The year goes fast. For me it usually picks up around May; the winter feels slow and sleepy and you push through. Wading through the seasons until summer is at hand and the farmer's markets are overflowing and the garden is probably succeeding in at least one sector - maybe it's only a few herbs, usually it's the kale. The bounty is overwhelming and then completely gone and the root vegetables roll in and then we're wading back through again. I was begging for those tiny seasonal cucumbers to come around and then suddenly I'm googling any and all cucumber recipes until I remember I should pickle them...for later.
And thus starts our pickling series. We'll start with the more basic method of the two - quick pickling. This means brining produce in a vinegar solution, infusing with seasonings for extra flavor, and landing with pickled vegetables ready to eat the same day. Lacto-fermentated pickles are next - pickling with a salt brine, where the lactic acid is the pickling liquid. These take more time so that the fermentation can happen, but result in a more complex flavor profile and store for longer when using proper canning procedures. We'll share that one later.
But for now - we'll stick with quick and easy. All you need is a pot, a knife, and some cans or containers.
Yield: 2 Cups
1 1/4 cups vinegar
1 cup water
3 tbl sugar
2 tbl salt
Combine all the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
Meanwhile, clean the produce and trim off the ends. Slice vegetables to desired size and arrange in a jar with optional seasonings.
Peppercorns, mustard seed, fennel seed, coriander, cumin, turmeric, allspice, bay leaf, garlic, onions, fresh dill, hot chilis, allspice
Fill the jar with the vinegar brine so that the produce is completely covered.
Let rest on the countertop for 30 minutes before moving to the fridge. Pickles can be enjoyed immediately or keep in the fridge where the flavor will intensify. Store refrigerated for up to one month.
Cucumber (I like the smaller ones with less seeds and thinner skin) wedges or slices, thinly sliced kohlrabi, beets, turnips, or carrots, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, radish, garlic scapes, roasted cherry tomatoes, charred zucchini ribbons, charred lemons, and onions.
Rice vinegar is great for a simple quick pickle. Choose based on your flavor preference. White vinegar is neutral and works well for dill pickles (add fresh dill and a few smashed garlic cloves, omit sugar). Apple cider vinegar has a more distinct flavor. You can also mix the vinegars, 1/2 apple cider vinegar and 1/2 white vinegar is a bit more balanced, I like to do carrots in that mix.
Include turmeric or a couple slices of beet (yellow or red) to the pickles to add color.
Additional seasonings can be added in any amount you desire. Start with less and you can always add more for a stronger flavor the next day.
Sugar can be increased or omitted depending on how sweet you want the end result to be. Sliced cucumbers, and red onions are two vegetables that work well with additional sugar.
Always use the freshest possible produce.