To make 1 cup of a simple pickling spice, combine 6 tablespoons mustard seed, 3 tablespoons allspice, 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, three crumbled bay leaves, three cinnamon sticks and six whole cloves. Store the mixture in a tightly covered jar.
Pickling spice blends can be adjusted to suit your personal flavor preference. If you like spicy flavors, add more red pepper flakes, or cut the amount in half if you prefer a milder blend. Some recipes include additional ingredients, such as dill seeds, fennel seeds, cracked black peppercorns, powdered mace or crushed mace blades, or juniper berries.
Pickling spice mix is typically used as part of a pickle brine, although you can use it in some soups or stews as well. It is particularly good with dishes that contain cabbage, onions or mushrooms. To use the mix, cut a piece of cheesecloth about 4 inches square. Put a spoonful of the mix in the center of the square, and then tie it into a bundle with kitchen twine. If you have a wire mesh tea ball, you can use that instead of cheesecloth. Either tactic means that you can pull the spices out of the dish as soon as they have flavored it sufficiently.