Why Do We Use Vinegar in Pickling?

Wondering how to make pickling vinegar, and can you pickle with just vinegar? Or better yet, is pickling vinegar white vinegar? In this post, we are going to find out the different ways that you can achieve delicious-tasting pickles. Vinegar remains an essential ingredient in any pickle worth its salt.

This guide explores how vinegar works its magic when used in pickling, the various types of vinegar you can buy, and some common questions about vinegar.

Why Do We Use Vinegar in Pickling?

In the simplest terms possible, vinegar is a great preservative that stores food by inhibiting the growth of certain types of bacteria. It also brings out the flavor in foods, which is why you can add it to many recipes. The acidity of vinegar also helps tenderize meat and vegetables. 

How to Use Vinegar in Pickling

Preparing vinegar pickles is simple. However, there are some steps that you need to follow if you want your pickles to turn out great:

1. Slice Vegetables into Thin Pieces

Pickling involves slicing vegetables into thin pieces like cucumbers, cauliflower, etc. This increases their surface area, which will help absorb more flavor from the spices added later in the recipe. You can use a mandolin slicer or just slice them using a knife if you don’t have one at home.

If you want to pickle waxed cucumbers, this is one of the methods suggested in our article on how to remove wax from cucumbers for pickles.

2. Cover the Vegetable Jar With Vinegar

After slicing the veggies, cover each jar with vinegar. Make sure there are no air bubbles between the vinegar and the veggies, as it may cause discoloration due to oxidation. Also, you shouldn’t overfill your jars with vinegar because it will spill over when you close them tightly.

3. Close the Jars and Allow them to Reach the Room Temperature

Place lids on your jars and allow them to sit where they can reach room temperature before you store them in your fridge. Depending on how hot your home is, this could take a few hours or longer.

Can You Pickle With Any Vinegar?

Well in truth, you can use any vinegar for pickling. But before starting, you need to take a few things into account.

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The quality of the vinegar is the most important factor. You want to use good-quality vinegar made from organic ingredients and does not contain additives such as sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Secondly, some vinegar comes with stronger flavors than others. Ensure you choose one that compliments the flavor of your pickled food products. White distilled vinegar is always an excellent choice if you don’t have a specific vinegar. It has no added sugars and won’t alter the taste of your pickling solution.

If you simply do not have some in the pantry, find out your vinegar substitute in our post titled: can you pickle without vinegar?

If you don’t know how to make pickling vinegar, look up our article on how is pickling vinegar made, and enjoy the possibilities that come with it!

Types of Vinegar for Pickling

Is Pickling Vinegar White Vinegar

Is pickling vinegar white vinegar? Well, here are various kinds of vinegar to clear your confusion:

  • Cider Vinegar: This particular vinegar is created using apples. It has a distinctive taste making it perfect for pickling fruits like apples, peaches, and pears. Cider vinegar also works well with root vegetables like turnips, carrots, and radishes.
  • Distilled White Vinegar: It’s the most common type of vinegar used in most kitchens. It’s made from grain alcohols such as corn, fermented into alcohol, and then distilled into their acidic form. The resulting liquid is clear with a mild flavor and aroma. Distilled white vinegar is usually five percent acetic acid by volume. Hence, it makes it perfect for pickling because it’s strong enough to acidify food without changing its color or taste.
  • Malt Vinegar: Malt kinds of vinegar are made with malted barley and have an earthy flavor similar to beer or ale. Because they’re so strong and distinct, you should typically use them sparingly in recipes not to overpower other ingredients like onions or garlic.
  • Wine Vinegar: The vinegar results from red or white wine and has a fruity flavor. It’s used primarily for pickling fruits and vegetables that are naturally sweet, like peaches, pears, and tomatoes. 
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should you boil pickling vinegar?

The main reason to boil pickling vinegar is to release vinegar flavor into your food. If you want your homemade salad dressing or marinade to taste like the store-bought product, boil the vinegar before adding it to your recipe.

Acetic acid is responsible for vinegar’s sour flavor and pungent smell. When you boil pickling vinegar, you drive more of this acid out of the solution. Hence, its concentration increases in your mixture.

Steam from boiled vinegar can help clear nasal congestion. It does that by opening up nasal passages and loosening mucus so it can drain away naturally. If you don’t want to swallow or spit out the steam, inhale through cupped hands over a bowl or use a neti pot instead.

2. Can you pickle with just vinegar?

Can You Pickle With Just Vinegar

Vinegar is a great pickle flavor but it’s not the only option. Some alternatives to pickling in vinegar include fresh herbs like dill, basil, thyme, and rosemary, all of which make a delicious addition to your brine. If you know how to make pickling vinegar but don’t have any fresh herbs, you can also use dried ones. Remember, dried herbs are always stronger than their fresh counterparts, so use them sparingly.

There are differences in taste between using salt brine and vinegar based brine as mentioned in our article; dill vs sour pickle: differences and varieties explained.

So can you pickle with just vinegar? Of course; vinegar isn’t the only way to get a sour flavor in your pickles. Fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi use salt water instead of vinegar for their tangy taste. Citrus fruits like lemons and limes are an excellent addition to a pickling brine. They’re high in vitamin C, which helps preserve food longer without refrigeration.

3. Is pickling vinegar the same as white vinegar?

If you’re unfamiliar with the pickling process, you might wonder: is pickling vinegar white vinegar? Well, white vinegar can be considered a type of pickling vinegar. Pickling vinegar is dark brown, while white vinegar is clear, colorless liquid. They both have five percent acetic acid. The acidity level of both types of vinegar is the same because it’s the same chemical compound in a different form. Most home canners need a food-grade acidity level of 4% or higher to ensure safety while preserving foods at home. White vinegar is distilled from wine or beer, while pickling vinegar is fermented from grain.

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Most general store-bought vinegar has been sterilized and will do nicely to keep pickles for a very long time. However, they may not have the probiotics that is oftenly touted as one of the health benefits of consuming pickles.

You would either have to make it yourself, find a local brewer that makes homemade vinegar or make sure the vinegar is made with a starter and bottled up according to FDA standards like this;

Best Store-bought Organic Bacteria-friendly Vinegar;

4. Is it safe to use vinegar for pickling?

Yes, it’s safe to use vinegar for pickling. Vinegar is a natural preservative that will help keep your pickles from spoiling too quickly. Pickling with vinegar can be tricky, though.

You should know how long to keep your pickles in the vinegar solution and how long they need to sit before eating them. This depends on what kind of pickle you are making.

If you make dill pickles, you will want to soak them in vinegar for at least three weeks to be safe to eat. If you are making sweet pickles, soaking them in vinegar will make them safer but won’t necessarily make them edible right away. They need at least two weeks in the brine before they are ready to eat.

Why Do We Use Vinegar in Pickling Summary

Did all of this leave you wondering: why do we use vinegar in pickling? Well, vinegar is a safe and natural additive that improves the pickle’s flavor. The main cause of concern comes from vinegar’s acetic acid, but the amount in pickles is negligible. Moreover, a pickled vegetable is much healthier if it contains vinegar rather than water for brining.

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Eve MayHew

Eve Mayhew is a stay-at-home Mum, graphic designer and wife who takes more of a relaxed and practical approach to her lifestyle. She prefers to live a more stress-free life and enjoys food and drink in moderation by counting her blessings rather than counting the calories or feeling guilty over the odd soft drink or fast food fix every now and then. (Contact Author)