I forgot one important part though – they MUST be homemade pickles. Have you ever looked at the ingredient label on store-bought pickles? I haven’t bought them, well, ever. Who wants to eat this:
Cucumbers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 80, natural Flavors, and Yellow #5.
We know what cucumbers, water, vinegar and salt are, so I will skip to the chemistry-lab-type ingredients.
Calcium chloride is a salt of calcium and chlorine. It is added to products to increase the salty taste without adding a ton of sodium. It also is a preservative and helps the pickles maintain a crunch. Ever wonder what kind of salt those trucks throw on the roads in the winter? It’s calcium chloride! It is “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S. FDA to consume the amounts which are included in foods, however it reportedly causes problems for people with digestive problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid. I have a real problem with this preservative, as it is included in many “organic” beauty products and “natural” food items. According to NaturalNews.com:
“Sodium benzoate chokes out your body’s nutrients at the DNA cellular level by depriving mitochondria cells of oxygen, sometimes completely shutting them down. Just as humans need oxygen to breathe, cells need oxygen to function properly and to fight off infection, including cancer. The FDA says it’s safe because the amount used to preserve foods is very low, but don’t ever combine it with vitamin C or E, as this causes benzene to be formed. This is dangerous. Benzene is a known carcinogen, which means it causes cancer.”
There are also studies underway to determine if sodium benzoate combined with certain food coloring can cause hyperactivity in people.
Polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier which prevents the separation of ingredients as the product sits on store shelves. According to the Environmental Working Group, this is of low health concerns. I was surprised to see that!
Natural Flavor is chemicals added to food for flavor, which are obtained from natural sources. This is still a chemical, identical to artificial flavoring, only derived from something natural. It is still highly processed and greatly increases the cost of the product due to the expense of extracting the flavoring from natural sources. According to Scientific American Online, “Consumers pay a lot for natural flavorings. But these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts.” I say no thank you to the “natural” and the artificial flavorings.
Yellow #5 is a food coloring agent. Yellow #5 commonly causes allergic reactions and has been linked to hyperactivity in kids. Futher, this type of food dye, called azo dye, are processed from industrial waste and are known to cause DNA mutations. (Source.) We avoid all food dyes in my home!
To summarize, store-bought pickles are full of chemicals. Homemade pickles are not.
There are many different recipes for homemade pickles. I have tried quite a few in the last few weeks. Here is the recipe that I have had the most success with:
1 cup white vinegar
3 cups distilled water
3 tablespoons Celtic Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 pickling cucumbers
4 large sprigs of fresh dill
3 cloves of garlic
- Combine vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off heat and let cool completely.
- Wash cucumbers, trim off the ends and slice into quarters lengthwise.
- Place the cucumber slices in a large glass bowl with the peppercorns, garlic and dill layered throughout.
- Put a glass plate on top of the cucumbers to hold them under the brine. It should be large enough to cover all of the cucumbers and small enough to fit in the bowl.
- After three or so days, the cucumbers should be sour. You may transfer the pickles and brine to a glass jar if you wish.
Do you have a great pickle recipe to share? Let me know in the comments below!