Pickling is a great way to use up veggies from your farm-share. You may know by now that I love anything that is pickled (though I must admit that I have not yet had the pleasure of a pickled egg). Pickling is also a great way to:
1. Save veggies from going bad
2. Change the flavor/texture of veggies (and your relationship to them!)
3. Impress your friends
You don’t need to be intimidated by the process either – I personally don’t bother with the canning part of it all. I prefer easy-to-make refrigerated pickles. Although they cannot be stored in the cupboard for months, they are super easy to make and, in my house at least, get eaten so fast it doesn’t really matter.
The following recipe can be used for a variety of vegetables – ones you’ve probably thought of already, like cucumbers, beets and spring onions – and ones you may not have, like chard stems, summer squash and green tomatoes (or even under-ripe fruits! like peaches, plums, or pears).
For the brine:
– ½ cup apple cider or white vinegar (rice vinegar is great too for a more asian flavor)
– ½ cup water
– 1/3 cup sugar, honey, agave (more or less depending on if you like sweeter pickles or more sour/salty pickles)
– 1 bay leaf
– 2 whole cloves
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced thin (or more, if you like pickled garlic!)
– 4 whole pepper corns
– 4 whole allspice berries
– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
– 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
– 1 pinch red chili flakes
– 1 to 2 tablespoons salt
With regards to the spices, you could use any combination of the above, adding more of one thing, leaving out another etc. You could also get creative and add in some cumin seeds, stalks of bruised lemongrass, or kafir lime leaves. The basic idea is that you are making a salty-sour-sweet brine, and you flavor it with stuff.
Once the mixture comes to a simmer and the sugar and salt are dissolved, you are good to go. Now for the veggies – I like to mix it up a bit here – cut things into rounds, spears, or even a small dice for more of a relish. Get yourself a large mason jar, or other glass storage container and pack in your pickling items. I like to layer veggies garlic and onion wedges to add flavor, and because I always love adding pickled onion and garlic to dishes. Pickled jalapenos are also especially good as a flavor boost in other dishes. I never cook the vegetables first, (except for beets) because I like them to stay as crisp as possible and the hot brine will cook them a bit.
Pack the veggies in as tightly as you can – they’ll shrink after sitting in the brine – then carefully pour over the hot brine. Jiggle the jar or poke a butter knife down the sides to get the air bubbles out, and top it off with more brine to cover the veggies completely. Put the lid on and let come to room temperature. Then, stick in the fridge until cool and they are ready to be eaten. I know I’m supposed to say that they’ll keep for a week in the fridge or something, but personally, I think they are probably ok in there for a while longer. I brought a gallon jar of freshly made bread and butter pickles to a bbq last summer and it was devoured in about 30 minutes – I think this just proves that pickles count as their own food group.