We’re in the full swing of summer around here which means those of us with gardens may be elbow deep in cucumbers or radishes or some other fruit of the land. For me lately it’s been cucumbers that are coming out of the garden fast and furious. I have shared my abundance with friends, family, and neighbors. When you and everyone you know has had thier fill of cucumber soup, bread, salad, and anything else you can put a cucumber in or on what is a girl to do? My preferred answer to this question is pickle! I won’t turn down a cucumber pickle and I make at least my fair share of them. However, my heart belongs to either a dilly (green) bean or a beet relish.
The last several years I’ve done all my pickles using the “quick” process and made them shelf stable by hot water bath canning. This means that I’ve taken vegetables and put them into a vinegar and salt based brine along with spices to make my pickles. The jar is topped with a special lid that vacuum seals when it is processed in a big pot of boiling water. Heating the pickles (or jams) in the boiling water for an appropriate amount of time kills off harmful organisms that might otherwise cause spoilage or make us ill. Doing any kind of home preserving is a leap of faith. While I feel good about my preserving techniques and eating out of pickles, relishes, and preserves I make in the peak of growing season I understand this isn’t everyone’s jam (pun intended). Without careful attention to detail, processing time, and sterilization procedures you can grow pathogens in your home canned goodies. After several seasons of canning my own I feel pretty good about safely putting up preserves.
Sulfites, an asthma trigger
Over the years I’ve also come to realize that prime canning season are also among the hottest days of the year. This got me reading up on alternate preserving techniques such as fermenting or blanching and freezing foods. In this reading I realized that sulfites are found in pickles. I couldn’t track down whether the sulfites are a natural result of the pickling process or only found in commercial pickles as an added preservative. I haven’t worked out whether or not sulfites are an asthma trigger for me. In a small study researchers found that pickles can be an asthma trigger and hypothesized that a combination of low pickle pH and high sulfite concentrations were responsible for symptoms.1 I had no idea that there was a known correlation between pickled onions and asthma symptoms. Pickles haven’t made any of the asthma trigger lists I’ve come across. I assume most asthmatics aren’t bothered by pickles. That or we are more naturally pickle-averse than the general population. I don’t think I’ll be changing my pickle eating habits right away. I enjoy the occasional pickle or relish in moderation. I’ll definitely keep it in mind and see if I notice pickles triggering asthma symptoms. Are you a pickle person or is it an asthma trigger for you?