HalfPint is a trusted home cook.
My mother always salted the veggies first to draw out the water, drained the water, and then added them to the pickling brine. She said that this helped to keep the veggies crunchy.
My dad grows a grape vine so he can use the fresh grape leaves for pickling. The tannins keep the pickles crispy.
Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.
I've heard this works very well!
I also like to soak the vegetables in salted ice water for 4-5 hours, adding additional ice as it melts. That seems to help tremendously. Also, if you are pickling cucumbers, trim off the blossom end of the cucumber, so it won't be able to create an enzyme that promotes ripening and softening.
This is an interesting point, Darlene. I think though that any role those enzymes would play here would greatly depend on the time that has elapse between the time of picking the vegetable and the point at which you treat/pickle it. Also, depending on how you process it (cold vs hot brine) and whether or not you are making shelf stable pickles and processing in water bath additionally, as any heat would deactivate the enzymes. My father always tells me that you shouldn't cut the end of a pickle because that exposes the flesh and makes the pickles softer, whereas the skin helps them retain crispness.
Kristen W. is a trusted home cook.
Anonymous, we have a grape vine and I've never heard of this use for grape leaves! Can you describe the process in a bit more detail?
Several recipes that I have use an Alum soak prior to brining to help maintain crispness. i'm not sure this works, but even my old copy of the Joy of Cooking warns that using too much will make your pickles bitter.
My mother uses grape leaves, which works reasonably well. From the research I've done (because I can't get grape leaves from my backyard like she does) you can also use cherry, oak, blackberry or raspberry leaves (3-4 per cup of jar capacity). Considering that all the sources say that tannins are why they keep pickles crispier I imagine black tea would also work, but only if you wanted tea flavored pickles (which interests me).
That said, if you over-process your pickles they're going to end up a little mushy, so time that water bath well (it's not like jam where you can add on a couple more minutes for good measure).
mrswheelbarrow has a fantastic 7 day pickle that uses alum! I just made another batch. It is not processed, but shelf stable for a year. They are quite the addictive, sweet, crunchy, vinegary treat.
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