Quick pickles are the perfect way to preserve the season. With the simple combination of fresh summer vegetables and vinegar, you can easily make pickles at home. The resulting pickles can be stored in the fridge as a ready-to-eat summer side dish. There is room for creativity at every step in the process. This quick pickle recipe works for any vegetable, vinegar, and seasoning combination. Try cucumber, green beans, and squash for a late summer bite.
We’ve adapted this recipe from Kevin West’s Universal Pickling Recipe. West’s book, Saving the Season: A cook’s guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving, is a core book at SHED. His techniques inspire our pantry and café.
The golden ratio for making pickle brine is 1:1 vinegar and water. Make sure that the vinegar has an acidity of at least 5%. Choosing the right vinegar is an essential step. According to West, “The key to making good pickles is to use good vinegar.” Of course, “good vinegar” depends on the type of pickles you are making. West suggests white-wine vinegar as the standard choice, apple-cider vinegar for sweeter mixtures, and red-wine vinegar for when the recipe calls for a flavorful and bright taste. Darker kinds of vinegar such as malt and balsamic are used less frequently but are well-suited for pickled onions.
You can season quick pickles any way you like. After kosher salt (a key component), you can combine fresh and dried herbs, spices, and garlic cloves to create unique concoctions. West opts for aromatic fresh herbs such as dill weed, tarragon, and basil. He also suggests adding sugar to some pickles like ramps. Whole spices such as peppercorns and coriander keep their flavor longer and therefore are suggested for most pickling recipes. You can also add dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano, and ground spices such as turmeric and paprika.
Yields two quarts
2 pounds fresh vegetables
2 cups vinegar of your choice (%5 acidity or higher)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey or sugar, optional
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
4-6 three-inch fronds of fresh herb
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole-seed spices, such as coriander or mustard
2 dried red chilies, optional
2 slices of shallot or a half-dozen pearl onions, optional
Woody spices (cloves) to taste, optional
Slice vegetables to desired shape and size.
Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar or honey, if using. Bring to a boil, and remove brine from heat.
Pack the cut vegetables tightly into two, quart jars, adding garlic and fresh herbs. Then add peppercorns and whole-seed spices. Add optional woody spices, chilies, and onions last, if using.
Bring the brine back to a boil. Ladle the mixture over the vegetables, filling the jar. Seal the jars and allow them to cool at room temperature overnight. Store in the fridge for up to a month.