In a Pickle
Many of our grandmothers canned and pickled every summer, to make use of every carrot and cuke they grew. My grandmother smoked and played golf. She was kind of a renegade. But I bet you think like she did — conventional canning, with its time-sucking, mind-melting sterilization process and steamy kitchen mess? Honey, summer’s too short and precious.
Happily, there’s a way to hold on to the season’s abundance and not waste a single summer day — quick pickling. Almost any vegetable — or fruit — can take a briny bath and emerge as crisp, refreshing and pickled. You don’t need a lot of money, you don’t need a lot of time. What you do need: vinegar, water, sea salt, sugar. Optional but nice, your favorite fresh herbs and spices for flavoring.
Ixnay the idea of sacrificing a day in the kitchen pickling a whole harvest haul. Put up a jar or two when the produce is ripe and the time is right. Vary the vegetables and spices and so each is unique, small-batch and artisanal — the kind of thing that costs $10 a jar or more at your local farm stand. Doing it yourself is super-cheap, impresses everyone and still leaves you time to hit the beach or golf course.
Quick pickling won’t make your summer last forever. And unlike traditional salt pickling (think kosher dills and sauerkraut), it won’t make your pickle last forever, either. However, it increases your produce life span by up to a month. The flavors mellow and evolve over the days — enjoy the process. A quick-pickled pepper or peach is a fuss-free thing of beauty that livens up your life and your food. It holds on to tradition while it holds on to your sanity. Everyone’s granny would approve.
Quick Pickled Summer Produce
This is a basic formula rather than a hard and fast recipe. Vary the amount of salt, sugar and vinegar to the brine till it suits what you’re pickling. Experiment with different vinegars. Enhance your batch with any fresh herb or whole spice. Fennel and caraway seeds add balance and a natural sweetness to Brussels sprouts. Turmeric adds antioxidant power and a pretty saffron color to cauliflower. Dill and mustard seeds pair naturally with green beans. Peaches love ginger and chili.
- 1/2 cup vinegar — white, red, cider or rice wine
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon organic sugar
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 cups of whatever fruit or vegetable you’re looking to pickle, cut into bite-sized pieces — florets for cauliflower and broccoli, strips for peppers and carrots, slices for peaches, plums, you get the idea
- whole spices, seeds or sprigs of fresh herbs
- In a medium to large saucepan, combine sugar, sea salt, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and stir for a minute or so, until sugar and salt dissolve.
- Drop in vegetables or fruit. Dense ones like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets or green mango should cook for a few minutes until just tender but still crunchy. Softer vegetables and stone fruit may not need cooking at all, just switch off the heat.
- Let your new pickles cool, then pack into clean glass jars. Add optional spices, seeds or fresh herbs to flavor.
- Pour the brine over all, making sure there’s enough brine to cover. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Pickles keep for up to a month.