It’s pretty safe to assume that if you are reading this, you have eaten a pickle in you life. However, there is a good chance that you may be one the many who is unaware that eating pickles is very healthy for you.
Wrapping your head around that must be hard to do. You probably can’t imagine those little pickle chips served on top of your burger at a family cookout is healthy.
Probably because those ones are not.
Pickles bought on a shelf in the middle of the grocery store are preserved in far too much vinegar and other preservatives. By the time you actually consume the pickle, they have probably already lost most of their nutritional value. The key to getting all the nutrients that come from refreshing, crisp pickles is to make them at home. It’s cheap and easy.
Once you read the health benefits for yourself, scroll to the bottom for a simple at-home recipe to make crispy pickles.
Health Benefits of Pickles
Pickles are cucumbers stuck in a brine and put on a shelf to age. During its time on the shelf, the cucumber goes through a process called fermentation. As a food becomes fermented, natural bacteria begins to grow, feasting upon sugars and starches that live within the cucumber. The results of this process is a gut-healthy pickle.
Here are a few nutritional benefits of pickled cucumbers:
- Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Pickles contain vitamins and minerals that our body do not naturally produce. This is thanks to the natural bacteria we mentioned earlier. As the aforementioned bacteria eats up the starches and sugars, like all living things, the bacteria excretes what they determine is waste.
To us, that’s lactic acid.
Lactic acid works in our body as a preservative for muscles when we are working out. Here, it acts as a natural preservative for pickles. The addition of lactic acid to the cucumber results in the aforementioned vitamins our bodies cease to produce. These essential vitamins include Omega-3 fatty acids pivotal for heart health, B-Vitamins necessary for energy, as well as other beneficial enzymes.
- Are Full of Probiotics
This word may sound familiar as probiotics is almost a synonymous buzz word with the Greek yogurt boom in the market.
As we noted, bacteria becomes alive during the fermentation process. When talking about probiotics, these bacteria are typically referred to as “live cultures.”
The live cultures are the good bacteria in the gut. The good bacteria balances out all the bad bacteria growths within the belly area. As we get older, bad bacteria can grow at much more rapid pace due to inflammations and clogged arteries caused by a lifetime of poor diet. Adding live cultures to your meal plans ensures that your gut is getting the proper balance of good to bad bacteria.
The live cultures that grow during the fermentation process aids our body in breaking down carbohydrates that we cannot break down on our own. The product (waste) of this process is a more acidic stomach. Acid is what kills off the foreign organisms growing within the gut. Due to this process, more of the “good” bacteria that is able to withstand the acid is able to further establish itself within the gut.
- Easier to Absorb Nutrients
With the additions of good bacteria into the gut, the digestive enzymes that already live in there are free to help you absorb the nutrients. They are no longer having to combat irregular bacteria growths within the belly because the probiotics handled that situation.
How to Make Pickles
Now that we have convinced you that pickles are pivotal to maintaining a healthy gut, let’s explain how to make pickles.
Yield: 32 oz
4 lbs of pickling cucumbers
12 cloves of garlic
6-8 tablespoons of dill seed
hot pepper flakes (to taste)
3 cups of water
3 cups of distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup of pickling salt
- Pickles sit in a brine. So first you must make that. In order to do, combine the water, pickling salt, and distilled white vinegar in a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil in order to dissolve the salt.
- Take 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of dill seed, 4 peppercorns, and as much red pepper flakes that you would like. Place them into a bell jar.
- Now, prepare the cucumber. Give them a good cleaning before cutting. As a side note, pickles can easily become soggy. The trick to a fresh, crisp cucumber is trim the blossom end of the cucumber off. The reason why is that this area of the cucumber contains a special enzyme that causes the cucumber to soften.
- Stuff the sliced cucumbers into a bell jar. Cover with the brine mixture that you made in the first step. Be sure to leave a half-inch of head space above the cucumbers. Remove any air bubbles by pushing down onto the cucumbers with a wooden utensil.
- Wipe the rims of the bell jar. Apply a lid and band and put on a dark shelf for a few weeks.
Tips for Making Crispy Pickles
Tip #1 – Pick the Right Cucumbers
It’s one of those “You get what you pay for” moments. If you use a bad cucumber, it will still become a bad pickle.
The best time to pick a cucumber is in the early morning while the morning dew is still evident. When the sun sets, cucumbers replenish all the water it lost during its day under the hot sun. That way in the morning, they are cooled down and ready to take on the heat once again. Lucky for us, that’s also when they are the juiciest.
Side note, keep a look out for the skinniest and greenest cucumbers. They tend to become the crispiest after fermentation.
Tip #2 – Make Sure the Cucumbers are Organic
To make the most delicious tasting cucumber the best bet is to buy organic. That means there were no harmful pesticides used in the cultivation of the product. Adding man-made chemicals to the farming industry is not only harmful for the environment and the ecosystem, but the foods we eat and our bodies as well.
When foreign chemicals are added to the natural process that is plant-growth, it changes the composition of the soil and the food. That means chemicals are killing off nutrients and burrowing themselves onto the fruit.
Once we ingest the chemically treated cucumber, the chemicals in our body react with these man-made chemicals. Not only are pesticides altering the taste of the cucumber, but they are altering the chemicals within our bodies.
Tip# 3- Trim the Blossom
As we mentioned earlier, this side of the cucumber contains an enzyme that makes the pickle soft. Before pickling, trim 1/8 an inch off the end that the blossom was on.
If you are picking from your own garden, leave a little bit of the stem on the cucumber after you pick it. That will help you remember which side the blossom was on when you get to trim.
When purchasing a cucumber at the store, look for the end with the rough dot on it. That’s the side that was connected to the blossom.
If you are growing these cucumbers at home, try to leave yourself a little bit of the stem as you are picking. This will help you later in identifying which end is the blossom side, because it will be opposite of the stem.