Are you like us: intrigued/intimidated by all those beautiful social media images of ordinary people happily displaying jar upon jar of homemade, yummy-looking pickled items? We’ll let you in on their secret: quick pickling is incredibly easy and fast, too. Like a few-ingredients-and half-hour-fast. Here’s the scoop: Quick pickles, also known as refrigerator pickles, are really just veggies (and fruits) that are pickled in a vinegar, water, and salt (sometimes sugar, too) solution and stored in the refrigerator. They don’t develop the depth of flavour of fermented pickles, , but they only require a few days in brine before you can eat them, and don’t require a complicated, time-consuming canning process.
Here’s the question: what can you pickle? Maybe it’s better to ask: what can’t you pickle?
As well as your classic cukes, other produce that work well for pickling include asparagus, beets, bell peppers, blueberries, cauliflower, carrots, cherries, fennel, ginger, grapes, green beans, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peaches, peppers (including hot peppers), radishes, rhubarb, strawberries, squash, tomatoes, turnips… even watermelon!
Almost any vegetable can be pickled, and the shape you choose for your final product is entirely up to you. Think matchsticks or coins for carrots and cukes… you can even use a small cookie cutter to create hearts. Remember to peel your carrots first! Maximize flavour by using super-fresh produce—save your days-old/slightly bruised specimens for a yummy soup.
Cherry tomatoes are best pickled whole, and firmer green vegetables, like green beans or asparagus, taste best when blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes then shocked in an ice bath to preserve their colour.
The secret to the most unique, flavourful pickle is in the spices you add to the brine. Classic dill pickles are nothing more than cucumbers flavored with garlic, dill seed, and red pepper flakes. Carrots become more exotic when pickled with coriander, ginger, turmeric, and thyme. Other classic combinations include green beans with garlic and fresh dill, cherry tomatoes with black peppercorns and garlic, and squash with onion and garlic.
Using a 16 oz. Ball jar is best: they have an easy-to-use, airtight seal, and the wide mouth makes it easy to add ingredients to the jar. Leave about one inch of headroom at the top of the jar, and completely cover the vegetables in brine. It’s best to really stuff the jars full with veggies before you add any liquid. Once you add the hot brine, the contents will move around a bit. Once you fill the jars with brine, seal and let cool for an hour or two on the counter before transferring to the refrigerator.
FLAVOURING QUICK PICKLES
dill, thyme, oregano, and rosemary hold up well
thyme, dill, rosemary, oregano, or marjoram
smashed for mild garlic flavor, or sliced for stronger garlic flavor
peeled and thinly sliced
mustard seed, coriander, peppercorns, red pepper flakes
turmeric or smoked paprika are great for both colour and flavour
This is also a great way to use up all the herbs growing in your garden—dill, tarragon, rosemary, oregano…