Help Me Properly Protect My Pickled Peppers, Please!
September 1, 2010 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Should I add more liquid to my refrigerator pickles?

I made a couple jars of pickled chile peppers using Michael Symon's pickling recipe (here). When I put them into the jars and sealed them, the liquid was up above the peppers to the brim of the jar. (Photo evidence!)

That was Saturday night. I've been ignoring them, per the suggestion to give them at least a week, but I did notice today that the level of liquid in each jar seems to have dropped a bit, and the top tips of the peppers can now be seen above the top of the liquid. Both jars are still sealed, and I don't see any signs of bad stuff yet, but I'm wondering if I should make a small batch of additional liquid and top off the jars, or just leave them be? I have seen mention that if you canned the pickles at room temp, liquid levels are vital, but I can't find anything for fridge pickles.
posted by BZArcher to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've eaten refrigerator pickles (cucumber) after three days, and while they're better after a week, they're still quite good. So I don't think there's any reason not to open them. And the tips of your peppers not sitting in brine will only have had a couple of days' worth of pickling, so yeah, go for it; add more liquid.

If you don't want to mix up a whole batch of liquid, you could try tasting one and deciding if you want to just top them off with water, vinegar, or a mixture. I've done that too ;)

I've also drained ALL the liquid out of a batch of pickles that I somehow messed up terribly (after a week of pickling), and re-filled with a more accurate brine mix, and they eventually turned out well too.

Refrigerator pickles are really forgiving.
posted by galadriel at 6:55 PM on September 1, 2010

I'm not a pickleologist, but I've been making (and eating) a ton of pickles this year. The GF and I seem to go through about 2 pounds of pickles A MONTH. It's insane.

We haven't been doing peppers--just cukes, carrots and celery. Like you, we've followed recipes' instructions with respect to "headroom," but I do find that it's not uncommon to end up with fluctuating liquid levels after a few days. Plus, when there is a lot of veggie and the brine is just filling in the gaps, when you take those veggies out, some of their brethren may become exposed.

Again, I'm not an expert, but I haven't had any issue with exposed veg. If you want to be certain, you can probably just add white vinegar to top it off.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:59 PM on September 1, 2010

I pickled peppers tonight!

Did you slit your peppers? Even if you did, the liquid dropping might just be the brine taking its time to work it's way inside the cavity of each pepper.

I'd just turn the jars over every couple of days. There's nothing wrong with adding more liquid, either - waiting is just for optimum flavor. They'll continue getting picklier until they're saturated either way.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:05 PM on September 1, 2010

Thanks for all the advice! I checked on one, and it tastes fine (note: Biting into a pickled chile pepper without removing the seeds is NOT the smartest thing I've ever done) - I think I do want to give them more time in the brine to absorb more flavor, but it sounds like we're a-OK here. :)

I did not slit my peppers - I'll try that next time!
posted by BZArcher at 4:39 AM on September 2, 2010

Like you, we've followed recipes' instructions with respect to "headroom," but I do find that it's not uncommon to end up with fluctuating liquid levels after a few days.

Headroom is important when you're processing (i.e., canning) the jars because it allows for expansion of hot liquid. If you don't leave the prescribed amount of headroom your jars can break in the canner. It's not important with refrigerator pickles. Ideally, you want the entire pepper submerged so that the entire thing gets flavored. If some of the pepper is above the level of the liquid, though, that's fine. Just watch for mold and discard anything that does get moldy.

The liquid level is decreasing over time because it's finding its way into the pepper cavities, as peachfuzz said. I don't like slitting mine because it affects them aesthetically. Poking them a few times with a toothpick will accomplish the same thing, help flavor the brine, and keep them more in tact.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:32 PM on September 2, 2010

Thanks Mudpuppie--I didn't realize that it was irrelevant for refrigerator pickles.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2010

Additional tidbit: It's irrelevant for things you're brining in the fridge, but not for things you're brining (aka fermenting) at room temp. That process involves lacto-fermentation, which produces gas, which needs someplace to go. So if you're fermenting in a jar, at room temp, you don't want to fill it to the rim with brine and and then put a cap on.

Temps in the fridge are too low for fermentation to take place, and anything pickled in vinegar is going to have a pH too low to allow friendly bacteria to start fermentation, so it is again not an issue there.

/pickling nerd
posted by mudpuppie at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good to know, thank you!
posted by BZArcher at 6:35 AM on September 3, 2010

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