The Science of Pickling

Local author releases "The Complete Guide to Pickling," a 125-recipe book ranging from pickles to sauerkraut to vinegar beverages

By Maggie Dresser
Julie Laing holds a jar of pickled vegetables at her home north of Bigfork on Oct. 29, 2020. Laing is the author of The Complete Guide to Pickling. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

When local blogger and writer Julie Laing tastes anything ranging from pizza to kombucha to pickles, she asks herself: “How can I make this myself?”

Laing’s interest in how to create food from the most basic ingredients ignited her passion for pickling, canning, fermenting and bread-making, and has led to her new book, “The Complete Guide to Pickling.”

“The more I do it, the more I have fun doing it, and I further delve back into the basics,” Laing said.

Beginning with a quick pickling chapter, where readers can learn how to make pickles in less than a day, the book also dives deep into fermenting and canning. The final chapter contains less conventional recipes like pickled eggs and “shrub” beverages, which mix fruit, sugar, vinegar and water to create a soda-like drink.

Laing draws on her combined interests of science and food to learn how to make safe recipes. While canning requires more safety precautions like boiling water and pressure to ensure the food won’t spoil, pickling is a simpler process. As long as the proper amount of acid is added, the product will be safe. Laing is fascinated by how each piece of the process works and how to make it safe while adapting when things go wrong, she said.

“You become a little bit of a scientist and learn how all those pieces and components work together, which for me is really fun,” Laing said.

In Laing’s cooking blog, Twice as Tasty, she focuses on using entire vegetables or fruits, like pickling carrots while using the carrot tops for salsa. She also has a recipe for Tepache, a fermented beverage made from the rind of a pineapple, and she makes a salsa with the remainder of the fruit.

“The theme for the blog is trying to use all of the foods,” she said. “It’s called top-to-bottom eating. It’s fun to include some of those instead of just the core components everybody thinks of.”

After Laing started writing the book, she was often asked how she was going to use all of the pickles she was making for her 125-recipe book. To address the surplus of pickles, she released “The Pickled Picnic” on her blog, which is a collection of recipes that uses the pickle recipes from the book.

Sourdough bread-making has also been part of Laing’s blog, and every January she gives away her starter to people who want it, which she dehydrates and sends in the mail. Since the pandemic began, Laing says she’s never had such a high demand for sourdough starter and gave away more in April and May than she usually does in a year.

“Everyone got into bread-making, which is fantastic to see,” she said. “Hopefully those people stick with it.”

When Laing first started writing her blog, she began getting requests for workshops. Now, she goes into people’s homes to teach pickling, canning, sourdough bread-making and cheese-making to show them how do everything in their own kitchen space.

“I decided if I was going to do that, I preferred to come to somebody’s home because at professional cooking classes, a lot of times you end up going home and you don’t necessarily use what you learned,” Laing said.

Despite the many hours Laing spends in her own kitchen, she works with limited counter space. She says if she can do amazing things in her kitchen, she can make it work in anybody’s kitchen.

“I find it very rewarding to be able to see them take on that part of learning and developing something new that they can make in their homes,” Laing said.

“The Complete Guide to Pickling” is available in Roma’s Gourmet Kitchen Store in Bigfork, The Bookshelf in Kalispell, Bookworks in Whitefish and Trovare in Whitefish, where Laing will be doing a book signing on Saturday, Nov. 28 at noon.

Visit www.twiceastasty.com to see Laing’s blog and for other information.

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