pickle, general term for fruits or vegetables preserved in vinegar or brine, usually with spices or sugar or both. Vegetables commonly pickled include the beet, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, olive, onion, pepper, and tomato. Mixed pickles include piccalilli, chowchow, mustard pickles, and chutney. Dill pickles are cucumbers matured in a brine of dill leaves and seed heads. Sweet pickles are made from various fruits or vegetables—e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, or plums—with sugar added. Pickles have limited nutritional value and are often used as appetizers. Before the invention of refrigeration they served as a sort of winter substitute for salads. Cucumbers, the most commonly pickled of all vegetables, are placed underripe in 10% brine, allowed to undergo a lactic acid fermentation, soaked in hot water to remove excess salt, and then covered with vinegar and other ingredients. In a wider sense, a pickle is an acid or saline liquid, such as brine or saltpeter for meat, limewater or water glass for eggs, brandy for fruit, or alcohol for laboratory specimens.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.