Be a quick-pickle pro with these easy tips

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Pickling isn't just for your grandmother any more.

These days, most of us have some kind of garden thanks to a resurgence in the time-honored tradition of growing your own food fueled by extra time at home and the need to lessen trips to the grocery store. What is one to do with all those tomatoes, cucumbers and extra green beans suddenly sprouting up? Grab some mason jars.

Now, before you go panicking, breaking out in a garden-frenzy sweat over botulism and whatever canning horror stories you've heard in the past, know that canning can be has complicated, or as easy, as you'd like to be. For beginners, small batch, quick pickles are the way to dip your feet into the boiling canning waters.

All you need is some fresh vegetables, vinegar, water and spices and refrigerator space.

The basics

To pickle something, you need to soak the vegetables in a vinegar brine and your choice of spices. If you're a beginner, quick-pickling, or refrigerator pickles are the way to go. You simply pour your brine and spices over your vegetable of choice and pop them in the fridge to be eaten after a few hours of soaking; the longer you let it sit, the better it will taste! These can last up to a month or so in your refrigerator. If you're looking for shelf-stable pickling, that will require the process of boiling your mason jars to create a seal.

What can I pickle?

Pretty much any hardy vegetable that you don't mind eating once they get a little soft. The most popular are cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes. Zucchini, onions or bell peppers are also great choices. You'll want to cut your vegetables into thin spears, or thinly slice them, and peel carrots before pickling.

The brine

The base of all pickling is the brine, which is a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt (sometimes sugar, too). For quick pickles, a basic brine is equal parts vinegar and water, along with the salt or sugar, per the recipe, boiled in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the salt/sugar has dissolved. You don't have to boil your brine, but it will help the flavors meld together. Then, pour the warm brine over the vegetables. You can use any kind of vinegar you like, though white distilled vinegar is the often the most common called for in pickling. Apple cider vinegar works well also.

Spice it up

This is a great time to use up some of your fresh herbs in the garden, such as rosemary, dill or thyme, which hold up well in pickling solution. You can also use dry herbs and whole cloves of garlic. If you like extra heat with your pickles, don't be afraid to add some red pepper flakes into the mixture.

Think outside the pickle

Quick pickling doesn't have to be just about cucumbers — though, they are a delicious summer staple. Think about pickling some thinly sliced red onions with brine made of apple cider vinegar, salt and sugar for an extra special topping for taco night. Or, instead of eating pickles straight of the jar, chop them up and add them to any summer side salad you're bringing to your next socially-distant picnic. Remember, if anything smells funny, or you notice fermentation, it's time to throw out your pickles and make more.

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QUICK-PICKLES

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup water

1/3 cup vinegar (apple cider, white, and rice wine are all good)

2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

1 to 2 teaspoons salt

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sliced garden cucumbers (about 2 cups)

sliced onion or green onion (about 1/2 cup)

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl add water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir to combine and until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the cucumber and onion. Taste and adjust the ingredients to your liking.

All the cucumbers should be covered in the brine, if you have lots of cucumber or are making a big batch, make more brine.

Let the mixture rest in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

POTATO AND PICKLE SALAD

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(Recipe Courtesy of "Food in Jars" by Marisa McClellan)

Use up some of your homemade pickles in this pickle-heavy potato salad that is also great for the dairy-free picnic goers. The crunchier the pickles, the better!

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 pounds small red or Yukon gold potatoes

2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more for salting potato water

1/4 cup cider vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups well-drained chopped pickles

2 large celery ribs, trimmed and chopped

1/2 cup minced, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup minced fresh chives

DIRECTIONS:

Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces, no need to peel them. Place them in a large pot with salted water and boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain the potatoes into a colander then return to the hot pot. Return the pot to the stove top and let the potatoes steam, uncovered over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour in vinegar. Once all the visible vinegar has evaporated, drizzle with olive oil and toss the potatoes to coat. Remove the pot from the heat and add the salt and pepper. Add pickles, celery, parsley and chive and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Sometimes, adding a splash of the pickle brine helps intensify the flavor.


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