Quick Pickling: Not Your Grandmother’s Recipe

If you grew up watching your grandmother clear the kitchen counter for pickling production, you know it was quite an ordeal. With dozens of meticulously sterilized Mason jars lined up and a huge stockpot with a contraption designed to lower and lift the jars into the boiling cauldron, not only did it look like a lot of work but it seemed downright dangerous. While the result was rewarding and likely brings back wonderful nostalgic memories of backyard barbecues with juicy burgers accompanied by crunchy, tangy-sweet pickle spears, the idea of replicating this arduous sterilization process to ensure you don’t poison family and friends seems like a reasonable excuse not to bother. But we’re here to tell you, there’s a much easier way.

As we all know, pickling, much like curing meat and fish, began as a means of food preservation. But it’s the bright flavor and crunchy texture that has kept us craving pickles on our plates. With today’s refrigeration and less of a need to preserve our vast gardens and create enough pickles for the apocalypse, we have the freedom to make Quick Pickles. Pickles you can put together very quickly and eat in an hour or so or overnight. No boiling jars or waiting for that pop of that lid that meant your jars were safe for consumption and storing. Whew. And with the array of delicious produce we have access to today, the pickling options are endless - from the more traditional cucumbers and carrots to ramps, rhubarb and ginger. With such a simple process, you can have fun and experiment.

Quick Pickling 101

The Spices:
Pickling Spices - You can actually buy pickling spices already assembled for you but if you want to mix your own, here’s a basic mix you can go with. Feel free to add in the flavors you like.
Classic: Kosher Salt, Mustard Seed, Peppercorns, Bay Leaf, Coriander Seed, Cloves,
Alternatives: ginger, turmeric, celery seed, allspice, star anise, dried chile peppers, fennel seeds
TIP: Heat your spices before using them to bring out their aroma and flavor (who knows how long those spices have been sitting around)

The Vinegar:
The 2 most common vinegars used in pickling are Cider Vinegar and White Vinegar but again, feel free to experiment. We like Mirin (rice wine vinegar) for a more mild flavor. There’s also red and white wine vinegars, champagne vinegar and even coconut vinegar.

The Produce:
This is but a tip of the iceberg of items you can pickle but hopefully will give you some inspiration. We like using what’s in season for best results.
Vegetables or roots: cucumbers, leeks, ramps, asparagus, beans, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, okra, jicama, beets, rhubarb, peppers, cabbage, artichoke hearts, eggplant, tomatoes
Fruit: peaches, plums, citrus, watermelon rind, pineapple, mango, cherries, grapes

The Process:
Following is a recipe for Italian Pickles. We love to snack on them, put them our cheese plates and in our Antipasto, add to grilled chicken or a nice piece of salmon. You can experiment with your favorite spices and vinegars.

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4” coins
1 cup green beans, ends cut off
1 cup red pepper, seeds removed & deveined, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup fennel, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 red chili pepper, sliced in half lengthwise
5 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
6-8 sprigs of fresh oregano
6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
1-1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp celery seed
2 bay leaves

How-to:

1. Combine the vegetables, garlic and herbs in a non-reactive bowl
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients and simmer over medium-high heat until salt and sugar fully dissolve (about 3-4 minutes)
3. Pour pickling liquid over vegetables and let come to room temperature (you can eat immediately but tastes best if refrigerated for 1-3 days)
4. Pour vegetables with liquid into mason jars until full and screw on tops gently
5. Store in refrigerator (will keep for a month)