In case you haven’t heard, pickles are all the rage these days. For the past few years, many restaurant chefs — at least those of the farm-to-table variety — have been all about the pickles. Pickling is a great way to preserve what you harvest from your garden and make it stretch throughout the year, but even if you don’t want to go through the labour of pickling big batches of cucumbers or other vegetables and properly canning them, there are ways to get homemade pickles onto your plate.
I’m talking about quick pickles (also known as refrigerator pickles) — a method of pickling that doesn’t preserve large batches vegetables long term as much as it adds some pickle-y flavour to a small batch of veggies that can then be stored in the fridge for about two months. In general, the taste isn’t nearly as intense as what you’ll find in a fermented pickle, but because you can whip up quick pickles one jar at a time, there’s a lot of room to experiment with different flavour combinations.
Here’s how to get started:
- Choose your veggies
Many different kinds of vegetables take well to the quick pickle treatment — carrots, green beans, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, squash, onion, cucumber, garlic scapes and ginger are all great candidates. How you prep your veggies is up to you: larger items like carrots, cucumbers and squash can be sliced or cut in spears (peel your carrots too) whereas green beans, cherry tomatoes and asparagus are best pickled whole. Cooking isn’t required — though blanching more delicate green veggies like beans and asparagus can help them hold onto their bright green colour.
- Flavouryour brine
Brine — also known as pickle juice — is basically a one to one ratio of water and your choice of vinegar with a tablespoon of salt per two cups of brine and, if you’d like, a little bit of sugar. Make your brine by combining everything in a saucepan and bringing everything to a boil, until the salt and sugar dissolves.
- Spice things up
The fun comes in with the spices you add in. Dill is, of course, traditional, but you can really add in whatever you’d like, provided it stands up to potentially spending up to a couple months swimming in a jar of vinegar. Herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme work well (either fresh or dried), as do whole garlic cloves, peppercorns, fennel or mustard seed, red pepper flakes or ground spices such as paprika and tumeric all work well.
- Put everything together
Before making the brine, wash your veg and place them in clean wide-mouth glass jars with the herbs and spices. Fill each jar with the hot brine (to about a half inch from the top). Give each jar a tap on the counter to knock out any air bubbles and then screw on the lids.
- Let the pickles hang out in the fridge
Leave the jars on the counter to cool to room temperature, then leave them in the refrigerator for about 48 hours to let the flavours sink into the vegetables. The pickles can stay in the fridge for up to two months. Serve them on sandwiches, alongside meat, as part of a rice bowl, on a charcuterie board or on their own as a snack.