With our garden starting to pick up, we're starting to think about refrigerator pickles! Quick pickles- or refrigerator pickles are totally scrumptious, and super easy to make. There is no canning necessary, because you keep them in the refrigerator until eating, but they retain the added bonus of preserving bits of your harvest for a few more weeks. They are great for those things (read: zucchini) that you simply can't eat all of before it will go bad. But they're also good just because. They are an excellent addition to salads, salsas, over stir fried veggies, in tacos, over fresh greens, and so much more. And did I mention- they're simple to make? I almost never follow a recipe (though I highly recommend this book for a more exotic quick pickle) and typically just use what I have on hand. All you need is: vegetables, vinegar, water, salt, herbs & spices.
Choosing your ingredients:
Cucumber pickles are always yummy, but other things are delicious pickled too. And quick pickling is a great option for those things that may not can well, or for things you have an abundance of. Among the many things you can quick pickle are onions, cabbage, beets, zucchini, summer squash, carrots, corn, peppers, tomatoes, turnips, radishes, winter squash, cucumbers and even fruit (which I've sadly never done.) Though this kind of pickling still requires refrigeration, it does extend a vegetables shelf life for weeks- I've even kept some in the fridge for several months, depending on what it is and how much salt and vinegar you use (both help preserve the food.)
White vinegar does the trick, and we keep a gallon jug on hand for just such occasions as the quick pickle. But any kind of vinegar will work: cider, red wine, white wine, umi plum, rice, balsamic... you get the picture. Experiment!
Typically I mix my vinegar somewhere in between a 1:1 ratio to 2:1 ratio with water (vinegar:water). While I usually use water, you can also use any kind of juice (orange juice and citrus juice is great) and even liquor. Some of my favorite zucchini pickles used tequila in the brine, and they were fabulous.
I usually use kosher salt, but you can also use pickling salt- or experiment with different kinds of salt, such as smoked salt or pink salt. The salt helps preserve, but you can add less if you'll be eating them soon. You can also add sugar instead of or in combination with salt. You can experiment here too by using table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc.
Herbs & spices
Naturally, my favorite flavor to add to quick pickles is garlic and dill. But there are so many options, that this is where you can really perfect and personalize your own recipe. Garlic, ginger, bay leaves, pepper, anise, cinnamon, celery, turmeric, mustard, hot chiles, onion, fennel, citrus zest- the list goes on and on and on! It's particularly fun to make a Latin inspired quick pickle to go on tacos, or an Asian inspired pickle to go on rice. Guests are always impressed when you have a home made pickle to complete the meal.
Once you've picked out your ingredients, the rest is easy. Slice or dice your veggies. Some people prefer to cook their beets before pickling, but any vegetable can be used raw, and I always use raw veggies. Put them in a jar with their spices. I heat the liquid ingredients (vinegar & water) on the stove with the salt- or sugar if you're using it- just enough to dissolve the granules. Then I pour over the veggies, cover and put in the fridge. They can be eaten in a few hours, but for most things I let them sit over night.
They'll keep for quite a while, but I'm sure they won't last that long in your fridge. They sure don't in ours! I'd love to hear what your favorite combinations are!