Real pickles, really fast, using whipping siphon

Perfect pickles in 30 minutes from Doug Levy on Vimeo.

Although pickles have a history as a “slow food,” a way to extend the life of fresh vegetables long past their harvest, sometimes there’s a need for pickles right now, not after days or weeks of curing in brine. Enter kitchen chemistry, or “molecular gastronomy,” and you can have real pickles in about a half hour.

The process actually is quite simple. Using a whipped cream canister, you can force the brine into the vegetables in minutes instead of waiting for the brine to be absorbed organically. Food grade nitrous oxide pushes the brine into the vegetable cells without influencing the flavor, same as it does when making whipped cream.

The process works, and works well, for just about any kind of pickles. (The technique is also quite useful for other infusing flavors in other recipes, too, such as quickly marinated meats or flavored spirits.)

A few words about equipment you will need:

  • A whipping siphon. Any whipping siphon will work. Consider purchasing one that is intended for both hot and cold use. The one I have cost about $35 on (affiliate link.) You can also buy a kit that contains a whipping siphon and small packets of agar-agar, xanthan gum, and gelatin for various other molecular gastronomy kitchen fun.
  • Nitrous oxide cartridges. Kitchen siphons use either carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitrous oxide (N2O,) depending on what you are making. CO2 is used for carbonated beverages. N2O is for infusions, including fast pickles. There are many different brands of cartridges on the market. Cheaper ones are from China or other Asian countries. Others are from Europe and claim higher levels of purity. Here is an article on a website that sells cartridges that gives a good overview.  I bought 50 from Amazon for about 50 cents each (affiliate link.)

Here’s the recipe to follow.

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