What is Pickling Spice
Pickling spice is simply a mixture of spices that, when combined with salt, water and sometimes sugar flavors a brine that then flavors and seasons meats, or pickles, or whatever you put in the brine. Any blend of spices can be used, but there are some ingredients that are always found in this blend – peppercorns, mustard seeds and red pepper flakes – and others that are almost always included – coriander seed, allspice berries and bay leaves. You can really add any spice to the blend, customizing it for what it is you are making. For dill pickles, of course you will need to add dill seed which gives pickles their dill-y flavor. For a corned beef dinner, you might want to add cinnamon stick and cloves. And so on…
Why Make Your Own?
The first reason to make your own pickling spice is because you can! It’s not hard and you probably have all (or at least most) of the ingredients in your spice cabinet already. Also, making your own blend from spices you already have is more efficient. You can make just as much as you need and still have the individual spices to use for other occasions. If you buy a jar of pre-mixed pickling spice, all you can do with it is use it to pickle or brine. Secondly (or maybe third), you can customize the blend if you make it yourself. Perhaps you hate cinnamon and all these store-bought pickling spices have cinnamon in them. Make it yourself and you can leave the cinnamon out. See? There are plenty of reasons.
How to Use Pickling Spice
Pickling spice is always mixed with a salt water solution to create a pickle brine, and then that brine is used to flavor meats or preserve vegetables. You’ll need about 1½ teaspoons of spice blend per pint-sized jar for pickles, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of spice blend per gallon of water when making a brine for corned beef.
How to Store Pickling Spice
Store your pickling spice in an airtight jar or container (an empty spice jar is perfect, but remember to re-label it!). It will keep for a few months, but it will always be more powerful and flavorful when the spices are fresh, and lose that flavor over time.