testing services there.  Be sure to stop by to visit!

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/vinegar-cleaning-cleaner-clean-768948/ (downloaded 9/9/20)

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