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Remedies for Pickling Problems

Problem Diagnosis Remedy
Soft or slippery pickles. Spoilage evident (do not use). 1. A brine too weak. 1. Maintain 10-12% salt concentration.
2. Vinegar too weak. 2. Use vinegar of 4-6% acidity.
3. Cucumbers stored at a temperature too high during curing/brining. 3. About 70º-75º F appears to be the best since this is the optimum temperature for growth of the organisms necessary for fermentation.
4. Insufficient amount of brine. 4. Keep cucumbers immersed in the brine.
5. Pickles not pressed properly (to destroy microorganisms). 5. See section on processing pickles.

Strong, bitter taste. 1. Spices cooked too long in vinegar, or too many spices used. 1. Follow directions for amount of spices to use and the boiling time.
2. Vinegar too strong. 2. Strong vinegars should be diluted to proper strength (4-6% acidity).

Hollow pickles. 1. Large sizes will bloat at 10-12% brine solution. 1. Use smaller cucumbers to brine.
2. Improper curing. 2. Keep brine at proper strength with the product well covered. Cure until fermentation is complete (bubbles disappear, usually about 6 weeks).
3. Long lapse of time between gathering and brining. 3. Pickling process should be started within 24 hours after gathering.
4. Faulty growth of the cucumber. 4. None. During washing, hollow cucumbers usually float. Remove and use for relishes.

Shriveled pickles. 1. Placing cucumbers in too strong brine, heavy syrup, or too strong vinegar. 1. Use 10-12% brine, amount of sugar called for in recipe, and vinegar that is 4-6% acidity.
2. Long lapse of time between gathering and brining. 2. Brine within 24 hours after gathering.

Dark or discolored pickles. 1. Minerals in hard water. 1. Use soft water.
2. Ground spices used. 2. Use whole spices.
3. Spices left in pickles. 3. Place spices loosely in cheesecloth bag so they can be removed before canning.
4. Brass, iron, copper, or zinc utensils. 4. Use broken enamelware, glass, stainless steel, or stoneware utensils.

Spotted, dull, or faded color. 1. Cucumbers not well cured (brined). 1. Use brine of proper concentration (10-12% salt). Complete fermentation process (until bubbles disappear).
2. Excessive exposure to light. 2. Store in a dark, dry, cool place.
3. Cucumber of poor quality. 3. Work with good quality produce.

Scum on cucumber brines while curing. 1. Wild yeast, molds, and bacteria that feed on the acid thus reducing the constituent in the brine. 1. Remove scum as often as needed.
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