Pickling vegetables isn’t just about your grandmother’s pantry anymore—you can find all sorts of pretty jars and artisanal pickle plates in the best restaurants (and being shared by adventurous foodies on social media platforms) that stretch far beyond cucumbers. Not only is making homemade pickles at home easy, it also helps use up extra produce during the summer's bounty. With these approachable steps and tips, you’ll be ready to bring this trend home in no time.
Simply put, pickles are vegetables soaked in an acidic liquid or brine. The brine is usually a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spices, but the recipe can be adjusted and varied based on your preferred taste, the type of produce, and what ingredients you happen to have on hand. The easiest pickles are refrigerator pickles—in which the brine and produce is stored in a jar refrigerated, meant to be eaten within several weeks—but pickles can also be processed in a water bath or pressure canner to extend shelf life.
Thinking Outside the Cucumber Box
Nearly anything can be pickled, so branch outside of the typical dill cucumbers. That said, the technique is best used on produce that has a crunchy texture similar to cucumbers, such as radishes, green beans, onions, cauliflower and sweet and spicy peppers. Thinly sliced yellow squash, eggplant, and fennel are all also great to pickle. You can also use up vegetable trim, like swiss chard stems, mushrooms scraps, and watermelon rinds. Blanch the vegetables before adding the pickling liquid, or leave them raw for crunchier pickles.
And don’t forget about fruit, citrus, and spices. Fruits like rhubarb, pears, and cranberries; citrus including lemon and kumquats; and spices such as ginger and garlic all take well to the tangy taste of pickling.
Using Pickled Product
With a variety of pickles in your cupboard and refrigerator, the options are endless for delicious recipes and nuanced flavor; nearly any dish that needs a splash of vinegar will do well with the addition of homemade pickles. Pickles can be set out as an hors d'oeuvres or as a palate cleanser during your next dinner party. Pickled onions are great to add to martinis and other cocktails, and can brighten the flavor of salsa verde or herb compote for topping grilled meats. Other pickled vegetables can be chopped and added to green salads, pasta medleys, and casseroles. Lightly pickled fruit can be served with cheese or even ice cream.