How To Quick Pickle (almost) Anything!




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quick pickled onions

How To Quick Pickle (almost) Anything!  Today I’m exploring the vibrant world of quick and easy refrigerator pickles ~ these crisp and colorful homemade quickles are more complex in flavor than commercial pickles. And since you don’t need any special equipment or complicated recipes, you’re going to want to jump right in with me.

quick pickled red onions in a jar with fork

(Quick Pickled Red Onions, above)

Pickles work like a squeeze of lemon to brighten foods with an acidic punch.

Whether you’re grilling up a storm this Labor Day, tailgating with friends, or just looking for something to perk up your everyday meals, this quick pickling technique is going to come in so handy. Pickles add a fun splash of vivid color and tangy bite to your burgers and brats, and they’ll wake up your salads and cheese plates all year long.  Pickles also make convenient healthy, low calorie snacks

quick pickled red peppers in a jar

What is a quick pickle?

  • Quick pickling is the process of immersing food in a spiced vinegar and water solution for immediate or short term consumption.
  • Quick pickles are sometimes called refrigerator pickles, because they’re stored in the refrigerator and eaten within weeks, as opposed to canned or fermented pickles which are shelf stable.
  • Quick pickled foods have a brighter, fresher, flavor and crunchier consistency compared to canned pickles because they haven’t been cooked.
  • Whereas you need special equipment and specific recipes for safely canned pickles, you can feel free to experiment to your heart’s content with these freewheeling quickles.  

quick pickled jalapeños in a large jar

(Quick Pickled Jalapeños, above)

What foods can be quick pickled?

  • A better question might be what can’t be quick pickled!  
  • Just about any fruit or vegetable, (even meat, fish, and eggs) can be pickled. 
  • The majority of easy refrigerator pickles are done with vegetables like cucumbers, beans, carrots, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Some non traditional choices might be radishes, avocado, garlic, watermelon, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, berries, beets, ginger, jalapeños, whatever your garden or farmers market has on offer.
  • I’ve recently discovered the wonders of pickled fruit.  My first experiment was with pickled blackberries, and the flavor is surprisingly wonderful.  The sweetness of the fruit balances the bite of the vinegar.  Try quick pickling strawberries, or cantaloupe!

Quick Pickled Vidalia Onions in a jar with spoon

(Quick Pickled Vidalia Onions, above)

How to make a basic quick pickle

  • Start with firm, fresh vegetables that aren’t bruised or spoiled in any spots.  Peel any tough skins or rinds (like watermelon) but leave softer skins intact.  Avoid wax coated supermarket cucumbers because the pickling solution can’t penetrate the waxy surface, look for small pickling, English, or Persian cukes instead.
  • Cut your vegetables into spears, sticks, slices, or chunks, depending on what type of pickle you want to make.  Cutting your fruits or veggies helps the pickling brine penetrate, but you can also pickle foods whole, like whole hot peppers, or baby cucumbers.  For a quick relish, finely chop everything.
  • Fit the veggies tightly into a jar or airtight container of your choice.  It’s recommended that you sterilize your container, so glass works best.
  • Make a solution of vinegar and water (white or many other types of vinegar will work but only vinegar with an acetic acid content of at least 5% is appropriate for pickling.  Most supermarket vinegars are fine, but do not use homemade vinegar, which doesn’t have a reliable acidity level..  
  • Use a ratio of at least equal parts vinegar to water, or 2 to 1 vinegar to water, depending on how strong you want the vinegar flavor to be.
  • Add pickling spices, I usually add a tablespoon or 2 per cup of liquid.  
  • Salt is added, about a 1/2 teaspoon per cup, and a touch of sugar is optional. Note: don’t use iodized salt, which has additives that can interfere with pickling, use sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Heat the liquid to a boil, then pour over your veggies to cover.  
  • Your pickles can be eaten in as little as an hour, but they’ll definitely improve overnight.

pickling brine

(Quick Pickled Rainbow Carrots, above)

What other ingredients can I add to my pickling brine?

Many many other herbs and spices can be added to a pickling liquid.  The basic prepackaged pickling spice you can buy in the spice aisle of your supermarket is just a starting point.  Loosen up and give yourself permission to play…

  • I recommend keeping a bottle of the pre-made pickling slice blend on hand so that you can be truly spontaneous when the urge to pickle strikes.  Look for it right with the other spices in the spice aisle.
  • Another option is to go minimal with your flavors; for instance if you love cardamom, just add a palmful of lightly crushed pods to your brine.  If you love black pepper, or coriander, do the same.
  • While most pickling spices are dried, you can certainly use fresh garlic or ginger.  Fresh herbs work great.
  • For spicy pickles use dried chili flakes.  For a sweeter pickle, add sugar to taste.
  • Save your leftover brine to use for another batch of pickles, or in salad dressings.  Strain before using.

