Pickling spice is actually a mix of spices that are used, as you might guess, when pickling. Pickling spice can also be added to the salt water when brining meats for extra flavor. Pre-made pickling spice is available in the spice aisle of many grocery stores, of course, and a selection may even be on display at specialty stores. Yet, for my money, nothing beats homemade pickling spice, since you can customize it to match your palate.
For example, I like to use a fair amount of red pepper flakes in my mix for a nice kick of spicy heat (I've included them below, but they're optional!).
This pickling spice is a favorite of mine. I tend to keep this combination around to add to brines - note the optional ingredients and use them or adjust their amounts to reflect how much you like those flavors.
Homemade Pickling Spice
Combine the following in a small bowl or pint jar:
- 1 Tablespoon allspice berries (only whole allspice berries work here; ground allspice will be entirely too sharp and bitter)
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns (again, whole peppercorns, not ground pepper)
- 1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds (yellow are fine, but I like how black mustard seeds look in the mix)
- 1 Tablespoon cloves (again, only whole cloves work; ground cloves don't add the right flavor)
- 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional; I add them for some heat, but if you don't like spicy, feel free to cut the amount down or leave them out entirely)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger (not fresh, it will be too sharp)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional, the warm homey flavor of nutmeg adds some depth of flavor I like a lot)
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 cinnamon stick, smashed or crumbled (optional, but I highly recommend the earthy aromatic element cinnamon adds
If you like, you can toast the allspice, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for a few minutes for a deeper flavor before adding the other ingredients. In any case, mix everything together and store whatever you don't use that day in a glass jar or similar vessel.
Makes about 1/2 cup Pickling Spice.