Pickling of plant and animal foods is a relatively old method of food preservation. It is estimated that the first pickles were produced over 4,000 years ago using cucumbers native to India. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks both have written about the use of pickles for their nutritive value and healing power. Pickles were a common food during the time of the Roman Empire and they soon spread throughout Europe. In America, pickles have always been popular. The first travelers to America kept pickles in large supply because they were nutritious and did not spoil during the long journeys. It is interesting to note that Amerigo Vespucci, America’s namesake, was also a pickle salesman. He was the main pickle supplier to many ships. The first large-scale commercial production of pickles did not take place until 1820, when Nicholas Appert began selling pickles in jars. Over the years, the pickle production process has become more automated, however the basic pickling methods have changed very little since the technology was first developed.
While there are many different types of pickles, some characteristics are common to all. In general, pickled cucumbers are crisp vegetables, which can be described as having a strong, biting flavor caused by the vinegar in which they are stored. Different pickle manufacturers normally add spices to give their pickles a unique flavor. Dill-flavored pickles are perhaps the most common of all pickles. There are also sweet pickles, which are packed with added sugar. These are typically used for making relishes. Kosher pickles were pickles that were approved by the Jewish Orthodox Congregations of America, but the word kosher is now often used to describe any garlic flavored pickle.