jar of pickles against white background
The Vinegar Label To Keep An Eye Out For When Making Your Own Pickles
By Betsy Parks
When pickling and canning vegetables, it's essential to follow certain guidelines to make sure that the food you're preserving is safe to eat later.
Specifically, pickled vegetables need to be made with vinegar that has 5% acidity to prevent spoilage. Unfortunately, lower-acid white vinegar is more common in grocery stores.
Look for white distilled vinegar that's explicitly labeled as 5% acid. There are many bottles in-store that are only 4%, which can lead to bacterial growth and health risks.
According to Clemson University, the goal is a pH of 4.6 or lower. Anything less acidic allows Clostridium botulinum to grow, even if the jar is boiled at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's easy to get the proper pH in a jar of pickles using distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity. You can also get some pH test strips or a pH meter to ensure everything is safe.
If you've made pickles with lower-acid vinegar that have been unrefrigerated for over 24 hours, throw them away. You can still refrigerate them if they're less than a day old.