If you hadn’t noticed, we are in the midst of a pickle obsession. Pickled flavored products are sweeping the nation, including pickle potato chips, pickle beer, pickle slushies, pickle popsicles, and even pickle cotton candy. The sweet, salty, sour combination of dill pickle seasoning can actually add to the flavor profile of many foods. Even if it doesn’t work for your taste buds, the hype of the various pickle flavored products on the market makes for fun dinner conversation.
But with all the hype comes some cause for concern when pickled products are being produced in the home kitchen without regard for food safety. Some food enthusiasts have taken to social media to share their latest pickle creation, demonstrating incorrect and unsafe techniques. Homemade pickles and pickled products are made with low-acid ingredients, such as cucumbers, and rely on the proper acidification or fermentation to prevent bacterial growth. These pickles and pickled products should always be refrigerated or properly canned using a standardized tested recipe. Never make up your own pickle recipe unless you plan on refrigerating it and eating it within two weeks. Improperly canned pickles and pickled products may lead to the growth of Clostridium Botulinum, a potentially deadly bacterium.
To learn how to safely preserve pickles, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation (https://nchfp.uga.edu) for step-by-step guidelines and recipes.
If you’re a pickle enthusiast, you’ll love that there are more options to get in your pickle fix. There are generally no safety concerns when buying these commercial products produced in licensed facilities. However, if purchasing from someone online who makes their products at home, be sure they are a cottage food operator registered with their local department. The Illinois cottage food law allows for the sale of pickles and pickled products and has procedures in place to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. It’s good to support these cottage food operators who are doing it right!
‘Pickle’ De Gallo
1 cup dill pickles, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup sweet onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon pickle brine
Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve with tortilla chips or as a relish on top of burgers, hotdogs or nachos. Refrigerate leftovers and use within 5-7 days.
Yield: 4 servings (1/2 cup each)
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 15 calories, 0 grams fat, 320 milligrams sodium, 3 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein
Kaur, B. (2022). A TikTok creator’s homemade pickled products have sparked online conversation surrounding food safety. NBC News.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.