Pickling, also referred to as brining or corning, is a common method of preserving vegetables and some other foods, such as eggs or sausage. Peppers, pickles, and other vegetables and foods are often canned in a brine of vinegar and spices for safe food storage. Any type of vinegar can be used as pickling vinegar. The type of vinegar you use primarily depends on the flavor you want the pickled product to have. Common white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are the most popularly used types of pickling vinegar, though other types can also be used.
Vinegar is generally available with a four or five percent acidity level. Some types of pickling vinegar may have an even higher acidic content. Most pickling is done in a hot water bath canner, though a pressure canner can also be used. If you are using the hot water bath canning method, it is important that you use only vinegar that contains at least five percent acidity, as the acidity level guards against harmful bacteria. Distilled vinegars with less than five percent acidity do not have high enough acid levels for safe pickling and canning.
White vinegar is the most popular type of pickling vinegar. It allows the foods to maintain their color and adds a tartness to the pickled product. Many people feel that white vinegar brings out the flavor of the food and spices used in pickling better than other types of vinegar. Some types of pickling vinegar will discolor the vegetables or other food and add a distinct flavor that may or may not be desired.
If you want your pickles, peppers or other preserved food to have somewhat of a sweet flavor, apple cider vinegar can be a good choice. This type of pickling vinegar is often used for canning sweet pickles and peppers. Apple cider vinegar has a slightly fruity flavor that adds sweetness to the pickled product. You will likely still need to add sugar for sweetness, but not as much as you would need to if you used white vinegar. Some people prefer not to use apple cider vinegar because the it darkens the food product.
Other types of vinegar include balsamic, wine, and fruit. Flavored vinegars are also popular, and they include such flavors as raspberry, fig, and blueberry. More exotic fruit flavors include blood orange or pear. Herbs commonly used to flavor vinegar include tarragon, thyme and oregano. These types of vinegar should only be used as pickling vinegar if you are sure of their acidic content.