Ah the wonderful world of pickled products. I went to Big Bear, California, when I was little, and there was this cool little store that only sold olives and pickles of different flavors and varieties, in these big wooden barrels. Since then, I have loved pickles. There is something about the combo of salty and sour that is so delicious.
Pickles are edible products (vegetables, fruit and sometimes fish, eggs or meat1) which are preserved in an acid solution. There is often confusion here, because some pickles are stored in salt, brine or sugar solution (syrup or honey). However, the effect of these is to decrease the pH of the pickle itself, delivering a similar preservative effect. There is a separate (and, thankfully, small2) category of lye-based pickle in which the alkali effects of the solution break down the foodstuff into an edible form. Edible oils can also play a part as an oxygen-excluding covering for pre-pickled matter. In some cases, 'interesting' flavours emerge in pickles as the result of fermentation processes. Fermentation also produces the acid which does the preserving. The addition of flavouring ingredients (sugar, herbs and spices) is also commonplace. Pickles can also refer to a mélange of ingredients to form a sort of thick sauce, and this category includes chutneys and relishes.
Many things can be pickled. In the United Kingdom, the default 'pickle' is a small onion in vinegar3. In the United States, it is a small cucumber (or large gherkin) in brine (originally from central Europe and associated with Jewish culture). More outré examples include watermelon rinds, nasturtium seeds, lime keys4, sausages, ducks' tongues, durians5 and nopalitas6.
Kimchi, pickled and fermented cabbage.
Pickled eggs, enjoyed in many places, and popular in US bars.
Zha Cai, pickled mustard stems. A popular treat in China.
Pickled pork hocks.
Rollmops, a Scandanavian dish of pickled herring fillet rolled into a cylindrical shape around a piece of pickled gherkin or an onion. Rollmops are usually bought ready-to-eat, in jars or tubs.
Pickled watermelon rind.
Pickled pig lips.
Pickled quail eggs.
Pickled beef tongue.
Pickled umeboshi. Ume is a fruit like a mix between a plum and an apricot.
Pickled mystery fish.
Pickled octopus. There are also some pickled mussels in the background.
Pickled beef snouts and pig hearts.
Pickled pork skins, popular in Mexico.
Pickled walnuts, popular in the UK.
Pickled pork rinds, essentially the same as pork skins.
Surstromming, herring pickled in lye.
By far the best reading on pickles can be found here, at bbc.
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