Can I make an alcoholic pickle?

Pickled blackberries spilled from a jar

(Pickled Blackberry and Grapefruit Salad, above)

How to make homemade pickling spice

This is flexible, so don’t stress about exact amounts.  Store it in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to a year.

  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed.
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice.
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds.
  • 2 whole cloves.
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled.
  • 1 cinnamon stick (2 inches)

Old Fashioned Spiced Crab Apples 2

(Old Fashioned Spiced Crab Apples, above)

How long do quick pickles last?

  • Most food safety experts agree that refrigerator pickles should be consumed within a month, provided you’ve prepared them correctly and kept them refrigerated.  They get better and better!
  • Make sure your pickles are immersed in brine.  Top off if necessary with more vinegar, not water. 
  • Note: If you are in a high-risk group for food-borne illness, treat refrigerator pickles as fresh food and consume them within 3 days.

Pouring hot brine into a jar of colorful giardiniera

(Quick Pickled Giardiniera, above)

Where do I get my cute jars?

  • Almost all the jars you see pictured here are from a German company called Weck. They make glass canning jars in all sorts of shapes and sizes to accommodate any sort of pickle you can dream up. I use them for storage when I’m not making quick pickles or jams and jellies.
  • I like to purchase their plastic snap on lids for easy storing.

Weck canning jars

Why I love having these easy pickles in the fridge

  • Pickled vegetables make the best low calorie snacks!  They’re so much more satisfying than regular cut veggies, but just as healthy and low in calories.

gin and tonic refrigerator pickles

(Quick and Spicy Refrigerator Pickles, above)

How to use quick pickled vegetables

Every cuisine on the planet uses pickled foods in some capacity or other.

  • As a simple side dish for just about any meal.
  • Toppings for sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, grilled sausages and brats.
  • On tacos, of course!
  • In green salads, or chicken, tuna, or egg salads.
  • Experiment with adding them to soups and curries.
  • Pickled fruits and veggies are ideal on a cheese or charcuterie platter because the crunch and acidity really helps to balance out the richness of the cheeses, nuts, and meats.
  • Eat them as grab and go snacks.

quick pickled carrots and radishes

(Korean pickled radishes and spiralized carrots, above)

 

 

quick pickled onions
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2.9 from 10 votes

How To Make a Basic Quick Pickle

How To Quick Pickle (almost) Anything!  Today I'm exploring the vibrant world of quick and easy refrigerator pickles ~ these homemade quicklesare both more subtle and more complex in flavor than commercial pickles. And since you don't need any special equipment or complicated recipes, you're going to want to jump right in.
Course Pickles
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Yield 1 quart

Ingredients

  • vegetables of your choice such as carrots or green beans, trimmed and cut to fill a quart sized wide mouth mason jar
  • 2 cups white vinegar or other mild vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp pickling spice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  • Fit the vegetables into a clean (preferably sterile) quart sized mason jar as snugly as possible, leaving at least 1/2 inch at the top. I like to use wide mouthed jars for easy removal.
  • Heat the vinegar, water, salt, and spices to a boil in a saucepan, then pour into the jar to completely immerse the vegetables. Add the spices into the jar along with the liquid.
  • Let sit until cooled to room temperature, then cap and refrigerate.
  • Your pickles will be ready to eat in an hour, and will just keep getting better in the fridge for up to a month.
  • This makes 1 quart.

Notes

See post for tips and notes about quick pickling.

quick pickle pin

 

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4 Comments

    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Tricia B
    August 26, 2019 at 5:13 am

    We love adding pickled vegetables to salads, sandwiches and especially grain bowls. These all look wonderful! Pinned

  • Reply
    Priscilla Rochin
    August 25, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Hi Sue– I love your recipes and this one caught my eye that I received in my email subscription. I have saved a few jars from store-purchased pickles I have bought. I washed them in my dishwasher. Is washing in dishwasher enough to sterilize the jar or do I need to put them (with the lids) in a large pot of boiling water and for how long?

    Sincerely,
    Priscilla

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 25, 2019 at 8:28 am

      I think the dishwasher is fine, but I mention the sterilization because that’s the conservative recommendation, if you want to be extra safe. I think since quick pickles are refrigerated and eaten fairly quickly that you don’t need to worry about that. But if you want to, you would boil the jars for 10 minutes.

      • Reply
        Priscilla Rochin
        August 25, 2019 at 11:06 am

        Thank you!
        We’re growing sweet snacking bell peppers and jalapenos so I’m going to try this recipe. ?