The Wilton Historical Society’s Colonial Cookery program this weekend is all about pickles. The society sent this information gleaned from History in a Jar: The Story of Pickles by Tori Avey.
“The word ‘pickle’ comes from the Dutch pekel or northern German pókel, meaning ‘salt’ or ‘brine,’ two very important components in the pickling process. Throughout history pickling was a necessity, as it was the best way to preserve food for a long period of time. As one of the earliest mobile foods, pickles filled the stomachs of hungry sailors and travelers, while also providing families with a source of food during the cold winter months.
“Home pickling was made much easier and more sanitary during the 1850s, when two essential canning tools were invented. First, a Scottish chemist by the name of James Young created paraffin wax, which helped to create a seal for food preserved in jars. A few years later, John Mason developed and patented the first Mason jar. Mason’s jars were made from a heavyweight glass that was able to tolerate the high temperatures used in canning and processing pickles.
Of course, pickles aren’t limited to the dill and cucumber variety. They can be sweet, sour, salty, hot or all of the above. Pickles can be made with cauliflower, radishes, onions, green beans, asparagus and a seemingly endless variety of other vegetables and fruits.
When the English arrived in the New World, they brought their method for creating sweet pickles with vinegar, sugar and spiced syrup. Eastern Europeans introduced various forms of lacto-fermented cabbage, known as sauerkraut. The French serve tiny, spiced cornichons with heavy pâtés and pungent cheeses.
In the Middle East pickles are served with every meal, from peppers to olives to lemons. Russians pickle tomatoes, among other things. Koreans have their kimchi, the Japanese pickled plums and daikon, and Italians pickle eggplants and peppers. Each area of the world has its own beloved variety of pickle.”