Making quick pickles is one of the fastest and easiest ways to preserve the harvest. These types of pickles are made by pouring an acidic brine over produce, allowing the brine to flavor the vegetable or fruit over a number of days in the refrigerator. Although they are called quick “pickles” it is important to understand a few important ways in which they differ from fermented pickles.
- Time: quick pickles are ready in a matter of hours or days whereas fermented pickles take weeks or even months.
- Flavor development: quick pickles get their flavor from the acidic brine and any flavoring components whereas fermented pickles get flavor from bacteria present during the fermentation process. Fermented pickles tend to have a more complex and developed flavor but you have more control over the final flavor with quick pickles.
- Refrigeration: quick pickles have to be refrigerated and typically last only a few weeks, unlike fermented pickles which have a much longer shelf life.
Quick pickling is pretty foolproof but here are a few tips to get you started:
- Vinegar/Water Ratio: I suggest starting with equal parts vinegar to water to see how you like the balance of flavor. You can always adjust it during the next batch. To determine the amount of brine needed, just measure the amount that will fit in the jar you intend to use.
- Types of Vinegar: I wouldn’t use balsamic vinegar but just about anything else goes – apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, distilled white vinegar. I like to use rice vinegar because it’s has the lowest acidity level (~4%) of those I mentioned above (wine vinegars are around 7%) so the flavor of the vegetables and spices can shine through a bit more.
- Flavorings: Whole spices and crushed garlic are great places to start when deciding how to flavor your brine. I prefer to keep the spicing relatively mild so I can use my pickles on just about anything. Mustard seeds, bay leaves and peppercorns are classic but don’t stop there. I have added cumin seeds, fennel seeds, allspice, cinnamon sticks, cloves and dried hot chiles to batches in the past.
- Sugar: a lot of recipes I find include sugar – and some of them have A LOT! I don’t find that I need sugar because I use rice vinegar. If you are using a vinegar with a higher acidity level (see Types of Vinegar section above) then you might want to add a tablespoon or two to help balance the flavor.
- Vegetables: some vegetables, like greens, thinly sliced onions or thinly sliced cucumbers don’t need to be pre-cooked. Just pour the hot brine over the vegetables and you are set. Others, like carrots or beets, need to be cooked a little beforehand to ensure they aren’t too crunchy.
- Time: the amount of time you let the vegetables sit in the brine is completely up to your taste buds. I recommend trying them every day to see how they change.
Below is a rough outline of what I used to preserve the radish leaves from last week’s CSA share. We look forward to hearing your quick pickle recipes!
Quick Pickled Radish Leaves
- 1 large bunch radish leaves, trimmed, washed and sliced into 1″ strips
- 1-1/2 cups rice vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- A few allspice berries
- A few dried hot peppers
- Place radish leaves in a quart sized glass canning jar and set aside.
- Place the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and carefully pour brine and spices over the radish leaves. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 weeks.