In the kitchen with Freddie Janssen: how to pickle like a pro

If there’s one person we’d want to go to for pickling tips, it’d be Freddie Janssen. The pickling expert and author of aptly named cookbook Pickledbegan pickling for fun — making a few batches of kimchi, pickled cucumber and soy pickled mushrooms before graduating to more complex experiments. Before long, she was supplying her pickled goods to restaurants and getting more requests.

The world of pickling might seem overwhelming at first, with so many recipes and tips out there, but Freddie says, ‘I genuinely think all the recipes in Pickled are perfect for first timers. They’re really easy to make and hardly take up any of your time. The time and magic happens in the jars themselves!’

So what keeps Freddie coming back to fermenting? She tells us, ‘I think it’s the process and transformation through fermenting that gets me most excited. When I was testing kefir water recipes for the book, I really loved seeing the drink develop over the days, and seeing it turn into a proper fizzy drink. By using grains of bacteria and yeast in a fruity liquid, you can create a really lovely and refreshing carbonated beverage.’

So what do you need to make a great batch of pickles? Here’s what Freddie recommends:

Homemade Sriracha by Freddie Janssen

Fresh Produce 

Buy the nicest, freshest, most seasonal produce you can. If a cucumber looks soft and limp, it’s not all of a sudden going to taste fresh and delicious and be crunchy as hell when you pickle it. If you choose seasonal ingredients they will be at their best. All you need to do is treat them well by preserving them properly, and I guarantee that your pickles will taste great.

Garlic 

Don’t freak out if the garlic in your brine turns bright blue. It might look like some sort of scary chemical reaction, but it just means that the garlic is old. It won’t harm the pickle.

Salt 

Salt draws out water from the vegetable or fruit you’re using, which then creates an environment where bad bacteria die, and good bacteria can grow. It’s important to use good salt, such as kosher, sea or pickling salt, rather than normal table salt. This contains caking agents like iodine, which can cloud the brines and inhibit beneficial bacteria during fermentation.

Spices 

Avoid buying ready-made pickling bags. It is better to experiment and add your own spices. If you’re worried about the spices floating around in the brine, and having to pick them out one by one before serving, put the spices in a small muslin (cheesecloth) bag and tie it with butcher’s string.

Sugar 

Sugar acts as both a preserver and a flavour enhancer. With pickles, it also helps to balance out the acidity from the vinegar. Normal, granulated (raw) sugar is absolutely fine – you can use caster (superfine) sugar as well (it dissolves quicker) but by all means, regular white sugar that you’ll find in any kitchen in a sugar bowl is sufficient.

Vinegar 

Don’t use cheap vinegar. You will taste it. I use apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and my personal favourite, rice wine vinegar. Rice wine vinegar has a lower acetic acid content, which means ingredients will take longer to pickle in it, leading to a less harsh and, well, less vinegary taste. The type of vinegar you use for preserving will vary your end result in terms of colour and taste.

You can of course make your own vinegars, but if you are new to pickling it is probably easier to buy them. If you want try something different, you can make flavoured vinegar by infusing it with things like shiso, liquorice or elderflower. It’s totally fine to reuse a vinegar-brine once or twice. Make sure it has the right flavour profile that you’re after though. If you want to reuse a vinegar-brine, simply strain it, reheat it, taste for sweetness, saltiness and spices, and pour it over your pickles.

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WRITTEN BY:
Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Feeling picklish?

If you’re feeling ready to get started on your pickling adventures, try out Freddie’s Yucatan Pickles recipe from her new book.

You can also see what Freddie’s up to on her websiteInstagram and Twitter.

Photos by

Helen Cathcart