If I am pickling vegetables--these are non-fermented recipes--do I have to use salt and sugar? Or as much as are in the recipes I'm using? My vinegar is 6% and I am using the using the Ball jar methods and recipes, boiling the vinegar solution, pouring it over the veg, and then boiling to seal the cans. It seems like the salt and sugar become flavorings, but I want to make sure they are not required for preservation. Thank you!
Good question. This depends a bit on the specific recipe.
If you are following Ball ® recipes, you could contact their consumer service hotline to discuss specific recipes. https://www.freshpreserving.com/contact-us 800-240-3340, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. EST to 4:30 p.m. EST
Generally, Extension recipes contain as least as much vinegar as water, and the vinegar is at least 5% acidity. If that is the case, and there is plentiful brine in the recipe to fully cover the vegetables, then then salt and sugar are flavorings and can be reduced or eliminated. There are some recipes that contain less vinegar than that and then the salt and sugar may indeed be part of the safety equation.
Keep In mind, reducing or eliminating the salt and sugar will result in a different flavored and textured end product. Both salt and sugar contribute to mellowing the sharpness of the vinegar and to maintaining the crispness of the vegetables in different ways. You might try a small batch with reduced sugar and salt to see how you like them.
For further discussion, you can call OSU Extension Service toll-free food safety and preservation hotline at 1-800-354-7319. They are open M-F, 9am – 4 pm.