Simple Pickles


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I grew up hating pickles. I usually encountered them on a burger plate, their juice making my once-crispy fries soggy and pickle-flavored, and their seemingly unnatural bendiness was just…unnatural.

For years I, who will eat just about anything and who has rendered pork lard just to make pie crust, would pick pickles off sandwiches and blot pickle juice off my plate.

Then, as I began learning how to garden and, out of necessity, how to preserve my garden’s bounty (my freezer space is limited and my neighbors will only let me give them so much zucchini), I discovered a few things that have turned me from an avowed pickle hater to a pickle fiend:

  1. *So many* things other than cucumbers make great pickles (maybe not as many as Portlandia would have you believe, but close!). And lots of vegetables that I grew in my garden, such as carrots, cauliflower, and beets, still have great texture after pickling—no bendable cucumbers.
  2. Pickles can be flavored using just about any herbs and spices. I didn’t have to stick to pickling blends, and I definitely didn’t have to use dill (turns out dill is the thing I didn’t like in those ubiquitous burger plate pickle spears).
  3. Scaling a basic pickle brine up or down to fit the amount of produce on hand is easy. I can make a half-pint of pickles from a few straggler carrots and radishes with nearly the same amount of effort as a few pounds of over-abundant cauliflower.
  4. Pickles don’t have to be processed in boiling water and canned. Refrigerator pickles are fantastic and *fast.*

Pickled carrots and beetsA simple (and inexpensive) vinegar brine, a few favorite spices, some fresh vegetables from my garden, and a clean jar or two—that’s all it took for pickles to become a go-to in my preservation arsenal (honestly, there are no less than seven kinds of pickles in my fridge right now).

So if you’re on the fence about pickles, try making your own! You might be surprised at how easy (and tasty) they are.

Basic Pickle Brine
This basic pickle brine, which makes about 1 1/2 pints of finished pickles, is good with just about any vegetable from carrots to cauliflower—even Brussels sprouts! For more flavorful pickles right from the jar, try one of the two spice blend options below, or experiment with your own combination.

To prepare vegetables for pickling, wash them thoroughly, cut them into your preferred shape, and pack them tightly into clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids.

1 cups white vinegar
1 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add spices (if using). Pour into jars over prepared vegetables, and store in the refrigerator. Unused brine can be stored in the refrigerator for your next batch of pickles.

Pickles are best after at least one week to absorb the flavors of the spices, but will keep at least a month in the refrigerator.

Basic Pickle Spice

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1-2 dried bay leaves
1 garlic clove, smashed
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine spices in a small bowl. For more flavor, crush the whole spices slightly with the back of a spoon. Add to 2 cups of hot brine.

Curried Pickle Spice

1 teaspoons whole cumin
1 teaspoons whole coriander
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 clove of garlic, smashed
3 slices of fresh ginger

Combine dry spices and sugar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add garlic and ginger, then add the mixture to 2 cups of hot brine, stirring to dissolve the sugar.