Food Preservation: Pickling And Canning Differences

Person Canning Pickles
pickling canning
(Image credit: Svetlana-Cherruty)

Do you know the difference between canning vs. pickling? They are just two very handy methods of preserving fresh food for months. They are very similar and done in similar ways, but there are pickling and canning differences. Most notably the solution in which the food is preserved.

What is canning? What is pickling? Would it surprise you to know that pickling is canning? Does that confuse the issue even more? Keep reading for the main difference between canning and pickling so you can decide how best to preserve your food.

What is Canning?

Canning is when you process and seal foods in a glass jar. Canned foods can keep for months and are ideal for many fruits and vegetables, as well as meats.

There are two main methods for canning. One is a water bath. This is suitable for jams, jellies, and other high acid items. The other method is pressure canning. This is for low acid items such as veggies, meats, and beans. The process ensures that no bacteria survive inside the jars. It sterilizes and seals the food and prevents botulism.

What is Pickling?

The main difference between canning and pickling is the brine. Pickles are canned most of the time so they will last for a long period. You can pickle almost anything, even some meats, but the classic items are cucumbers. You can also pickle but not can, but these need to be held in the refrigerator and used quickly.

The brine creates an anaerobic environment that produces lactic acid, effectively preserving food. Pickled food is canned with a cold pack method and then a hot brine is introduced prior to sealing the jars. You will still need to can pickles in order to enjoy them for months.

Canning Vs. Pickling

So what foods are best canned, and which are tastiest pickled? Pickling and canning differences result in a much different flavor and texture. The best foods to can are seasonal vegetables. Green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc. as well as fruits such as berries and stone fruits. Just remember that those foods low in acid need an acid added or must be canned using a pressure method.

Almost any food may be pickled. Even eggs can be pickled. A brine may be a simple water to salt ratio or include vinegar and seasonings. Pickles are processed without cooking the food and tend to be much firmer than those that have been cooked. 

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.