You’ve probably heard of quick pickling as a way to build flavor into meals during the spring and summer. But quick pickling your favorite fruits and vegetables helps keep flavors plentiful in your meals through fall and winter.
Quick pickling doesn’t require bushels of produce — and the method is simple and easy to customize. With just a few ingredients you can use this formula to make tart and crisp quick pickles. By adding a pinch of this or a sprinkle of that you can make your pickles spicy, sweet or savory.
What is a quick pickle, anyway? Quick pickles are also known as refrigerator pickles. They’re simply pickles made in vinegar and water with a bit of salt (and sometimes sweetener) then stored in the refrigerator. These pickles don’t develop the same deep flavors fermented pickles do, and they don’t require canning for storage.
Pickling of any kind is best done with super fresh produce, but this is especially true with quick pickles. Save slightly bruised or blemished produce for soups or stews, and use the most beautiful, peak season fruits and veggies you can find. Almost anything can be quick pickled, and you can choose any shape you like.
For example, you may like carrot coins or thin carrot sticks. Beets can be pickled as thin, round slices or even little chopped chunks. Green beans, asparagus, small mushrooms, grapes, little plums, halved apricots — all can be pickled just as they are. If you’re choosing bright green vegetables, you may choose to blanch and shock them in a water bath to maintain their vibrant color, but this is completely optional.
MAKE A BASIC BRINE
Depending on how tart you like your pickles, you can use a ratio of equal parts vinegar and water, but we like a higher vinegar-to-water ratio to create a nice pickle flavor and suggest 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water. The sky’s the limit when choosing vinegar flavors: white vinegar, red wine, apple cider, rice vinegar — all impart delicious, specific flavors into your pickles. And you can combine them any way you like.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR PICKLE FLAVOR
Adding a touch of sweetener or a pinch of spices makes all the difference in building the flavor of your pickles. Fresh or dried herbs work beautifully, as do fresh ingredients like garlic cloves, whole spicy peppers and whole or ground spices. Some ideas:
- For bright flavors, choose fresh herbs such as dill, basil and cilantro.
- For more deep, savory flavors choose rosemary, oregano or thyme.
- For pungent flavors with a kick, add sliced onions or whole cloves of garlic.
- For complex or exotic flavors, add a little chunk of fresh ginger or lemongrass or whole spices such as cardamom, peppercorns, coriander or crushed red pepper.
- For sweet pickles, add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey to the brine.
- For beautiful colors and creative flavors, try adding ground turmeric, smoked paprika, saffron or cinnamon.
A BASIC (DELICIOUS) QUICK PICKLE FORMULA
- 1 pound fresh vegetables or fruits
- 2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill or rosemary (optional)
- 1–2 teaspoons whole spices, such black peppercorns, coriander or mustard seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups vinegar, such as white, apple cider or rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons pickling salt
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey (optional)
Use the above formula as a starting point. To make some of these favorite creative quick pickles, just add or subtract the optional ingredients where indicated:
Savory + Sweet Red Grapes pickled in red wine vinegar with fresh rosemary, black pepper, maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Zesty Cauliflower pickled in apple cider vinegar with fresh cilantro, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom pods, maple syrup and crushed red pepper.
Asian-Inspired Mushrooms pickled in rice vinegar with minced garlic, oregano, black pepper and crushed red pepper.
Fall-Flavored Apples pickled in apple cider vinegar with maple syrup, turmeric, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices.
Exotic Baby Turnips pickled in rice vinegar with maple syrup, turmeric, whole peppercorns, crushed red pepper, whole cardamom pods, fresh ginger and fresh garlic.